‘Just have to remember to breathe’

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JOHN.COSGROVE@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

When seated in his father’s 1960s-era handmade 1500 GT special race car No 5, Robert Scott recalls the one thing he has to remind himself to always do — breathe.

“You sit there, the straight pipes burbling away up front, ripping the air around you when you blip the throttle, the very basic gear box is rattling away between your legs and those big wheels are right there beside your elbows. It’s a real buzz.

‘‘When you near the start line you are concentrating on getting a clean start and powering up to that first corner which because of the locked diffs you know you’ll have slide it in hard. Then the flag drops and you are away.

“The noise and the raw power of the race cars dad built is amazing but you have to remember to breathe, as many times I’ve arrived at the first corner thinking some thing’s wrong — ah yes! breathe — and then I’m away, off for another run up the hill at Kai,” he said.

The Scott Special No 5 car is a classic single-seater racing car powered by a 1500cc MK 1 Cortina GT motor.

The body and chassis is hand-built, running leaf spring suspension front and rear.

The car’s a classic – it came from a time when mechanically minded Kiwis were experts at building backyard specials like the Stanton Corvette, the Lycoming Special and Bob Scott’s immaculately turned out and race-winning specials.

Robert’s father, the late Bob Scott, the former mayor of Kaitangata and a passionate petrol-head, raced his homemade cars on grass, gravel and tarmac in the 1960s and ’70s.

He was good at it, too, winning three South Island grass track titles against world-class drivers.

The Bob Scott Memorial Hill Climb is held each year at Kaitangata in remembrance of him and his passion for motor-sport.

His sons, Dunedin businessmen Robert and Greg, have preserved his three race specials cars and still use them in the hillclimb each year.

“They were built light with really strong engines,” Robert said, ‘‘but because they are light they all get a bit light and twitchy in the grass and gravel.

‘‘Without power-assisted steering and locked diffs (both wheels turn at the same time, unlike a normal car) you have to manhandle them around the corners by sliding through them going both uphill against the clock and downhill back to the start.”

On Saturday, July 25, competitors hosted by the South Otago Car Club will try to make the fastest timed run up a 1.8km gravel road on the outskirts of Kaitangata.

Robert said the cars had great power›to›weight ratios and since he started racing them in 1986 he has had lots of fun with them.

“They sound great.

‘‘You get a real buzz out of driving them, especially the V8 car, but you just have to remember to breathe,” he said.