1990 Pagoda Hill Climb...history lesson

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1990 Pagoda Hill Climb...history lesson

Postby Ron Mann » Thu Mar 27, 2008 1:18 pm

Regional Solo I
Pagoda Hill Climb
Sports Car July 1990
Richard M. Frederick

The Northeastern portion of the country has always been a center of hill climb speed events. Over the years, the number of events varied, and this year saw the addition of the Pagoda Hill Climb. Two traditionally active SCCA regions, Northeast and Blue Mountain , organized hill climbs. This year the old Pennsylvania Hill Climb Association (PHA) was reorganized as a blanket group of seven regions for the promotion of hill climbs. This relieved individual regions of having to do all the work themselves.

These SCCA members feel that Solo I provides an opportunity to "go fast" with race cars on paved roads in perhaps a more economical way than road racing. In addition, hill climbing is a continuation of a racing tradition from the when Charles Duryea built automobiles around 1910 in Reading, PA., and tested them on the same roads used in hill climbs today.

This year's Pagoda hill climb, held on May 19-20, is both a continuation of an old event put on by the PHA and an inaugural event staged by the Blue Mountain Region. This enabled the fastest car in each class to have the honor of setting a class record, no matter how long it took.

Saturday started out with its share of problems, not the least of which was Barry Burke's recently acquired black Ralt RT-5 dragging the finish line timing cable along the slow down road. It was repaired, but timing problems continued. Finally it was determined that the formula cars were lifting slightly under power as they crossed the finish line and failing to trip the timer. The solution? Move the finish line 25 yards to a section of pavement where the down force kept cars on the ground. The previous times were all thrown out without complaint.

On Sunday rain threatened, but the sky cleared by mid-morning and sunshine prevailed. The racing go serious. The course combines a need for power to climb, handling to get around hairpin turns, and top speed to maximize the upper portion's straight where speed reach well over 120 MPH.

The citizens of Reading, who graciously donated the use of the hill, lined the course at numerous vantage points. Adults and children enjoyed being able to walk through the pit area and watch the drivers prepare their cars and themselves for the climb. Those at the starting line were treated to the smoking burnouts by Tim Smith in his GT1 Corvette and Chris Cronan's Camaro. The formula cars added their own muscle with Burke's Ralt and the always exciting Jim Cosner Sr. in his pristine Wheeler Super Vee putting on a good show. Everyone go into the act, even Blue Mountain Region's own doctor, Pat Enzman-Alspach with a very well prepared Spec Racer.

The single largest class was the popular DSP. Seven drivers flung themselves around the bends until Mike Sarzynski's Volvo 142 prevailed with Jeff Michael close behind.

Aside from a few pieces of fender left behind by assorted cars, and Chris Bern's upside down view of the straightaway, the weekend of racing was safely enjoyed by everyone.

Thanks to event organizers Jeff Michael, Terry Stephenson, John Tumolo, and Dave Sekella and Stewards Lynne DeHart, Marc Gerstein and the many workers for their huge effort. The Pagoda Hill climb caries on a Northeast racing tradition and provides a unique opportunity for road racers to compete.

F440: Chris Burns 59.857
SSA: Bill Weaver 68.409
CSP: George Gibson 76.344
CF: Richard Frederick 66.971
ESP: Chris Cronan 69:244
GT1: Tim Smith 69.063
GT2: Bill Lessig 63.748
Open: Barry Burke 57.523
GT5: Don McLaughlin 73.619
ITB: Michael Noll 70.490
GT3: John Flannery 62.446
GP: Joe Whiteley 64.153
SSB: Robert Lenz Sr. 71.992
ST (yes, Sport Truck): Greg Healy 72.467
FV: Garry Rompella 63.822
GT4: Alvey Ford 65.969
ASP: Rich Stichter 63.259
FC: Jim Cosner Sr. 59.709
EP: Lloyd Geib 67.278
They list GT4 again but I don't know: John Hartnett in a Zink C-4 62.582????
DSP: Mike Sarzynski 68.182
HP: Craig Bucher 67.964
SR: Robert Newsome 65.292

There are some familiar names…but not too many…"where are they now?"

Reading this article it appears that the Pagoda course may have been slightly different, running across the top of the mountain….anyone?!?!?

Also, if you have any type of magazine with hill climb results in it…I’m still looking for a lot of results!!!
Ron Mann PHA Historian & Archivist... Know Your Roots!

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Re: 1990 Pagoda Hill Climb...history lesson

Postby Mazdahead » Thu Mar 27, 2008 1:38 pm


I remember that the hillclimb in the early days actually started in city park. Exactly where I really don't remember. I was thinking that it started just above the bandshell and made a left onto what is now the bottom of the pits for Duryea and then a right where the start line exists today and went all the way to the fire tower as it does today. Maybe one of the older guys like Alvey Ford, Bob Oswald, or Don Dehart would remember that? I can't believe that I am one of the old guys now too! lol I am really glad that I finally got to run a hill after watching so many from the stands! It has definitely been a lot of fun and a great experience!
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Re: 1990 Pagoda Hill Climb...history lesson

Postby Rick Kase » Thu Mar 27, 2008 6:17 pm

The current Pagoda hillclimb has been run between Duryea turn 2 and turn 9. This configuration has not been modified except the finish line move listed in the above article.

The original Pagoda hillclimb was run before it was an SCCA event and was run in different lengths over the years. The current Duryea course may have been run under the Pagoda logo way back when.

We have movies (36mm film) from the earily Duryea events (cir 1953?) that show that the start line was at Hill Rd (at the current traffic linght). Turn 1 was at the current start line.
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Re: 1990 Pagoda Hill Climb...history lesson

Postby Ron Mann » Fri Mar 28, 2008 10:32 am

The first Pagoda was held in 1972...hosted by the Duryea Sports Car Club. I'm not 100% sure when it stopped running, I have it up to 1977, anyone confirm that 1977 was the last? It sounds like 1990 may have been the first year back...is that correct, Rick?
First program was like a newspaper...hardly fits scanner.
Could 1977 have been the last Pagoda until 1990??????
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