On Saturday 11 June, the Holywood hills will be alive with the sound of engines revving and cars skidding as the Cultra Hillclimb returns to the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum for a day packed with racing and family fun.
At 111 years old, the event has an unrivalled history behind it and with vintage and modified cars from as far back as the 1930s competing, you could be mistaken for thinking this wasn’t a sport for young people.
But that’s where you’d be mistaken, as at this year’s event there are some young competitors to look out for, and we’re lucky enough to meet a few of them here!
This is the next generation of Northern Ireland’s motorsports community, and they’re keeping the tradition of Hillclimbs alive.
Chris Rogan, 30 from Bangor, Co. Down
Chris has been driving competitively for five years, competing at the Cultra Hillclimb each year – once in his Fiesta Zetec Cup car, his Megane R26.R for a few years and in his MK2 Escort, which he’ll be driving again in the 2016 event.
Chris says Cultra was the first Hillclimb event he ever competed in: “I really enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of the event, throughout the organisers and competitors – it’s a great day out with a bit of competition involved.”
Jack Brien, 19 from Holywood, Co. Down
It’s a family affair for Jack, who’s Dad, Simon, sister, Tiffany and uncle, Mark all compete at the Cultra Hillclimb every year.
Simon Brien, Jack’s father, supports the event through his business, Simon Brien Residential, and the whole family drive their vintage and modified MG Midgets, perfectly fitting into this year’s theme which celebrates the famous manufacturer’s successes throughout history here in Northern Ireland.
Jack says; “Hillclimbs are in the Brien blood. My dad raced in Hillclimbs with my uncle when they were my age, and my grandfather and grandmother competed back in the day, so it’s pretty cool to keep up the family tradition, and for the younger generation to enjoy events such as the Cultra Hillclimb.
“Not to mention going toe to toe with my uncle on the day!”
Lewis Dunlop, 18 from Donaghadee, Co. Down
Lewis is a Northern Irish motoring star on the rise with a passion for cars running through his veins. As well as working as a mechanic at Bentley, Lewis has been racing competitively ever since he got his license.
At this year’s Cultra Hillclimb he will be driving a 3- year old Mini Cooper, also known as The Flying Mini. It was previously owned by the late, great Jim McClements, who taught Lewis everything he knows about competitive racing.
Lewis’ father, Gary Dunlop bought the car with him before Jim sadly passed away last year. “My dad owns a motorsport company so I have been inhaling the petrol fumes and tyre smoke ever since I can remember! My parents always knew I had to get behind the wheel of a competitive car and now I have the chance. We’re all really looking forward to Cultra in June.”
Roger Gage, 20 from Ballymoney, Co. Antrim
Although Roger has competed at most of the Hillclimbs on the local circuit, this will be the first time he has taken on Cultra.
Again, with Roger it is in the family as his dad and uncle, who have been racing in Hillclimbs for years, got him interested in the sport. “My dad offered me a dual entry in his Maguire Mini in 2013 and I have been competing in Hillclimbs ever since!
“I’m looking forward to taking on Cultra, especially with my dad competing too.”
Tiffany Brien, 25 from Holywood, Co. Down
Tiffany, part of Team Brien, has been walking the pits with her dad, Simon for years – as with her brother, Jack (above), it is in her blood. Tiffany drives as a hobby rather than competitively, however in her last stint at Cultra she made top three in her class.
This will be her second year driving at Cultra with her family, but says: “Luckily they’re not in the same division as me! If it weren’t for dad’s love of cars, I wouldn’t be involved, so I’m grateful for the opportunities he’s given me to get into a sport like this – I’d much rather be racing than spectating!”
Stephen Morrisey, 24 from Belfast
This is Stephen’s first full season of Hillclimbs and his first year at Cultra. Mainly competing in sprints previously, he’s looking forward to taking on the legendary twists and turns of the Cultra course past the Manor at the Folk Museum.
He says Cultra has been on his bucket list for three years now: “I had always visited the Cultra event as a spectator so now that I’m entered as a racer, I can’t wait to experience the day from that perspective.”
Olivia Coulter, 23 from Crumlin, Co. Antrim
Olivia started navigating for her dad in 2008, when he competed in the rally circuit across Northern Ireland – Kikistown, Loughgall Rally and Lurgan Park to name a few. In 2014, Olivia’s dad finally let her take over the driver’s seat and she hasn’t looked back ever since.
Olivia competed in her first Cultra Hillclimb in last year’s event and loved it; “I thoroughly enjoyed competing at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum last year, it was a great day and a great way to meet new people.” Expect to see Olivia on the podium at the event; in the same year that she started driving competitively, she took 2 nd place in the Historic Road Going Class at the NI Sprint Championships, and last year she took 1 st place overall.
To find out more about the 2016 Cultra Hillclimb at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum on June 11, visit www.nmni.com/uftm.