Driven to climb Mount Penn

By Jeffrey Fazio
DriveTime Columnist

Next weekend I am going to scorch my tires with an asphalt-blistering launch at the base of Mount Penn as I start an attack on Duryea Drive. With complete disregard for the posted 25-mph speed limit, I am going to drive as fast a s possible. At times I will quadruple the posted limit.

My intention is going to be to get to the entrance to the Fire Tower as quickly as possible starting from the edge of City Park. In my quest to traverse the mountain in the shortest amount of time, I am even willing to use the on-coming lane when it offer s a better line through the many curves that lead up to the Pagoda. Racing up Duryea Drive like this is simply irresistible since it has more twists and turns than an Arby's curly fry. The layout of the road practically begs to have cars raced on it.

It's highly likely that a member or two of the Reading police department will witness my bold dash up the hill, but I suspect they will not attempt to pull me over for this performance display. In fact, I dare them to come out and watch the full-throttle show. Actually, everyone is welcome to come out and see what is goin g on next weekend on Mount Penn.

Since I will not be the only driver racing up Duryea Drive there is going to be plenty to see. There will be approximately 100 other drivers in all types of vehicles competing to be the fastest from the beginning of Duryea Drive at the edge of City Park to the stone stairs by the Fire Tower along Skyline Drive. Next weekend is the annual running of the Durye a Hill Climb run by Blue Mountain Region of the Sports Car Club of America. This event was first held in 1951.

A hill climb race is a timed event that takes place on a mountain road that tests drivers ability to traverse a marked distance in the shortest am ount of time. The racers assail the hill one at a time, so they are not racing wheel-to-wheel, which offers the opportunity to use the full width of the road in their pursuit of being quickest.

The Hill Climbs are by far the most exciting motor-sports event that I have ever participated in. Having the chance to really let loose on a mountain road offers an adrenaline rush that is second to none. To my naive mind, participating in a hill climb event seems a lot like I would expect a World Rally Championship race to be like without the snow, gravel, ice, loose dirt, stones and general insanity.

As is the case with many exhilarating activities, there is a very real danger to racing in hill climbs which is why you will see the drivers in full race suits and all of the cars outfitted with roll bars and safety harnesses. Unlike a road course, where you frequently have ample run-off or a solid barrier protecting you from leaving the racing environment, the hills offer very little room for straying too far off of t he racing line. The margin for error at these events is slimmer than Paris Hilton on a diet.

The actual racing will be happening on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 20 and 21, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The event is free for spectators. It's a wonderful opportunity to pack a picnic lunch and relax in the shade while watching a diverse group of race cars make there way, at speed, up to Skyline Drive. There are four spots dotted along the hill for spectators to view the action from a variety of angles. \par More information about this event and the other five Pennsylvania hill climb races can be found on the Pennsylvania Hill Climb Associations Web site, See you next weekend on Mount Penn.