HERSHEY, PA – The historic Hershey Hill Climb commenced operations in 1958 and ran until 1970. It was revived in 2002, running regular events until 2008. Organizers of The Elegance at Hershey recognized the historic significance of the Hershey Hill Climb and sought to once again restart the event. Through the dedicated efforts of The Elegance founder, Jack Rich, with the cooperation of the Antique Automobile Club of America and Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, the event was recommissioned, renamed The Grand Ascent and made one of the cornerstones of the weekend long celebration we collectively call The Elegance at Hershey. This year’s two-day Grand Ascent exhibition will be held on June 12 and 13.
In the post-war years of the mid-1940s, Pennsylvania was a veritable hotbed of auto racing. Tracks of all configurations dotted the landscape throughout the state. Each weekend these race courses roared to life with the sound of finely tuned engines and crowds came to cheer on their favorite drivers. South Central Pennsylvania was firmly entrenched in all forms of open-wheel racing including sprint cars, midgets, quarter-midgets and the like. Nearby in Virginia and West Virginia, another form of racing was taking shape. Stock car racing was becoming increasingly popular. In the midst of all this development yet another form of motor sport came into prominence, that being the gentlemen racers – amateur sport car drivers racing. It is said the first auto race took place after the second auto was built. These amateurs wanted to test their mettle against their peers. The hill climb became the venue of choice for many of these racers.
Hill climbing is one of the oldest forms of racing and perhaps one of the simplest in theory. Execution, however, is another matter. By nature, hill climb courses are typically laid out on twisting mountain roads with unforgiving drop-offs on one side and equally unforgiving mountain rock on the other. These racers compete against each other in a unique way by running against a clock and not head-to-head. The best time on the hill determines the winner.
The Hershey Hill Climb played an important role in this sport’s popularity in the 1960s. Run twice each season, the second meet many times determined the overall champion for the season. What we now call The Grand Ascent is a challenging course. The narrow roadway is shaded with a canopy of mature trees that render the course almost tunnel-like. It is a very technical course narrow in width, rising 200 feet in a mere 0.7 of a mile with demanding twists and turns throughout its length.
Come join us to re-live this part of racing history. You will enjoy the sights and sounds of more than forty vintage sports cars – some of which competed on this very hill in the ’60s. Pit and paddock access is unparalleled. Wayne Carini and Coach Dick Vermeil are among the drivers you will see during this two-day event. You can experience the thrill of the hill first-hand by purchasing The Grand Ascent Ride Along experience (available both Friday and Saturday). To purchase your tickets, click here.
The sanctioning body for The Grand Ascent is the Vintage Sports Car Club of America. For more information regarding this and their other events, visit their website at www.vscca.org.