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Toyota driver Rod Millen has won New Zealand’s Race To The Sky hillclimb, the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of America’s famed Pike’s Peak event.

Millen, driving a turbocharged HiLux utility, won with a best time of 8 minutes 43.76 seconds for the 15 kilometre dirt-surfaced hillclimb.

The summit of the course is 5000 feet above sea level.

Australia’s Steve Riley was second in a purpose-built Suzuki 4WD in 9m 08.64s and New Zealand’s Mike Turfus (Mitsubishi Lancer) was third in 9m 11.26s.

Millen had earlier qualified fastest at 8m 51.66s.

California-based New Zealander Millen is a five-times winner of the Pike’s Peak event in Colorado and a successful circuit racer in Australasia.

He had been chasing victory at Queenstown for five years, finishing runner up for the last three years.

“I’m glad it took that long to finally win it,” Millen said.

“We have come down here and enjoyed our times here. If you had won the first time, then perhaps you wouldn’t have been around to keep trying.”

He said he would be back to defend his King of the Mountain crown at Easter 2003.

The top ten qualifiers competed in a sprint shootout to decide their start places in the Race to the Sky.

Millen was a clear winner of the shootout, thrilling the crowd with the huge air he achieved over the jump in his HiLux. His time of 1m 15 was two seconds ahead of the field.

As top qualifier Millen had final choice of position but stresses he had no real game plan.

~When I went on to the podium I didn't really know where I wanted to start. I just decided to mix it up a bit and confuse everyone.~

Rod Millen in his Race-to-the-Sky winning Toyota HiLux.