Bowland helped by head games

Published 2:09 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It took a little more than horsepower and speed for Mill Springs George Bowland dethrone a local hero at the Giants Despair Hillclimb in Laurel Run, Pa.

Bowland said a little pre-race strategy helped as well.

The veteran racer, who began racing in auto-cross 31 years ago and started hill-climb events three years later, showed up just before registration closed for Giants Despair. Bowland said that move flustered Darryl Danko, the races five-time defending champion and registrar who lives at the top of the very hill that is climbed each year.

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You see a lot of older guys in this sport and thats why, said Bowland, 68, who had narrowly missed a Giants Despair victory in 2009. You cant let things get to you, and I think that got to Danko a little bit.

He just got flustered. He shouldve beaten me. He was asking friends of his and mine why they didnt tell him I was coming, but they didnt know. A buddy of mind said hed split the late entry fee with me if I showed up at the last minute, and were the only ones who knew I was going.

Giants Despair is contested along a mile-long, six-turn course with a finish line that sits 650 feet above the start.

Bowland said the agility of his 300-horsepower, home-fabricated racer proved to be the difference against the 1973 Gurney Eagle driven by Danko.

I was faster in the turns and that was the difference, said Bowland. He was faster off the mark, but my car handled better.

Bowland ran the course in 40.917 seconds in his first trip up the hill and that was good enough for the win as he survived mechanical problems during his latter runs. Danko finished just .235 seconds behind.

It was Bowlands first victory at Giants Despair since 1987. He returned to the event in 2008 after an 18-year layoff, and he includes this years victory among the most satisfying triumphs of his career, a list that is also highlighted by a 1993 win at the Chimney Rock Hill Climb.

Chimney Rock was probably the most special because I was in a crash in 1990 that couldve killed me, so coming back from that to win there was really special, he said.

Since 2001, Bowland has been driving the racecar he built with his son, Todd, who is now a suspension specialist with Joe Gibbs Racing. Todd Bowland and former crew chief for Buddy Rice during his surprising 2002 Indianapolis 500 victory.

Bowland said he expects to compete in several more events this season, including Wolf Ridge and Eagles Nest close to home in North Carolina.

And it is the same element&bsp; that first drew him to auto-cross in the late 1970s that keeps him coming back to the mountains, and keeps him racing.

Theyre all timed events, Bowland said. No one else can determine how well you do. They cant wreck you. Its just you, the car and the hill.