1st climbs of the 2013 season at the Col St Pierre in France
The 2013 FIA European Hill-Climb Championship will commence in France this weekend, 13-14 April, on the 5.2 km road from Saint Jean du Gard to the Col Saint Pierre
Thu 11.04.13, 9:09AM
For the “mountain” drivers of the European Hill-Climb Championship, the action is about to begin. In the 2013 season, thirteen events are scheduled to take place in 11 different countries, with France and Italy being the only countries to host double events. As in 2012, the first round will be contested in the Cévennes region of southern France, on the winding road that leads from the town of Saint Jean du Gard to the Col Saint Pierre. Organised by the ASA of Alès, the event in the Cévennes mountains is a recent recruit to the FIA European Hill-Climb Championship, as it did not make its debut until 2011.
Five times European Champion and absolute record-holder of all the courses on the programme of the coming season (expect Glasbach in Germany, an event which is new to the European Championship), Italian Simone Faggioli is once again the odds-on favourite. However, the competition could be tougher than in previous years, as it has been announced that two young Swiss drivers, Joël Volluz and Julien Ducommun, will be taking part in the majority of European events, driving Osella FA30s similar to Faggioli’s. In prototypes of the same make, but sometimes produced in different versions (PA20 and PA21), Italians Christian Merli and Marco Capucci, Czechs Milos Benes and Petr Vitek, and Guy Demuth from Luxembourg are also likely candidates to achieve results. Although prototype cars have monopolised victories over the last few seasons, a few drivers remain loyal to single-seaters: for example, young driver David Hauser (Dallara GP2) from Luxembourg or Eric Berguerand (Lola FA99) from Switzerland.
The regular drivers in the European Championship events realise that while every ascent on mountain roads presents a challenge in itself – particularly with 3-litre cylinder capacity prototypes and single-seaters – having to face local experts can also be a daunting task. The French events of the European Championship are invariably among the most exciting, thanks to the very high quality of the national field. Naturally, at the Saint Jean du Gard event, the top drivers in the French Championship – led by Nicolas Schatz (three times French Champion) – will be aiming for absolute victory, as will the best Europeans.
As for closed cars, the title of European Champion, won by Dusan Borkovic in 2012, is up for the taking; this year, the Serbian driver is concentrating on circuit races in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC). A dozen drivers, including 2012 Vice-Champion Christian Schweiger, will be aiming for the title, all behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer.
At Saint Jean du Gard, the 200 or so drivers entered will have two practice sessions on Saturday, 13 April and three hill-climbs on Sunday, 14 April. The final classification for the European event will be based on each participant’s best two times combined.