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Hill Climb: A Record Year

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The 2016 winners of the FIA International Hill Climb Championship and International Hill Climb Cup honoured at Oviedo, Spain

FIA, Motorsport, Mobility, Road Safety, F1, WRC, WEC, WTCC, World RX

Hill climb has always been one of the Spanish people’s favourite disciplines. Many hill climb events are run in the country, which has also produced several champions whose names appear on the honours list of the European Hill Climb Championship, such as Andres Vilarinho or Francisco Egozkue.

Since 1990, the Spanish round of the European Championship has almost always been the “Subida Internacional Al Fito”, located around forty kilometres from Oviedo. It was therefore only natural for the capital of Asturias to host the prize-giving ceremony of the FIA Hill Climb Championship and Cup on Saturday 5 November 2016, under the orchestration of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship Organisers Alliance and the local club, SIF Motor.

Not surprisingly, the awards ceremony ended in a thunder of applause for Simone Faggioli (Norma M20FC). In clinching his 9th European title (all of them in Category 2), the Italian driver now holds the record for the number of titles, thus equalling the performance previously achieved, between 1975 and 1988, by the man who was known at the time as the “King of the Mountain”, Mauro Nesti. “This 2016 season has been truly exceptional,” he explained at Oviedo. “Of course there is this ninth title, but you have to bear in mind that it came about at the end of a season that was fiercely fought almost down to the wire, against a formidable and excellent adversary, Christian Merli. For me, this title holds as much emotional as sporting value, as it places me alongside Mauro Nesti on the honours list. And in addition to this new European title, we also took the title in the Italian Championship and the gold medal in the FIA Masters.”

Although second place is often the hardest to bear, Christian Merli (Osella FA30) can take comfort in the fact that he is currently the only person who is able to drive Faggioli into a corner and that he did a fantastic job in securing the title of Vice-Champion, especially since he had yet to discover some of the courses, unlike Faggioli who has been regularly visiting the roads of the Championship for over a decade. Each confrontation became a neck and neck duel: whereas the gaps between Faggioli and the different runners up in the last few seasons were often measured in seconds, in 2016 most of the decisions between Faggioli and Merli often came down to tenths, or even hundredths, of a second.

Third in the Championship with his original Audi TT DTM, the Czech Vladimir Vitver emerged victorious in the official classification for Group E2-SH cars (Silhouettes) after winning some fine battles with his compatriot Dan Michl (Lotus Evora V8). Fourth in the final classification, Italy’s Paride Macario was the indisputable “rookie” and revelation of the season. Admittedly, he benefited from the sound advice of Faggioli, whose team he had joined and who owned the Osella FA30 that he was driving, but he still had to transpose that advice onto the road – which he succeeded in doing with impressive skill, sometimes even approaching the times of the two aces who were duelling for the 2016 title.

If Faggioli set a new record in the history of the European Championship, Serbia’s Nikola Miljkovic (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) set another by winning the title in Category 1 (Touring Cars) at the age of 21, which makes him the youngest European Champion in the history of the competition. “This was my first full season in the European Championship,” explained Miljkovic. “Although I had taken part in some events in 2015, there were several courses I had yet to discover. It was a long and breathless season. Long because it meant having to travel no less than 30,000 km around Europe, and breathless because the title remained undecided right up to the evening of the 12th and last event. I am of course delighted with the experience, with 8 victories in Group N, and I hope that this result will open up new horizons to me.” Like two other recent European Champions – Macedonia’s Dusan Borkovic and Serbia’s Igor Stefanovski – the young Nikola Miljkovic intends to take advantage of the fame that this European title brings him in his country to set up a programme that would propel him into the FIA ETCC in 2017.

The Serb emerged victorious after a long battle with Austria’s Christian Schweiger. The two drivers were racing in different groups (N for Miljkovic, A for Schweiger) and the decision was based on the number of group victories (with 25 points for a win when the group comprised more than three participants).

The prize-giving at Oviedo was also the occasion for Italy’s Gabriella Pedroni and Switzerland’s Ronnie Bratschi to receive their trophies for winning the FIA International Hill Climb Cup, in Category 1 and Category 3 respectively.