“A fantastic initiative!”

  • gb
On Saturday and Sunday, the first FIA Hill Climb Masters will take place in the Luxembourg village of Eschdorf. This Friday, the competitors have been setting themselves up in the streets and alleyways that have now been transformed into a giant paddock, before they all went off for scrutineering and administrative checks.

The normally sleepy little town of Eschdorf, known for its tranquillity, has today become a veritable hive of activity. The roads of the village have been swamped by trucks and other trailers disgorging, each in turn, the race cars hidden in deep inside them. Massive single-seaters with oversized rear wings, prototypes, silhouettes, rally cars, and cars more used to racing on circuits… Every time you turn a corner in the road, you have the opportunity to discover something new! Although the local residents are only too happy to put their garages at the disposal of the participants, the national flags of some teams can be seen fluttering in the breeze. Everywhere you look, the smiles are lighting up the faces of the drivers – and the same applies to their entourage – all of them well aware that they are participating in a truly unique event. Yes, the FIA Hill Climb Masters have already won their first challenge: to be the great annual meeting of the Hill Climb World!

“This is a fantastic initiative,” beamed a delighted Simone Faggioli, the seven-time Champion of Europe and the unrivalled Ambassador of the discipline. “Hill Climb was crying out for an event like this. I would like to praise the efforts of the FIA and of the local organisers for promoting it. We are well used to seeing a lot of people turn up at the races but we still have too little media coverage. This event is excellent publicity for everyone involved in Hill Climbs and there is just no way that I was ever going to miss this!”

Generally the preserve of amateur drivers, who have made it their hobby, Hill Climbs do, nevertheless, remain a discipline in which the drivers can give full expression to their talents. The ex-hopeful of the GP2 pack, in which he claimed three victories, and then in WTCC and the Nascar Whelen Euro Series, today, Javier Villa has found true happiness in Hill Climb. “With my 1,000cc engine, I truly believe that I will have the car with the smallest cylinder capacity,” smiled the 27-year-old Spaniard, the official driver of the Spanish prototype mark, BRC. “The Hill Climb is sheer adrenaline. You have to be at the top of your game right from the very first metre, and there is absolutely no room for error. It is very intense, a bit like a qualifying lap of a GP2 in Monaco. Already when I race on a circuit, I would prefer the old layouts, where there were no great asphalted run-off areas. I like it when we can play right up to the limit, but without ever actually overstepping it… This is what is so exciting! The Hill Climb allows us to compete with hyper-performance cars whilst keeping the costs at manageable levels. And the atmosphere in the paddock is very convivial, as everyone is racing the clock and there is no direct confrontation. In any case, I am very happy to see that the FIA is committed to working on the promotion of this discipline, in particular through the creation of these Hill Climb Masters!”

Unlike Javier Villa, the British driver Scott Moran is not in the habit of trotting around the globe. “Indeed, this is the first time that I am going to be racing outside the UK,” explained the man with 123 victories in his national championship under his belt. “It is very exciting to be here… The route is very different to the ones we run on. It is longer and, most notably, much wider. At the moment, I have only got to know the course at the wheel of my motorhome. In my Gould, fitted with a 640hp Cosworth 3.5-litre, ex-Indycar engine, it will be very different and I am certainly going to need a little time to adapt. However, I am really looking forward to competing with the continent’s specialists!”

The Hill Climb is without a shadow of a doubt an affair for passionate men. And passionate women! One of eight women drivers entered, the Italian Gabriella Pedroni is also thrilled to be involved. “I drove for 12 hours just to get here, but I would definitely not have wanted to miss this meeting! Said the woman who drove her Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII in the FIA International Hill Climb Cup (considered to be the second division of the competitions supervised by the FIA). “The course is very wide and very different to what I am used to seeing, primarily in Italy. However, I am sure that this is going to be a superb event!”

On Saturday morning, the first engines will be heard powering their way up the 1,850 metres of the route as from 09.30, each participant having three training climbs before the presentation of the drivers, which is scheduled to take place at around 19.00. On Sunday, the official climbs will also be starting at 09.30 as, therefore, will the hunt for the three medals up for grabs in the three categories. And if it is suspense and spectacle you are after, you can be sure that you won’t have to look very far to find it!