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Grab your diaries everyone! The great biennial Hill Climb meeting will be taking place at Sternberk in the Czech Republic on 8 and 9 October 2016.

Still basking in the glow of its compelling inauguration in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg in 2014, the FIA Hill Climb Masters will now head towards Eastern Europe for its second edition. Eastern Europeans are passionate about Hill Climbs and the discipline has been practised there enthusiastically and with considerable success for very many years, even to the extent of its exponents having written some of the most illustrious chapters in its history, whether by hosting high-quality events or through its multiple award-winning drivers in the European Championship. 

The privilege of hosting the “Masters” was accorded to the little town of Sternberk, whose surrounding hills have been reverberating to the throbbing of engines for no fewer than… 110 years! More than just a tradition, here the motor racing is virtually an institution. “The very first motor sport competition took place here in 1905” explained the Mayor of Sternberk, Stanislav Orság. “And ever since, our town has consistently succeeded in cultivating a passionate love of motorised sports, whether on 2, 3 or 4 wheels. Today, Sternberk organises several events, in particular celebrations of historic cars and motorcycles and a competition counting towards the European Championship. The Ecce Homo Hill Climb is an integral part of the heritage of the region and offers our town the chance to showcase itself at the international level. It is, therefore, with great pride that we look forward to hosting the FIA Hill Climb Masters, which, in some respects, is the Olympiad of Hill Climb.

Created in 2014, the Hill Climb Masters provides the FIA with the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the so special and so demanding discipline that is Hill Climb. They are designed to be held every two years and, as part of an overall event that is both sporting and festive, to gather a broad selection of the best “mountain folks” competing in the FIA European Championship, in the FIA International Cup and in the various national championships. They also give rise to a Nations Cup, in which each country competes with a team of four drivers selected by its ASN (federation or national sporting authority). In 2014, this completely new type of competition brought together competitors from 19 different countries – something never before seen in the discipline!

Since 1981, the Ecce Homo Hill Climb has been one of the pillars of the European Hill Climb Championship. “Our normal course runs for 7.8 kilometres, but for the Masters we shall be reducing it by just over 3 kilometres,” explained Vlastimil Malik, President of the AMK Ecce Homo Organising Committee. “This adds a certain dynamism to the event and makes it compatible for all the participants, given that some competitors from foreign championships are not keen on the longer distances. Limiting the course to 3 kilometres will also allow us to ensure better television coverage of the race. We shall be keeping the start at the usual place, close to the town centre.

The format of the event remains similar to that of the first edition, with a Nations Cup that will emphasize the regularity of the drivers over the three race heats and with an individual classification based upon pure performance, which will lead to the award of gold, silver and bronze medals. “The concept was received with great enthusiasm, explained Paul Gutjahr, President of the FIA Hill Climb Commission, to the FIA. These Masters are an event in themselves, their key characteristic being to bring together over one week-end all the actors of the discipline and to allow drivers and machines who do not normally have the opportunity to meet one another to do exactly that. In 2014, British, Irish and Maltese lined up on the start, and as a result the atmosphere was quite different to that of any other competition. Over and above the sporting confrontations, which, incidentally, turned up some rather unexpected results, there were also many exchanges among the drivers, much curiosity about everyone’s approach, motivation and techniques. The Nations Cup has also generated a healthy competition among the teams, who were proud to march joyfully on the Saturday evening during the presentation of the competitors, but resolutely determined to grab the gold medal on the day of the actual race.”

Beaten by a Frenchman (Schatz, Category 3), a Swiss (Berguerand, Category 2) and a Belgian (Bodson, Category 1) in the individual classifications, the Italians nevertheless proudly hoisted aloft the trophy for the winning team of this Nations Cup, thus proving the value of team spirit, even in a discipline in which the driver is held as the sole master of his destiny and of his time. 

In keeping with the principle of the FIA Hill Climb Masters, the competition is so much more than the against-the-clock sprints of the single week-end of 8 and 9 October in Sternberk; in fact, it will start as early as this spring, as soon as the 2016 FIA and national Hill Climb championships get underway, since a ticket for the Masters has to be earned. In order to be eligible, the drivers will first of all have to qualify through these competitions and to obtain the classifications (Top 12, Top 5 or Top 3) defined by the Masters regulations. The grand end-of-season gala will, therefore, occupy the thoughts and the minds throughout the season, culminating in the final that brings together the best of the best.