HCM - A Steep Hill to Climb for Eduardo Freitas

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Portugal’s Eduardo Freitas has over 30 years of experience as a marshal, Clerk of the Course and FIA Race Director, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA World Endurance Championship, FIA WTCC, FIA World RX and FIA GT but the FIA Hill Climb Masters was his first experience of managing a major hill climb event.  

By his own admission, for the 60-year-old from Cascais near Lisbon it was a steep learning curve but one that he admitted that he enjoyed when we caught up with him to find out his thoughts on the 4th FIA Hill Climb Masters in Braga.


Q: This was your first hill climb event as Clerk of the Course. Overall, how do you rate your experience at the FIA Masters? 

EF: “In fact this was my first ever CoC job in a hill climb.  When the challenge was brought to me, my first instinct was to say no, but I can’t refuse a good challenge.  It was interesting, it was the first time in many years that I could learn more than I could teach.  It was a learning process for one week; it was exciting, it was amazing and quite stressful at some moments.  But, yes, it was a very, very interesting experience from a personal and from a professional point of view.”


Q: How different was the FIA Hill Climb Masters compared to what you are used to?

EF: “Here we are comparing green wine with red wine. I am used to circuits with the facilities, TV cameras, service roads and all of that. Hill climb is a totally different story, there are no service roads, there is no CCTV, the coverage is not as accurate and as good as I normally have on grade 1, grade 2 circuits. 

“It was a big challenge. Each time you need to recover a car you have to reposition all the recover means because otherwise you fracture the intervention methods and all of things that are put into place in the safety programme.  Yes, it was quite challenging because you couldn’t send cars by the outside roads to do the recovery as there are no outside roads. So it is all very limited. But it was good fun.”


Q: What were you able to bring to the FIA Masters from the other events you normally work at?

EF: “As I said earlier, I brought more with myself than I could input into the weekend. I did come in with some new proposals.  Things like pre scrutineering which at the beginning was doomed to be a flop but it ended up proving well.  We did 80% of all the cars on Thursday when everything was supposed to be done on Friday. 

“The teams helped there, we were with 158 entries and to scrutineer all those cars in one day I thought it was tough. So, I said why not, let’s use the experience from other events and championships and open the window for scrutineering on Thursday. I think it brought up a good result.

“Then it’s details with the experience one has to put on the table ideas to improve how the things were running during the weekend. 

“It was tough, the session started late due to issues with the public, but I had good help there as, fortunately, we had eyes all over the place and they gave me some good feedback and with safety it is better to do something than to regret it later.  

“It started late, it was a tough Saturday, I was learning also, but the experience from other events proved useful in running a hill climb event.”


Q: How do you rate the drivers and the cars at the FIA Masters?

EF: “It was a big mix with very small touring cars, single seaters, prototypes.  We had young drivers and old drivers. 

“One thing that challenges me a lot, as a circuit man, where we have sessions of one hour or more so the drivers can acquaint themselves with the track, and they are always complaining that they need more practice time.  

“In hill climb they go up three times and then it’s full gas all the way up, so it takes a very good memory from the drivers and that, to be very honest, I found astonishing.  How fast they can go with only three practice runs; that’s something I am still digesting.”


Q: How did you find the atmosphere at the event? From the opening ceremony to the final day on the track?

EF: “The opening ceremony worked better than anybody anticipated.  The closing ceremony gave me goosebumps to see all those teams in the grandstands celebrating as a family was something really nice, it was quite impressive to see. 

“The event itself was the first event at the end of the long Covid situation.  Normally, Braga has five kilometres, but here we only had three, so we had to put the spectators into three.  I think at the end of the day, we did a great job, the public did a great job, and it was something which marked me very positively.”


Q: Would you like to Clerk another Hill Climb event?

EF: “I had some mixed feelings on Sunday night and on Monday after the event, asking myself if I should not do it again or should I do it again.  I think the answer is yes.  I think I would accept that challenge and now that I have lived the event I think there are margins to definitely improve.”