EHCC - HILL CLIMB: MID-SEASON UPDATE | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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The sixth race of the season, the Glashbachrennen in Germany, marked the halfway point of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship

The sixth race of the season, the Glashbachrennen in Germany, marked the halfway point of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship.

The regulations for the European Hill Climb Championship are such that an initial indicative classification may be made already in June. While the season is made up of 12 events, only the ten best results for each driver are taken into account for drawing up the final classification of the championship. But one of the two “deductible” results, called “jokers” in the jargon of the competitors, has to be from among the first six events, such that an initial ranking is already established and may give an idea of who might still be a pretender for the final podium or, above all, who would appear to already be out of the running. Thus, all chances of an 11th European title seem to have evaporated for Simone Faggioli. Used to hogging the victories, the Italian had to concede defeat twice (second in France and in the Czech Republic). He also knew, before even beginning his 2018 campaign, that he would use his joker in the first half of the championship by sacrificing the German Glasbach event in order to go to Colorado to train for the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb – his main target for the year.

His (almost) perpetual adversary, Christian Merli, therefore holds the lead in the provisional Championship classification, with five victories and one withdrawal, cancelled out by the joker. Merli is however not alone in this position, and shares the lead with Andrea Bormolini, five-time winner in five starts in the CN Group.

In Category 1, the lead is also shared by two drivers, who have achieved five victories apiece: the young Frenchman Pierre Courroye, magnificent in GT with his McLaren MP4-12C, and the Czech Lukas Vojacek, who only has light opposition in Group A with his Subaru Impreza WRX. 


Ecce Homo: Tyre selection decisive in Czech Republic 

The variable weather conditions which marked the Ecce Homo event meant that tyre selection at the opening of the second run was a bit of a headache. Those who went for the most daring option lost their gamble.

Now 113 years old, the Czech Ecce Homo event is one of the “great classics” of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship. Any victory here is therefore particularly satisfying. The man to beat in the 2018 edition was undoubtedly Christian Merli (Osella FA30 Zytek). The Italian destroyed the competition, from as early as Saturday’s practice session, in which, in the absence of a genuine adversary, he established a new absolute record for the course. With his momentum, he once again beat his own record on Sunday, during the first run of the race. The arrival of intermittent rain could have unsettled him, but it appears that it would take more than this to knock his confidence this season: he once again obtained the best time in the second run, and achieved a comfortable victory. 

Still struggling with a car whose handling was fickle, Simone Faggioli (Norma MF20C Zytek) attempted a gamble in the second run, with the hope of being able to bridge the gap built in the first run against Merli. Believing in the advantage of a clear spell in the weather, the ten-time Champion of Europe put on slick tyres. While these were adequate for a section of the course, his gamble failed to pay off in the second half of the climb. The Italian not only saw all hope of overall victory disappear, but he also lost second place (and first in the E2-SC Group), to the local hero Vaclav Janik (Norma M20FC Mitsubishi Turbo). Milos Benes (Osella FA30 Judd), Christoph Lampert (Osella FA30 Zytek) and Marcel Steiner (LobArt LA01 Mugen) completed the top six. Making the most of his perfect knowledge of the area (he lives in Sternberk) and the difficult conditions, the young Petr Trnka finished eighth, placing his two-litre engine Ligier JS23 among the 3000cc prototypes and single-seaters. Winner of the E2-SS Group in Spain, Diego de Gasperi this time had to make do with fourth place (and ninth overall) for having, just like his team boss Faggioli, made the unfortunate choice of fitting slicks to his Osella FA30 Zytek for the second run. Andrea Bormolini (Osella PA20S) was once again winner in the CN Group.

Spurred on by competing on home turf, Vladimir Vitver (Audi WTTR) was majestic in the E2-SH Group, competing with his compatriot Marek Rybnicek (Ford Fiesta Turbo 4x4) and the Italian Fulvio Giuliani (Lancia Delta Integrale), while Jiri Los, a contender for the podium, had to withdraw during practice, let down by the engine of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8.

In Category 1, the young Frenchman Pierre Courroye is currently achieving new highs with each of his appearances in the European Championship. Although he was new to the Czech course, he drove his McLaren MP4-12C to the top of the classification right from the first practice run and repeated this supremacy in each of the other runs. In GT, he lead the McLaren 650S of Slovak Jan Million and the Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 of the Czech Martin Jerman. In Group N, the Italian Antonino Migliulo (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) seemed set to achieve another win after a superb performance in Run 1, but the arrival of rain changed the circumstances and allowed the Czech Filip Sajler (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) to achieve an extraordinary feat in Run 2, which earned him first place in the combined classification of the two runs. The Czech Lukas Vojacek (Subaru Impreza) scored his 5th win in Group A.


Glasbachrennen: Merli and Courroye, just for a change

Known as being the safest race of the season, thanks to its impeccable surface and its course bordered by double rails for most of its length, the Glashbachrennen did not yield any major surprises with regard to the winners. Christian Merli was the clear winner in Category 2, achieving a new overall record for the course, which he himself had held since 2017. In the absence of Simone Faggioli (already in action this week at Pikes Peak), Merli could have settled for the 25 victory points, but that would be to misjudge the mentality of the driver of the Osella FA30! At the end of the two best climbs, he led by seven seconds, ahead of Frenchman Sébastien Petit (Norma M20FC Mugen), who also won the E2-SC Group, and nine seconds ahead of Austrian Christoph Lampert, whose progress at the wheel of the Osella FA30 Zytek has been ever upwards since the start of the season.

The Luxembourger Guy Demuth and the Italian Diego De Gasperi completed the top five, which the Slovenian Patrick Zajeksnik (Norma M20FC Mugen) and the Belgian Jelle de Coninck (Norma M20FC Honda Turbo) could have contested had they not been forced to withdraw after driving off the road. The two other groups in Category 2 witnessed the victories of the Czech Vladimir Vitver (E2-SH, Audi WTTR-DTM) and the Belgian Corentin Starck (CN, Osella PA21 Honda).

In Category 1, Pierre Courroye once again proved his talent, winning the GT Group, ahead of Slovak Jan Milon, who is increasingly getting to grips with his superb McLaren 650S GT3, and is starting to close in on the performances of the young Frenchman. The victories in Groups N and A were claimed by Antonino Migliuolo (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) and Tonino Cossu (Honda Civic Type-R).

The European ‘highlanders’ will kick off the second half of their season in Italy, at the “Coppa Paolo Teodori” taking place in Ascoli on 23 and 24 June.

To see the Championship standings, click here.