The European Hill Climb Championship kick off this weekend in France

13.04.18

Competitors in the FIA European Hill Climb Championship will take on the first climb of the season Saturday, 14 and Sunday, 15 April in Saint-Jean-du-Gard, France. 

For most of the year, the famous “Corniche des Cévennes” is a scenic route travelled in a leisurely fashion, but this weekend it will be host to a parade of racing cars of all types, from near production spec touring cars to the V8 3-litre Norma and Osella prototypes. Extremely technical in the first section, with several hairpin turns and slow corners, the pace quickens over the five kilometres, finishing with several fast successive corners before crossing the finish line at the Col St-Pierre. Exactly 40 drivers are registered for the European Championship, but the event will bring together more than 210 cars, including the competitors participating in the French Hill Climb Championship, and the 30 odd historic cars.

All eyes will of course be on Category 2, where will once again witness a fierce battle between the Italians Simone Faggioli, crowned European Champion ten times, and Christian Merli.  Just like last year, the two will compete in different categories – Faggioli in E2-SC with his Norma M20FC and Merli in E2-SS with his Osella FA30. Even though they are the hot favourites in their respective categories, don’t expect them to settle for a mere group win. They will also both be chasing the overall best time of the day.

In E2-SS, aside from those faithful to the Championship – the Italians Fausto Bormolini and Renzo Napione (both in Reynard K02s) – Saint-Jean-du-Gard will be the first outing of the Austrian Christoph Lambert’s Osella FA30, which he recently acquired. The Italian Diego De Gasperi will line up with a similar car and plans to compete in at least six European events throughout the 2018 season, in parallel with his Italian Championship schedule. In the 2-seater prototype category (E2-SC), the defending French Champion Sébastien Petit, has given up his 4-litre Norma BMW, which was not eligible for the European Championship, for the same Norma M20FC with a 3-litre Mugen engine. His intimate knowledge of the Cévennes course could set him up as kingmaker in the Faggioli-Merli dual. Among the attractions of the category, the compact BRC BR53 prototype of the former GP2 and WTCC driver Javier Villa will be hotly anticipated. Having already made a name for itself as being agile and lightweight (420 kg), the BRC is now fitted with a 1000 cc turbocharged Suzuki motorbike engine!

The other two Category 2 groups will stand out through the variety of cars entered, with the four Group CN prototypes all being different models (Norma M20FC, Wolf GB08, and Osella PA 20 and PA21S) and the Group E2-SH silhouettes practically all being different makes. The Czech Vladimir Vitver (Audi TT DTM) is once again billed as favourite, but on French soil, he will have to fight hard against the Porsche 997 GT2 of Nicolas Werver and the Renault RS01 of Philippe Schmitter.

In Category 1, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 and 10 cars will battle once again for the Group N victories – the main contenders being the Czech Vavrinec, the Italian Migliuolo and the Slovak Ambruz. With his Mitsubishi Evo R4, Laszlo Hernadi will be on his own in Group S20, while Lukas Vojacek will be the only one to race with an AWD car (Subaru Impreza) in Group A. In GT, the weekend’s favourite will undoubtedly be the young Pierre Courroye, the 1997 French Champion, with his McLaren MP4 12C. Looking to compete in the entire Championship, Slovak Jan Millon, placed fourth in 2017, has traded in his BMW Z4 for a McLaren 650S GT3. As for the Czech Martin Jerman, he is back with his Lamborghini Gallardo GT3.

The French St-Jean-du-Gard event, which opens the Championship, will be followed by round two the weekend after (21-22 April), with the Rechbergrennen in Austria, another competition where the number of participants will comfortably exceed the 200 mark.