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FIA European Hill Climb Championship returns this weekend

The 2015 championship starts up again this weekend at Col Saint Pierre in France

The 2015 FIA European Hill Climb Championship begins this weekend, 11-12 April, as the “mountaineers” take on the ascent of the Col Saint Pierre, climbing at full speed up the “Corniche des Cévennes” course which, for the rest of the year, is an ordinary tourist road.

Like in 2014, this season will include 12 stages and will visit 12 countries. Only the Italian event has changed location from last season, moving from Ascoli to Trento-Bondone.

As well as being the opening of the European Championship, this meeting in the Cevennes hills will form the second round of the French Hill Climb Championship.  All categories and championships combined (the programme still includes a round of the French Championship for historic cars), no less than 202 drivers are expected at Saint-Jean du Gard.

One of the charming parts of the Col Saint Pierre Hill Climb is the fact that its nerve centre is the small town of Saint Jean du Gard; whose  streets, lanes, squares, car parks, pavements, and even garages of local residents, are transformed into a race paddock.

The other special feature of the event is the distance of four kilometres which separates the town centre from the pre-grid area: this distance means that the competitors have to reach the foot of the mountain they are about to climb in convoy, on a large departmental road, under police escort... often to the amazement of onlooking tourists passing through!

Seven-time European Champion, Italian Simone Faggioli has his sights set on an additional title and new records. In 2014, in 11 European races, Faggioli was unbeaten, despite having set himself a new challenge in opting for a proto Norma M20FC Zytek for the first time. His 2015 season is characterised by another new challenge: that of bringing tyre manufacturer Pirelli to hill climb. As for his car, it will be quite similar to that entered last season, with the main difference being the adoption of front bodywork with redesigned aerodynamics.

One of those likely to take it up to the Italian is young Luxembourger David Hauser, bronze medallist and best Junior during the 2014 FIA Hill Climb Masters. For the first time in his budding career, the automobile engineering student is embarking on a full European tour. His car will be the Wolf GB08F1 V8, which he started driving in 2014. Even if his primary objective is to gain experience in view of future seasons and to familiarise himself with the majority of the courses of the European Championship, Hauser could prove to be a formidable opponent in the race for the title against Faggioli.

The two men will be competing in different categories (E2-SC for Faggioli, E2-SS for Hauser) and the distribution of points is such that only the results from one’s own category count, without there being any “bonus” with regard to the overall classification of each event. With this scoring system, if they each dominate their category (as could Czech Dan Michl in the E2-SH category with his Lotus Evora V8 Silhouette), they could potentially score the same number of points. In the past, this method of scoring has often favoured lower-performance cars, like the Group Ns against Group As on the touring car side.

The Category 1 of touring cars does promise to be highly contested, with most drivers competing in Mitsubiushis. The Group N will be led by the last two outgoing Champions, Macedonian Igor Stefanovski and Croatian Tomislav Muhvic, while Group A will count Czechs Jaromir Maly and Lukas Vojacek and Austrian Christian Schweiger among its favourites to win.