FIA Hill Climb Champions under the spotlight in Austria

The prize winners of the 2014 editions of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship and the FIA International Hill Climb Cup were honoured this Saturday, 8 November in Fladnitz, in Austria.

Whilst it is true that the very cradle of the European Hill Climb Championship, the environs of the famous Rechbergrennen, did not attract the 25,000 spectators who normally gravitate there towards the end of April each year, last Saturday, the key players of the recently-ended international hill climb season were all very much in attendance.

By tradition, the organisers of the dozen events that make up the European Championship take turns in hosting the presentation of the competition’s official prizes. After the Czech Republic in 2012 and France in 2013, the task of honouring the Champions fell this time to Austria. For the first time, the ceremony was not restricted to the prize winners of the European Championship but was broadened in order to be able to celebrate the best performers in the FIA International Hill Climb Cup, the calendar of which is also quite healthy, even if it is concentrated more and more on the countries of Eastern Europe.

For the seventh time in his career, the Italian Simone Faggioli (36) was crowned European Champion in Category 2 of the prototypes, single-seaters and silhouettes. “This is one of my greatest titles,” explained Faggioli. “After 15 years with Osella, we changed car and went with Norma. To open a season with a new car is never easy, all the more so given that we were unable to get in much practice before the first race and that there was a certain lack of geographic proximity between our team, based in Italy, and the workshops of the Norma Auto Concept, which are located in the south-east of France, not too far from Spain! Nevertheless, we very soon got our bearings and were able to race our way to a dream new season. I have no hesitation in dedicating this title to Mauro Nesti, who sadly passed away several months ago.”  As the winner of the 11 European Championship races in which he has participated, also setting various new absolute records to beat those he already held, Faggioli, with his 7 European titles, continues to edge closer and closer to the record of 9 titles set by his fellow countryman Mauro Nesti.

Having finished first in the E2-SS single-seater Group with his Reynard K02-Mugen, for the second year in a row the Italian Fausto Bormolini found himself gracing the second step of the final podium, one step above the Czech Dan Michl, who finished third in the general classification but first in the Group E2-SH for the cars known as “Silhouettes” in his original Lotus Evora with its V8 engine.

In addition to securing the personal title in Category 1 with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X Group N, Igor Stefanovski put in an historic performance by becoming the first Macedonian driver ever to lift the FIA European Hill Climb Championship. “This title actually had a double impact and is a brilliant reward not only for me but also for my country,”  Stefanovski confirmed. I have competed so many times in my own country and in the Balkans region, and I wanted to hit new heights in 2014. This is why I set out on this European campaign. It has been a truly great and magnificent adventure, full of discoveries. From a strictly sporting point of view, each of the Championship courses was new for me and I had to get to know them all. To win eight of the twelve races and break four absolute records in Group N in the races I contested was a source of even greater satisfaction for me. In 2015, I would like to realise my dream of being able to line up in Category 2 with a prototype. I am working on securing a budget and also on bringing together the technical package with which to achieve this.”

In the final classification of Category 2, the first eight places of which were monopolized by the Mitsubishi Lancer, Igor Stefanovski edged out the Czechs Jaromir Maly, the winner of Group A, and Jiri Los.

Run over 14 events, and concentrated mainly in the eastern part of the European continent (notable exceptions being one event in Portugal and another in Spain), the FIA International Hill Climb Cup progressed this year under the same unique designation, which was born out of the merger of the former FIA International Challenge and the FIA European Cup. Three titles were up for grabs: in Category 2, the honours went to the Czech Vaclav Janik, eight podium finishes in nine participations behind the wheel of his Formula 3000 Lola B02/50. Having already won the Cup (then known as the Challenge) in 2012 and 2013, in the final 2014 classification Janik finished above the Swiss Tiziano Riva (Reynard 92D-Cosworth) and the Czech Jiri Svoboda (Norma M20F).

The other Categories produced two more unexpected results, with the crowning of a woman in the Production Group, Gabriella Pedroni (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII GrA), and of a Bulgarian driver, Nikolay Zlatkov (Audi Sport Quattro S1) in Group E1. “To be the first woman in the history of Hill Climb to win an FIA title really is something very special,” explained the Italian Pedroni. “Of course I am thrilled, and first and foremost I would like to thank my family, who supported me all the way. This is a victory for the whole family. When we set out, we really didn’t consider this Cup as an achievable objective. Indeed, I didn’t even travel to Portugal and Spain. However, thanks to the good results in the first half of the season, we found ourselves well in the running and so we concentrated our efforts on this FIA Cup! I have already been competing in Hill Climb for some years: I love the atmosphere surrounding it and I admire the enthusiasm of the organisers who host us throughout the season.” Pedroni won the Production Group against the Hungarian (competing under a Croatian licence) Laszlo Hernadi and the Austrian Armin Hafner.

Wherever he happens to be competing, the Bulgarian Nikolay Zlatkov can always count on being cheered on by his many supporters thanks to the convincing persona of his Audi Quattro: the look, the power, the noise, the performance – this racing monster has it all and has been fascinating the public for thirty years, and ever since its debut in rallies. “This car is a replica of the Audi Quattro Sport S1 that our team ProSpeed built,” explained Zlatkov. “We have been entering it since 2012 and have gradually adapted it to the specificities of the Hill Climb. This victory in the FIA Cup is essentially the realisation of our dream and a fine reward for several years’ hard work. We entered it in 11 races in 2014 and finished them all, without a single mechanical failure.” In the final classification, the famous Quattro finished ahead of some other generously-transformed cars such as the Lancia Delta Integrale Evolution of the Italian Fulvio Giuliani and the Golf Rallye TFSI-R of the Austrian Karl Schagerl.