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Hill Climb - The 2018 Champions take centre stage in Switzerland

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The FIA European Hill Climb Championship prize-giving took place last weekend in Switzerland.

Tradition has it that the FIA Hill Climb Championship prize-giving is held on a rotating basis by each of the organising members of the Alliance des Organisateurs du Championnat d’Europe de la Montagne. This year, it was Switzerland’s turn to host the event, and naturally, the organisers – the ASA St-Ursanne – Les Rangiers – held it in Porrentruy, a charming little town in the Swiss Jura mountains, very close to the medieval village of St-Ursanne, well known for its international hill climb, and part of the European Championship since 1972.

However, another tradition was lost this year: that of seeing the Italian Simone Faggioli be the last up on stage to receive the FIA Category 2 European Champion trophy. The ten-time European Champion may have been present in the room, and was indeed invited to receive his medal for fourth-placed driver in the Championship, but the most emphatic applause was reserved for others. Even though he had not had as much success in Europe as in previous years, Faggioli had still shone several times in 2018. A highlight was his participation in the famous Pikes Peak hill climb, in Colorado, USA, where he finished second (and first among the combustion-engined cars). He achieved the third best overall time on this famous course that is now over 100 years old.

The man to watch in the 2018 season in Category 2 (Sports cars) of the European Championship was the Italian Christian Merli, who had already made his mark in previous seasons as the only driver capable of challenging Faggioli. Merli dominated the European Championship, with 11 victories in 11 competitions (!) and several new overall records for courses across the continent. Not only that, but at the end of a marathon season, which saw him do battle on all fronts in his Zytek-engined Osella FA30, he was crowned Italian champion, and for the icing on the cake, also picked up his first gold medal in the FIA Hill Climb Masters. It was a very emotional Christian Merli who stepped onto the top of the podium last Saturday in Porrentruy. “I admit that when the Italian national anthem played during the ceremony, I had a tear in my eye, explained Merli. This 2018 season has been magnificent, and the European title is a fantastic reward for so much sacrifice and effort, not forgetting the disappointment of the two previous seasons. We were so close to the crown in 2016 and 2017. On the podium, I obviously thought about this magnificent trophy, but also all the challenges that my family, my mechanic and my team had endured. It is a great moment, really very moving.”

Finishing third in the Championship in 2017, the young Italian Andrea Bormolini had moved up a place, this time being crowned European Vice-Champion, thanks to his domination of the CN Group. Third place, in his Audi TT-R DTM, the Czech Vladimir Vitver had regularly dominated the E2-SH Group, the so-called ‘silhouette cars’.

In Category 1 (Production cars), the European title went back to the Czech Lukas Vojacek, as regular as a clock with his Group A Subaru Impreza WRX. Even though the European courses were unfamiliar to him, the Frenchman Pierre Courroye proved his talent in each of his appearances in his McLaren MP4, winning nine victories in his Group in as many appearances. Nevertheless, he received point penalties in two events, in which the number of GT participants was less than three. In such circumstances, each participant is awarded only half the points, as stipulated in an article of the regulations. This same rule also cost Italian Antonino Migliuolo his title bid, even though he had often led Group N in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. Therefore, as he could not score maximum points in each of his appearances, the Italian had trimmed back his initial programme. A regular competitor in the Championship for several years, the Italian hailing from Sardinia, Tonino Cossu, achieved a fine result, finishing third in the overall classification and second in Group A, in which his “small” Honda Civic was barely able to compete with Vojacek’s Subaru.

The prize-giving in Porrentruy was also an opportunity to reward the winners of the FIA International Hill Climb Cup, which included eight events in the 2018 calendar. Unbeaten since 2012, the Czech Vaclav Janik retained the title in 2018. He beat the Austrian Christoph Lampert and a trio of Italian drivers made up of Christian Merli, Manuel Dondi and Francesco Turatello. The Swiss Ronnie Bratschi had chosen to concentrate on this Cup, which, unlike the European Championship, includes a category (Category 3) in which he could compete in his high-powered Mitsubishi Lancer. A winner of the 2016 and 2017 editions, this was Bratschi’s third consecutive trophy.

Lastly, Category 1 was taken by the Austrian Reinhold Taus, which was his first win at international level.


To see photos of the FIA Hill Climb Prize Giving ceremony, click here.