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Hill Climb Champions honoured in Portugal

The prize winners of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship and the FIA International Hill Climb Cup gathered in Porto to receive the trophies so deservedly won at the climax of this long and passionately contested season.

Held on a rotational basis by those countries hosting the events of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship, this year’s prize-giving ceremony took place in Porto under the auspices of the Portuguese ASN, the FPAK.

For the eighth time in his career, the Italian Simone Faggioli was crowned Champion of Europe. In clinching this title, he edged tantalisingly close to the absolute record of 9 titles, established back in the day by his fellow countryman Mauro Nesti. Having switched from Osella to Norma in 2014, Faggioli had enlivened his 2015 campaign by setting himself a new challenge, i.e. equipping his car with Pirelli tyres. This new association certainly paid off right from the word go, and even provided the Italian with a busier programme than foreseen. "At the start, he explained, we had to concentrate our efforts entirely on the European Championship, many events of which coincided with events in the Italian Championship. But with the summer approaching, and at the insistence of Pirelli, we decided to compete on two fronts for the two championships, as in previous years. We had no option but to make a choice, which led us to sacrifice participation in certain European events, in order to increase our chances of winning in Italy as well." Indeed, Faggioli’s relentless domination of the European events afforded him the luxury of being able to sit out several races, including those in Poland, Slovakia, Germany and Croatia, without adversely affecting his chances of lifting the title at the end of the season. Having won each of the races in which he participated, the Italian was able to grant himself this welcome favour. At the end of the day, he finished at the top of the final classification of the European Championship, with an 8-point lead over the Czech Milos Benes, who won on each occasion that Faggioli abstained from competing. Faggioli also lifted yet another Italian Championship.

Although he is certain to return for a new European campaign in 2016 – and try to bag himself a ninth continental crown – Simone Faggioli still does not know which trusty vehicle he will be driving. "There is a chance that my current car will be acquired by someone else for next season, which will oblige me to seek another one", explained the Italian during the ceremony in Porto.

 Winner of Category 1 with the maximum possible number of points, the Macedonian Igor Stefanovski also joined the elite club of Championship winners. Already very convincing in 2014, Stefanovski proved even more dominant in 2015 at the controls of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X Group N, whilst the drivers who might have fought him for the title, the Czechs Jaromir Maly and Lukas Vojacek, respectively second and third, shared most of the victories in Group A, which at the same time penalised them in their quest to challenge Stefanovski. Finishing eighth in the final classification despite a curtailed programme, the Italian Gabriella Pedroni (Mitsubishi Lancer Gr. A), to nobody’s surprise, lifted the prize for the best woman driver of the season.

The prize-giving ceremony in Porto also provided the opportunity to honour the winners and other stars of the International Hill Climb Cup. In their powerful cars, cheerfully generating more than 650 HP, the young Swiss, Ronnie Bratschi (Mitsubishi Lancer), the Austrian Karl Schagerl (VW Golf Rallye TFSI-R) and the Bulgarian Nikolay Zlatkov (Audi Quattro Sport S1) essentially won the argument in Group E1 of the Category 1 and finished in this order. The other two categories were won by the Italian Armin Hafner (Production winner in Category 1) and by the Czech Vaclav Janik (Category 2).