HILL CLIMB - Merli and Vojacek - European Champions | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

HILL CLIMB - Merli and Vojacek - European Champions

07.09.18

There was no need to wait until the last round of the season to find out who would be crowned the 2018 FIA European Hill Climb Champions. During the 11th and penultimate round, the Slovenian event at Ilirska Bistrica unveiled Christian Merli and Lukas Vojacek as the winners of Categories 2 and 1, respectively.

There was no need to wait until the last round of the season to find out who would be crowned the 2018 FIA European Hill Climb Champions. During the 11th and penultimate round, the Slovenian event at Ilirska Bistrica unveiled Christian Merli and Lukas Vojacek as the winners of Categories 2 and 1, respectively.

Yet another chapter of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship was written this year. After years of domination by Simone Faggioli, ten-time European Champion and absolute record holder for the number of titles won, there is a new Category 2 winner at the top of the European ranking: Christian Merli, a compatriot of Faggioli. The rivalry between the two drivers is nothing new: they have been in a bitter duel for many years, and over the past three years, there was a sense that Merli’s appetite and experience were growing. Already in 2017, Merli had come close to sharing a European accolade with Faggioli. Given that their cars had different designs but were nearly on an equal footing in terms of performance, they comfortably dominated their respective categories, so much so that they nearly concluded the 2017 season with equal points. The championship then shifted in the penultimate round, in Slovenia, where Merli was plagued with mechanical issues.

The tide has turned in 2018: while Merli (Osella FA30 Zytek) won all 11 races that he entered in Group E2-SS, Faggioli (Norma M20FC Zytek) began the season with a loss against the Frenchman Sébastien Petit during the Col St-Pierre event in France. The hopes of the ten-time European Champion were nearly completely lost, since he knew that his trip to the famous Pikes Peak Hill Climb in the United States (where he finished second) would cost him at least one European Championship participation. Faggioli then had to abandon in Slovakia and forfeit in Poland. Back on form in mid-August in Switzerland, Faggioli proved to be the fastest at Ilirska Bistrica, winning the overall and Group E2-SC victories.

After years of hard work on the European front and inevitably growing ambitions, Merli’s goal in Slovenia was to at least win his Group and the 25 points needed to win his first overall victory. Despite challenging circumstances, marked by torrential rain on Saturday, which meant he had to settle for just one practice session, and electrical issues on Sunday morning, Merli reached his goal, clocking the fastest time in Group E2-SS. And that’s how he became European Champion. While for the driver this is a first, for Osella, the manufacturer of his car, it is a victorious return – the last time this Italian make won was in 2013.

Behind the indomitable duo of Faggioli and Merli, the Slovenian Patrick Zajelsnik (Norma M20FC Mugen) put in a good performance, delighted to be racing on home turf. Third in the overall classification, he successfully warded off the threat of the 2017 French Champion Sébastien Petit (Norma M20FC Mugen), who, to his credit, was taking on the Ilirska Bistrica course for the first time.

After suffering a slight bump during the first race heat, Andrea Bormolini (Osella PA20), had to settle for second place in the Group CN, behind Marco Capucci (Osella PA21S). Even so, this second place guaranteed him the 2018 Runner-Up title. E2-SH was once again won by the Czech Vladimir Vitver (Audi TT-R DTW).

There were no surprises in Category 1, with a tenth victory this season in Group A by Czech Lukas Vojacek (Subaru Impreza WRX STI), who at the same time won the European title in the Production Car category. In Slovenia, the other Category 1 groups were won by Jan Milon (GT/McLaren 650S GT3), Peter Ambruz (N/Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) and Lazslo Hernandi (S20/Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX).

 

The Championship will conclude in Buzet, Croatia on 15 and 16 September.

 

To consult the classifications of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship after the 11 of the 12 events on the schedule, click here.