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Christian Merli’s domination continues, with no sign of sharing it up until now, at the FIA European Hill Climb Championship: he was once again unrivalled in Portugal, the third round of the season. 

Falperra is a unique event of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship, not only because of the course’s speed, but also because of the crowds it attracts. It is a known fact that the Portuguese are avid motor sport fans; they flock en masse (tens of thousands of them) to this race, which is held on the outskirts of Braga.

Having already won two rounds this season, Christian Merli (Osella FA30 Zytek) did not let anyone get near him at Falperra, either during the practice sessions, or the race. And in keeping with the pattern that he has set since the Championship opened, he beat the Portuguese course record: he improved on his own 2018 record by nearly a full second, making him the first person in the history of the race to break through the 175 km/h average!

Trailing by more than two seconds during the first heat, Simone Faggioli (Norma M20FC Zytek) only conceded 1.3 seconds in the second heat. Nevertheless, the Italian duo both triumphed in their Groups (E2-SS for Merli, E2-SC for Faggioli), which enabled them to remain co-leaders in the provisional classification of the European Championship in Category 2.

The battle for third place was tight, even though things came to an abrupt end for the Frenchman Sébastien Petit (Norma M20FC Mugen), who left the road at high speed during the last ascent, following the loss of an aerodynamic component of his rear wing. Still, his times for the first and second climbs were good enough for him to grab fourth place in the general classification (total of the best two climbs), behind the Austrian Christoph Lampert (Osella FA30 Zytek), who put in a solid performance, and ahead of the Luxembourger Guy Demuth (Norma M20FC Mugen). Not having driven as much as the other drivers in the Top 10, the Spaniard Andreas Vilarino (Norma M20F Zytek) and the Swiss Joël Volluz (Osella FA30 Judd) continuously improved their times throughout the practice climbs and race, finishing in eighth and ninth place.

Marco Capucci (Osella PA21 Evo Honda) was all alone in Group CN. On the Silhouette side, the wrestling match between Reto Meisel and Vladimir Vitver’s cars kept the Portuguese spectators on the edge of their seats, with the Mercedes SLK equipped with a Judd engine driven by the Swiss pulling ahead of the Czech’s Audi TT-R DTM. Group E2-SH, which included José Fombona’s Lamborghini Huracan (3rd), Philippe Schmitter’s Renault RS01 (4th), Patrick Cunha’s Mercedes AMG GT (5th) and Luis Nunes’s Ford Fiesta ST R5, kept the pace high in Falperra.

On this proposed lightning-fast course, the Group GT cars obviously dominated the first places in Category 1. The Slovak Jan Milon prevailed in his McLaren 650S GT3 against the Porsche 997 GT3 RS driven by the Frenchman Christian Schmitter and the Portuguese José Pires. The other Groups were won by the Italian Antonino Migliuolo (N), the Czech Lukas Vojacek (A) and the Croatian of Hungarian origin Laszlo Hernadi (S20).

From Portugal, the competitors of the European Championship now head to Spain, to the province of Asturias, where the Al Fito event will be held from 18-19 May, which has a winding course that greatly contrasts with Falperra’s more fluid course.

To see the provisional classification of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship, click here.

A photo gallery of the “Rampa Internacional de Falperra” is available here.