For the first time in the young history of the FIA Hill Climb Masters, there are Greek competitors appearing on the entry list. Five of them have made the journey to Šternberk, in the Czech Republic. “For us Greeks, it is very important to be here,” explains Marios Xanthakos, the captain of the national team. “You know that our country is going through a difficult time at the moment. To be able to get Greece talked about in an event as prestigious as this one is something that makes us proud. Hill Climb is the most popular discipline of motor sport back home, with on average between 80 and 100 entrants in each events. We have therefore received very strong support from our federation, and we also benefit from quite a lot of feedback in the media concerning our participation in these Masters. We made common travel arrangements, with all the cars in the same truck and another truck carrying the parts and tools that we might need. As for the drivers, they took the plane.”
Defending Greece’s colours in the Nations Cup are Panagiotis Lioris (Ford Escort WRC), George Kehagias (Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500), Spiros Vorgias (Peugeot 106 S16 Rallye) and Ioannis Plagos (Honda Civic Type-R). The fifth Greek entered, George Argiriou (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), is focussing only on the individual competition.
“Since I arrived, I get the impression of being on another planet,” says Panagiotis Lioris, the national Group A champion, with a smile. “I have taken part in more than 200 races since I started out in 1991, but this is my first time racing abroad. I am so happy to be able to be part of this great event and to represent my country in it. It is of course very different from what we are used to in Greece. Back home, the roads are notably far more winding and more slippery… The standard in my category is very high, but I hope to achieve a good result even so!”
As the team competition is based on the regularity of the drivers – and not on pure performance – Greece might also be a team to keep an eye on in the Nations Cup… And, whatever happens, their presence at these FIA Hill Climb Masters should also benefit motor sport in the country. “We are watching what goes on and trying to learn as much as possible,” says Marios Xanthakos. “We shall return to Greece with new ideas, and we might be able to transfer certain things that we have seen here to our own events.”