Already fastest in practice, the Italian Simone Faggioli (Norma, Category 2), the British driver Scott Moran (Gould, Category 3) and the Italian Lucio Perrugini (Ferrari, Category 1) confirmed their respective positions by winning the three gold medals competed for in the FIA Hill Climb Masters on Sunday. At the extremely successful second edition in Šternberk, in the Czech Republic, Slovakia won the Nations Cup whilst the Italian Andrea Bormolini (Osella) and the French driver Martine Hubert (Norma) led the classification for the Under-25 Category and the Ladies.
“I really wanted this victory!” Simone Faggioli (Norma M20FC-Zytek) was so delighted at the end of the second edition of the FIA Hill Climb Masters. The nine-time European Champion, a living hill climb legend, had just won his first gold medal in Category 2 of this discipline. “Two years ago, in Eschdorf, I had to bow to the inevitable and be satisfied with silver. I promised myself then that I would have my revenge, and to win was my only aim. It was a fine battle with Christian Merli and I had to fight as hard as I was able. This race is unique. It has such a status and such an atmosphere, and everything is to play for in just one day, on a relatively short climb, where the slightest error is reflected by the stop-watch. As a consequence you are under so much pressure! But everything went so well and I am extremely pleased to have posted the best time overall, all Categories considered. Champion of Europe, Champion of Italy and now Gold Medal Winner at the Masters … my 2016 season could not have been any better!”
Once again, Christian Merli had to be content with second place. The driver of the Osella FA30 Evo-Fortech had given his all. Just half a second from his eternal rival after his second heat, the Italian did not have an opportunity to make one final effort. A fine rain began to fall just before the last round and Christian Merli climbed slowly … to await Simone Faggioli, the two men crossing the finishing line side by side, such was the unbelievably friendly nature of this Masters 2016.
Behind the two Italians, stars of the European Championship, Sébastien Petit (Norma M20FC-Mugen) took bronze, all the more pleasing a result as the Frenchman believed at one point that he would have to forfeit his position following technical problems (involving his oil pump) on Saturday. Even without making a second practice climb, the seven-time runner-up in the Championship of France proved to be quicker than Paride Macario (Osella FA30-Zytek) and the local hero Miloš Beneš (Osella FA30-Zytek). With his splendid Lotus Evora V8 “Silhouette”, the Czech driver Dan Michl was fastest of the enclosed cars.
Category 3: Moran by a narrow margin
Just like Simone Faggioli, Scott Moran (Gould GR61X-NME) also had his revenge in the FIA Hill Climb Masters after having to be content with a Silver Medal at Eschdorf in 2014, behind the French driver Nicolas Schatz. The star of British hill-climbing, with 6 titles and 151 victories, had to fight hard with his compatriot Trevor Willis (OMS 28-RPE), who led him after the second heat. However, on the last trip up the hill, Moran took the Gold Medal in Category 3 (for cars meeting national requirements but not an FIA technical definition) by … a mere 18/100th of a second! After his final attempt, the Scot Wallace Menzies (Gould GR55B-NME) was 74/100th behind the winner.
“It is incredible to drive so many kilometres from home to be so close at the finish in the times we each posted,” smiled Scott Moran. “But what a battle it was! I really enjoyed it. Faggioli and Merli are definitely extremely fast … we were always closer on time, but I would have needed a few more climbs to be in the same second as they were. I know there are still some places where I could improve, above all on the fast sections where I could have gone faster. The settings on the car could also be changed to improve performance, because events in the United Kingdom are so very different from those in Europe. But I am very happy to have taken the Gold Medal in Category 3 and I look forward to a rematch at the FIA Hill Climb Masters 2018.”
After taking bronze two years ago, Will Hall (Force WH-XTec) finished in fourth place this time, ahead of the French driver Cyrille Frantz (Norma M20FC-BMW V8), the only one to compete on a level footing with the British drivers.
As for the so-called “touring” cars, it was the spectacular Austrian Karl Schagerl in his powerful VW Golf Rally TFSI-R (four-wheel-drive and more than 630 bhp) who dominated the E1 Group.
Category 1: Peruggini in honour of his father
I come, I see, I conquer! For his first competition outside Italy, Lucio Peruggini left Šternberk wearing the Gold Medal in Category 1 (Production Cars). In this category, the suspense was not so intense, the Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 driver leaving nobody in any doubt as to his dominance throughout the weekend. “This win is very emotional for me,” he confessed. “When I came here I only had victory on my mind. I would like to thank Amato Ferrari, the head of the AF Corse team, for all the help he has given me. For an Italian, to win in a Ferrari, and a red one to boot, is always something special. I dedicate this victory to my father, Teodoro. He died 30 years ago, when I was a teenager. He was a Lancia driver and, with a Stratos and the a Group B 037, he was Italian Hill Climb Champion. I took my passion from him, naturally, and he would have been so proud of me now!”
Despite a technical problem preventing him from completing his second heat, the French driver Philippe Schmitter (Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3) was faster than his compatriot Nicolas Werver (Porsche 997 Cup S), again taking bronze, after also finishing the first edition of the FIA Hill Climb Masters on the bottom step of the podium.
Another Porsche driver took fourth place, namely the Swiss driver Frédéric Neff (996 Cup) and the Top 5 was completed by the Slovak Tomas Ondrej (Skoda Fabia WRC).
Andrea Bormolini in U25, Martine Hubert in the Ladies
The battle for victory in the Under-25 Category (U25) was particularly intense. After the first climb, the margin between the first two drivers was … 1/100th of a second, in favour of the Italian Andrea Bormolini (Osella PA21 Evo-Honda) against the Belgian Corentin Starck (Norma M20FC-Honda). And the Czech driver Petr Trnka (Norma M20FC-Honda) was not far behind. At the end of the second climb, it looked as though the local driver was not in line for victory. But, 7/10th behind, Corentin Starck decided to fight to the very end! And on a last climb, marked by a few drops of rain, the Belgian left the road, luckily without too much damage. Nothing could then prevent Andrea Bormolini from winning the “Juniors” category ahead of Starck and Trnka.
On the other hand, there were no real surprises in the Ladies category: already the winner in 2014, the French driver Martine Hubert (Norma M20F-BMW) was well ahead of the Polish competitor Irena Stec (Gloria C8-Yamaha) and the Czech Gabriela Sajlerova (Mitsusbishi Lancer EvoX).
Slovakia wins the Nations Cup
In addition to the individual competitions, a Nations Cup is organised within the framework of the FIA Hill Climb Masters. No fewer than 14 national teams took part in Šternberk for this event, a sort of showcase for the discipline. Some major hill climb nations (like Italy and France, for instance) entered alongside less well-known countries on the international scene, like Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.
To balance everyone’s chances, it was not pure speed which counted, but the criteria of regularity of three of the four designated drivers in the national team. At the end of the day, Slovakia won, with drivers Josef Béreš, Igor Drotar, Tomas Ondrej and Peter Jurena, well coached by their captain Dusan Koblisek. As in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg two years ago, the Swiss team (Fabien Bouduban, Roméo Nüssli, Frédéric Neff and Roger Schnellmann) and the Austrian team (Ferdinand Madrian, Karl Schagerl, “Tessitore” and Christian Schweiger) were the others to stand on the podium.
1. Lucio Peruggini (ITA – Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) – 1:31.06
2. Philippe Schmitter (FRA – Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3) – 1:33.30
3. Nicolas Werver (FRA – Porsche 997 Cup S) – 1:34.55
1. Simone Faggioli (ITA – Norma M20FC-Zytek) – 1:17.51
2. Christian Merli (ITA – Osella FA30 Evo-Fortech) – 1:18.05
3. Sébastien Petit (FRA – Norma M20FC-Mugen) – 1:20.58
1. Scott Moran (GBR – Gould GR61X-NME) – 1:18.93
2. Trevor Willis (GBR – OMS 28-RPE) – 1:19.11
3. Wallace Menzies (GBR – Gould GR55B-NME) – 1:19.67