This Friday was “installation day” for the drivers taking part in the FIA Hill Climb Masters. In glorious Italian sunshine, at the foot of the medieval city of Gubbio, the teams erected their awnings and paddock structures, and their cars passed scrutineering. The competitive action begins tomorrow from 10am with the first of two practice heats.
The streets which criss-cross the medieval city of Gubbio have been invaded by lorries and tents containing racing cars of all varieties, whose modernity provides a striking contrast with their surroundings. In the foreground, you might see a single seater resembling a Formula 1 car; in the background, the ruins of a Roman theatre.
It was relatively quiet today in Gubbio, where drivers and teams set about unloading their racing cars and applying their race numbers for the weekend’s racing. The noise of the engines only broke this silence for a short time, during their short trip to the scrutineering area, where all the cars underwent an initial assessment by the officials in charge of the event. Tomorrow is another day: the low rumbling will turn into into a scream, amplified by an echo effect as the course winds its way through the Bottaccione Gorge.
Visitors who have come from more than 20 countries are strolling around the town, where smiles and friendly waves can be seen around every corner, whether from the residents of Gubbio, amused by so much activity, or the competitors themselves, enjoying the atmosphere and swapping points of view and experiences with other competitors who have come from so many different places. The British are attracting the more curious fans, with their cars that are conceptually very different from their continental counterparts. The Maltese – as small as their island is – are proud to be demonstrating, with their contingent of nine drivers, that hill climb is the predominant motor sport discipline in their home country. The Greeks, Portuguese and Irish, often isolated at the periphery of the European continent, are savouring the pleasure of being immersed in an event that is resolutely international. The Italians, who, naturally are the most represented, are on familiar ground (Gubbio is a round of the Italian Championship), and are reconnecting with the local inhabitants with whom they have formed a bond, often over several years. Such is the magic of the Masters.
170 of the 175 cars initially scheduled to take part will start the two test climbs scheduled tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. onwards. Most of these will be driven by foreign contestants taking their first look at the terrain: the first section is relatively smooth and fast, although it is a bit tricky due to the gradient at the side of the road in certain bends, while the final section is much slower and more winding, with three hairpins. It is along this last sector that most fans will throng, since the view from the top of the hill enables them to follow each driver’s progression along a stretch of over 700 meters in all!