Thousands of enthusiastic Portuguese fans lined the 3km track of Rampa da Falperra and witnessed one of the most exciting events on the Hill Climb calendar, with the medals being decided on the final run of the day.
Christian Merli in the no1 Osella FA30 Zytek (Category 2 / D/E2-SS) took the gold medal at the 2021 FIA Hill Climb Masters to add to the one he won in 2018 after a fantastic battle with Geoffrey Schatz and Simone Faggioli for overall honours.
The battle for Category and Group honours raged up and down the field, with the crowd responding to the amazing driving skills shown by the drivers, including the loud cheers for the on-the-limit speed of the no67 Speedcar GTR Suzuki of French driver Yves Tholy.
In the last run of the day Italian Christian Merli posted a 1m02.702 in his final run but his second run of 1m02.033 was the one that counted. Simone Faggioli claimed the silver medal with a 1m02.605 on his final run in the no2 Norma M20 FC Zytek (Category 2 / E2-SC), with Petr Trnka in the no9 Norma M20 FC Mugen (Category 2 / E2-SC) claiming the bronze medal.
The gold medal in Category 4 went to the no40 NP01-2 Oreca (Category 4 / OpSC) of Geoffrey Schatz, who once improved his time with a phenomenal 1m02.392 on his last run.
The French driver finished 1.1 seconds ahead of the no42 DJ Firestorm Cosworth (Category 4 / Open SS) of Alex Summers, the Briton posting a 1m03.523, 0.5 seconds ahead of his previous best to claim the silver medal, with the no41 Gould GR59 M Cosworth (Category 4 / Open SS) of Wallace Menzies also improving to 1m04.806 to claim bronze.
Reto Meisel’s no75 Mercedes-Benz SLK 340 (Category 3 / OpTCGT) has won the gold medal in Category 3, posting his fastest time of the weekend on his final run, a 1m14.269.
The battle for the silver and bronze medals was decided in the favour of Damien Bradley in the no142 Subaru Legacy (Category 3/ OpTCGT), the British driver posting his best time of the weekend by a long way, the 1m26.382 on his third run a massive 2.5 seconds faster than his previous best.
Sarah Bernard clinched the bronze medal in the no140 Seat Leon Cup Racer Mk3 (Category 3 / OpTCGT), the 1m26.382 on her third run 0.027s slower than her best time 1m27.411 in Race 2.
In Category 1 the medals were decided on the final run, in dramatic style.
After leading in the first two races Daniel Stawiarski in the no80 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX (Category 1 / Group 1) improved his best time by one tenth of a second to 1m14.709, but it wasn’t enough to secure the gold medal.
Szymon Lukaszczyk in the no79 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V (Category 1 / Group 1) kept his best run until last and posted a 1m14.267 to take gold.
Michal Ratajczyk also went faster in the no77 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RS (Category 1 / Group 2) with a 1m14.458 to take silver and push Stawiarski into bronze medal position and completing an all Polish podium with the teammates split by 0.442 seconds.
The Nations Cup was won by France with a time difference of 0.177, Slovakia in second with 0.256 and Belgium in third with 0.568.
The Under 25 winning driver was the Luigi Fazzino of Italy in the no7 Osella PA2000 Peugeot (Category 2 / E2-SC) with a best time of 1m08.950, ahead of Robert Dwane from Ireland in the no53 OMS 25 Suzuki (Category 4 / OpSS).
The fastest female driver at the 2021 FIA Hill Climb Masters of Britain’s Olivia Cooper in the no 56 Force TA Suzuki (Category 4 / OpSS), who finished ahead of Italian Martina Raiti in the no33 Osella PA21 J Honda (Category 2 / CN) and Sarah Bernhard of France in the no140 Seat Leon Cup Racer Mk3 (Category 3 / OpTCGT).
Christian Merli (ITA) – Winner Category 2
no1 Osella FA30 Zytek (Category 2 / D/E2-SS)
“I am very happy to win here this weekend in Braga. I wasn’t expecting to take this victory here because Geoffrey Schatz is very fast, but we had a good car and a good time. To win the FIA Hill Climb Masters again is very important as the best drivers are here and it is a pleasure to win this event. I am very, very happy for this victory.”
Geoffrey Schatz (FRA) – Winner Category 4
no40 NP01-2 Oreca (Category 4 / OpSC)
“This is my first time here, so I wasn’t expecting anything and just wanted to do my best. This is an amazing track, and the people are unbelievable, crazy and funny; the ambience is very special. We had to work very hard to find a good set up, to understand the track. I tried different types of tyres and today we found a good compromise.
“Christian (Merli) and Simone (Faggioli) and so talented and fast. I did my best and it is an unbelievable weekend with this and winning the Nations Cup. Just amazing!”
Reto Maisel (CHE) – Winner Category 3
no75 Mercedes-Benz SLK 340 (Category 3 / OpTCGT)
“That was brilliant. The Masters is one of the best. No, it is the best, it’s just amazing. This is my third time here in Braga, a short track but still good. One of the Category 1 Mitsubishis went two thousandths faster than me, which is bit annoying, but it’s OK. I haven’t raced for two and a half years after a big crash and now I have to learn to drive the car step by step. If I had don eten races this year I would’ve been a little bit faster but I am really happy with this result.”
Szymon Lukaszczyk (POL) – Winner Category 1
no79 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V (Category 1 / Group 1)
“This has been a very nice experience, to be here and to win here. It’s a beautiful place with fantastic spectators. For me this event is one of the successes of the sport. To be here on the podium with my teammates is fantastic. We have really fast cars and drivers.”
Jean-Marc Roger – Captain of France
Nations Cup Winning Team
“It’s been a superb weekend with a superb team. I am very happy to lead this team but I haven’t done much, this is down to the drivers and I am very proud of what has been achieved. The French team had a very good race with good results in the two categories and with podiums, so we are very happy to win the Nations Cup.”