With 175 drivers registered and 20 national teams ready to battle it out for the Nations Cup, the 2018 edition of the FIA Hill Climb Masters is likely to be full of promise and passion.
The FIA Hill Climb Masters is about to go into its third edition, in Italy next to the small and magnificent medieval town of Gubbio. The first editions, in 2014 in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and in 2016 in the Czech Republic, had already made a big impression and left indelible memories for those who participated in, or attended them. However, the event will go up another level between 12 and 14 October, as it will break two new records for participation, and features a top-class field.
The “Masters” are not just a high-level biennial race; they are also a huge festival for the hill climb discipline and its participants. As well as assembling the best drivers from 22 countries, the event is also a major gathering, which has a friendly and festive atmosphere, in which the pride of flying the flag of one’s country imbibes the drivers and their teams with even greater energy.
This event brings together the best drivers from national championships, and will be the setting for unprecedented battles, between drivers who do not usually compete against one another. The Greeks, British, Romanians, Slovenians and Maltese rarely leave their home territory, but have already made space in their diaries for the Masters, which is an event not to be missed.
The Masters also serve as a setting for the Nations Cup: a competition in which 20 countries (eight more than in 2014) will each be represented by a team of four drivers, and in which gold medals can only be won through a truly collective effort.
Drivers and cars will be spread amongst four categories: Category 1 for Production cars (Groups A, N and GT) and Category 2 for Competition cars (prototypes, single seaters and silhouette cars). There will also be Categories 3 and 4, which are analogous to the former two, except that they are exclusively open to so-called “national” cars, i.e. those that comply with the particular regulations of their countries. The Masters are therefore a unique opportunity to see cars from the European Championship compete on the same course against either single seaters driven in the hotly contested British Championshipor the special Pikes Peak Norma powered by a twin-turbo engine driven by Swiss Fabian Bouduban. And among the so-called closed cars, the Audi TTR DTM driven by Czech Vladimir Vitver, a regular in the European Championship, will be up against two veritable giants of the discipline, the Jörg Weidinger ex-Plasa BMW 320, and the Mercedes SLK340 driven by the Swiss Reto Meisel. Both of the latter are fitted with a Judd V8 engine with breath-taking power and intoxicating exhaust notes, which will of course be amplified by the high-echo acoustics of the mountains.
Each of the last three gold medallists will be defending their titles: in Category 2, the Italian Simone Faggioli, winner of the 2016 edition in Czech Republic, will once again lock horns with his compatriot Christian Merli, who was recently crowned European Champion. In Category 1, Lucio Peruggini driving his Ferrari 458 GT3 will be the favourite, but the BMW Z4 GT driven by Marco Iacoangeli could well upset the odds. In Category 4, Scott Moran – the man with 158 wins and 6 titles in the British Championship – will be aiming for another gold, but is expecting some serious competition from his compatriots Trevor Willis, Wallace Menzies, Will Hall and Alex Summers. The records for Category 3 remain up for grabs: sometimes reduced to a secondary role in the shadow of single seaters in 2014 and 2016, the GTs and touring cars from the national championships will be the centre of attention, thanks to being attributed their very own classification. Unsurprisingly, this category has the most entrants (80 cars), with Mitsubishi Lancers, Porsches, Ferraris, Lancia Delta Integrales, Audi Quattros, Subaru Imprezas and Legacys, Lotus, BMW M3s and a multitude of smaller-engined cars, capable of miraculous performance thanks to their feather-light weight, their agility and the dexterity of their drivers.
For those not making the trip to Italy, the FIA Hill Climb Masters can be watched on livestreaming via the FIA YouTube channel.
The official list of entrants can be consulted here.