Held at Limanowa in Poland, the ninth round of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship did not really reveal any surprises, except in the categories in which local drivers were armed for victory. They certainly did not miss their chance in Groups N, S20 and E2-SH!
Photo: Agencja UMA Agnieszka Wołkowicz
While the hard core of the European Championship, mainly made up of Czech and Italian drivers, does not change greatly from one event to the next, and often hogs the places at the top of the table, some rounds of the continental tour go against the trend and give local heroes the chance to shine. With a strong national championship that favours highly-modified touring cars, Poland is a unique stop where the “Europeans” from Category 1 and from Group E2-SH know that they must compete with highly skilled local opposition. And given the opportunity of testing themselves against the continental greats, the Polish drivers take on this challenge with relish.
Modified in different ways, some more spectacular than others – extravagant, even – the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo is the weapon of choice of the Polish competitors. Used to heading the pack and despite excellent performances, the Czechs Marek Rybnicek and Dan Michl, with their very specific “Silhouettes” (MC F1 Evo and Lotus Elise V8), had to admit defeat against the wave of Mitsubishis, to the point that they were completely absent from the podium in Group E2-SH! “Dubai”, Michal Ratajczyk (silver medallist in Category 3 at the last edition of the FIA Hill Climb Masters) and Andrzej Szepieniec bagged the top three spots. After a great performance during practice, Szymon Lukaszczyk, who was also at the wheel of a Mitsubishi, could even have put the final nail in the coffin if he had not been let down by a mechanical problem during the first ascent.
The Polish national anthem was also played during the celebration on the podium to crown the winners from Group S20, which was headed by Robert Slugocki (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X R4) and Group N, in which Konrad Biela (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) finished first after a close fight with Italian Antonino Migliuolo (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), leader of the European Championship in Category 1.
As for the prototype cars in Category 2, the habitual and fanatical battle between Christian Merli (Osella FA30 Zytek) and Simone Faggioli (Norma M20FC Zytek) continues. This time, it was not disrupted by the mood swings of the weather, which had been inflicted on the previous rounds in Italy and Slovakia. With greatly improved form this summer, Faggioli led Merli by a good half-second in the first race heat and managed to hold off his eternal rival in the second. He therefore achieved his third successive overall victory, in response to the series of five victories achieved by Merli during the first half of the season. The two Italians, unbeaten in their respective categories, remain co-leaders in the provisional Championship classification. Third in Poland, the Austrian Christoph Lampert (Osella FA30 Zytek) is gradually solidifying his provisional third place in the Championship ahead of Diego Degasperi (Osella FA30 Zytek).
The other Groups witnessed the victories of Marco Capucci (CN, Osella PA21 Evo-Honda), Jan Milon (GT, McLaren 650S GT3) and Lukas Vojakec (Subaru Impreza WRX STI).
The FIA European Hill Climb Championship will continue on 17 and 18 August in Switzerland on the mythical and exhilarating course linking the small medieval city of Saint-Ursanne with the Col des Rangiers.
To view the provisional classification of the European Championship, click here.
To view the photo gallery of the Polish event in Limanowa, click here.
Photo: Marcin Kaliszka Rallyfoto Poland
Poland’s “Dubai” topped the E2-SH Group in Category 2