With the help of favourable weather conditions and the resurfacing of a long section of the course, the drivers smashed the records on the 76th edition of the St Ursanne-Les Rangiers hill climb in Switzerland.
Thanks to a joint effort by the local authorities and the organiser of the event, more than 4 km of the 5-kilometre course, between the medieval city of Saint-Ursanne and the Rangiers pass in the Swiss Jura, has been resurfaced over the last three years. The section renewed most recently forms the twistiest part of the race, with three hairpin bends in a row, close to the peak.
Theoretically, the conditions were therefore ideal for the reference times of each driver to be sent tumbling. And in fact, helped by the fine weather, the absolute records were broken, with Simone Faggioli (Norma M20FC Zytek) setting on the Sunday a time of under 100 seconds for the first race time in the history of the race, in 1 minute 39.306 seconds – 2.3 seconds faster than the record that had been held by Christian Merli (Osella FA30 Zytek) since 2017! At 188 km/h, Faggioli’s average speed is even more revealing. Times fell for the closed cars too, as Switzerland’s Ronnie Bratschi, helped out by the 700 bhp of his Group E1 Mitsubishi Lancer (not eligible in the European Championship), set a time of 1 minute 56.865 seconds.
After finishing Race 1 in 1 minute 41.556 seconds, Christian Merli improved considerably on his second climb, setting a time of 1 minute 39.539 seconds, a performance close to Faggioli’s record of the morning but nevertheless insufficient to deprive his eternal rival of the absolute victory in the cumulated classification of both climbs. The two Italian drivers remain joint leaders in the provisional classification of the European Hill Climb Championship in Category 2, each of them having once again won in his respective group (E2-SC for Faggioli, E2-SS for Merli).
On home ground, but a long way (12 seconds) behind the Italian duo, Switzerland’s Marcel Steiner (LobArt LA01 Mugen) achieved a respectable final third place, having managed to fend off the attacks of Diego De Gasperi (Osella FA30 Zytek), Fausto Bormolini (Reynard K02) and Christoph Lampert (Osella FA30 Zytek).
As legendary as it is thrilling on account of its ultra-fast course, as well as being ideally scheduled in August, the Saint-Ursanne event holds an irresistible power of attraction over the hill climb drivers and allows the European Championship to benefit from the participation of occasional visitors. Among them, the most sparkling performances were given by Darren Warwick, the British driver from Guernsey (13th in Category 2 with his Dallara F399), and Ireland’s Paul O’Connell (20th with his Dallara F308/11).
Swiss Ronnie Bratschi smashed the St Ursanne record for closed cars with his 700 hp Mitsubishi Lancer.
Although Czech Marek Rybnicek was taking part in the Swiss event for the first time, this did not prevent him from imposing his Silhouette MC F1 Evo in Group E2-SH over the Lotus Elise V8 of his compatriot Dan Michl.
Helped by the fast course, Category 1, Production Cars, was dominated by the McLaren 650S GT3 of Slovakia’s Jan Milon. Italian Antonino Migliuolo, condemned in advance to scoring only half points owing to the lack of competitors in his group (he was the only entrant, whereas a minimum of 3 starters is required in order for full points to be awarded), nevertheless set a decent time with his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, ahead of all the Group A cars; his joy at winning was necessarily eclipsed by frustration, as the points deficit costs Migliuolo his position as leader in the European Championship in Category 1 and at the same time opens the way to the title for the Czech Republic’s Lukas Vojacek (Subaru Impreza WRX STi), the winner in Group A by barely 3 tenths of a second over Luca Zuurbier (Honda Civic Type-R).
The next and penultimate event in the Championship will take place at Ilirska Bistrica, in Slovenia, on 30 August and 1 September.
To consult the provisional classifications of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship, click here.
To view the photo gallery of the St Ursanne-Les Rangiers event, click here.