Christian Merli, at the wheel of the Osella FA 30 Zytek LRM, conquers the top step of the podium at the “Ecce Homo” race in Šternberk in the Czech Republic, the 5th round of the European Hill Climb Championship. The Team Blue City Motorsport driver dominates both in practice and in the two race heats and even establishes a new record on the 7.800 km track.
Speaking of records
It is Merli’s fifth record in five European championship events. It is also his second overall victory, while taking silver in France and Portugal. Not to mention the two records which the Scuderia Vimotorsport driver set in the two rounds of the Italian hill climb championship, at Nevegal and Verzegnis, respectively.
“What can I say? Let’s hope it goes on like this. I am delighted. In the first race heat our Osella was perfect. When I got to the finish line I had a few drops of rain on my visor, but I managed anyway to post the best time and break the record. Then it started pouring down raining. In the second session we were hesitating until the very last moment as to which Avon tyres to go for. We opted for the intermediates, and it turned out to be the right choice. When I lined up, there were again a few drops of rain. The track was humid in the woods and wet in the other sections. The tyres were perfect, and we sealed the win. It’s fantastic. Now we’re going to Germany for the Glasbachrennen, the next round of the European championship.”
In the first official practice session, Merli is first in 2’46”69. Faggioli, racing with the Norma M20 FC, finishes second, 4”77 behind. Third and fourth, respectively, local driver Miloš Beneš and Team Blue City Motorsport driver Lampert from Austria, each with an Osella FA 30. In the second run the sun comes out and the times go down. Christian finishes below the track record, in 2’42”51. Faggioli is 7”53 behind.
Race heat 1
Christian tops the time sheet in 2’41”37, a new track record. The Scuderia Vimotorsport driver smashes Faggioli’s 2017 mark by 2”. The Norma driver follows 2”92 behind. Shortly afterwards the downpour sets in, and the clerk of the course displays the “Wet Race” sign. The teams adjust their setups and tyres accordingly, and the second race heat starts. Towards 3pm, while the last few Category 1 cars are getting ready, the rain stops. The asphalt remains humid and the resulting times are high.
Race heat 2
The rain returns when Christian Merli gets off the line as the last driver, with the number 1 on his Osella. He sees the clocks stop on 3’04”36, and the 5th round of the European championship is his. Václav Janík at the wheel of the Norma M20 FC is second and Faggioli third.
The podium on accumulated times
1st Merli (Osella FA 30) in 5’45”73, 2nd Janík (Norma M20 FC) 9”35 behind, 3rd Faggioli (Norma M20 FC) 11”32 behind.
The European Hill Climb Championship calendar
15 April: Col Saint Pierre (France) – winner Sébastien Petit (Norma M20 FC), 22 April: Rechbergrennen (Austria) – Christian Merli (Osella FA 30), 13 May: 39ª Rampa Internacional da Falperra (Portugal) – Simone Faggioli (Norma M20 FC), 20 May: 47ª Subida al Fito (Spain) – Simone Faggioli, 3 June:
Ecce Homo (Czech Republic) – Christian Merli, 10 June: Glasbachrennen 2018 (Germany), 24 June: Coppa Paolino Teodori (Italy), 22 July: 35ª Dobsinsky Kopec (Slovakia), 29 July: Limanowa (Poland), 19 August: Course de Côte de Saint Ursanne (Switzerland), 2 September: Bistrica (Slovenia), 16 September: Buzetski Dani (Croatia).