After his seventh place at the Trento–Bondone, where his engine deserted him four times almost within sight of the finish line, Christian Merli has travelled to Dobšiná in central Slovakia for the 36th edition of the Dobšinský kopec hill climb, the 8th round of the European Hill Climb Championship. The Scuderia Vimotorsport driver has dominated five of the seven races so far this season and is leading the standings with 150 points on a par with Simone Faggioli. European championship points are awarded based on the group classifications, and so Merli is heading Group E2-SS, the single-seaters, and Faggioli Group E2-SC, the two-seater sports cars. Christian has won in France, Austria, Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic, establishing four new records.
A final comment on the Trento–Bondone
“Despite our misfortune we were lucky, bagging the 25 points for winning the group. Unfortunately, an issue with the oil pump slowed us down. The car switched itself off no less than four times in the last section. After a reset it came back on and went out again immediately. I tried again and it restarted, but the seconds were flying by. Everything had been going very well, and looking at the splits, the race would have been decided at the very end. I would have loved to know how it would have gone. So many sacrifices and then such an end. After a week of intense work we now have three races in a row coming up, Slovakia, Poland and Osnabrück in Germany, a FIA Int. Hill Climb Cup round where we have been invited, and we will leave the Trento–Bondone behind us.”
The Slovak track
“There are two practice heats scheduled on Saturday”, Merli continues, “and two race heats on Sunday. The track is 6.810 km long. A very fast hill climb, where we set a new record last year, at 2’15”425. The start is immediately followed by a hairpin, then a straight with bends to be taken in high gears and a 90 degree left-hand corner. A couple of double bends and then a one-kilometre straight stretch. An extremely fast section with more double bends, and two hairpins at about one kilometre before the finish line.”
The European Hill Climb Championship calendar
14 April: Col Saint Pierre (France) winner Merli, 28 April: Rechbergrennen (Austria) winner Merli, 12 May: Rampa Internacional da Falperra (Portugal) winner Merli, 19 May: Subida al Fito (Spain) winner Merli, 2 June: Ecce Homo (Czech Republic) winner Merli, 16 June: Glasbachrennen (Germany) winner Lampert, 7 July: Trento–Bondone (Italy) winner Faggioli, 21 July: Dobšinský kopec (Slovakia ), 28 July: Limanowa (Poland), 18 August: Course de Côte de Saint Ursanne (Switzerland), 1 September: Bistrica (Slovenia), 15 September: Buzetski Dani (Croatia).