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Christian Merli only 0”032 behind in Portugal

Only 32 thousands of a second behind, Christian Merli takes second place at the 54th Rampa de Boticas, the first round of the European Hill Climb Championship. Simone Faggioli wins. The steep, 5.110 km long track is in northern Portugal, east of Porto, near the Spanish border, where the landscape is barren, without reference points, and it is windy. In view of the poor weather forecast for Sunday, the first race heat is brought forward to Saturday afternoon. Then on Sunday there is one practice run followed by two more race heats. For the total classification, the times of each driver’s two best runs are added together.

Christian, 0.032
“It’s hard to accept, but that’s racing. In the third race heat I didn’t think the track would be so fast, and so I decided to fit used tyres from the morning. With the benefit of hindsight I could have gone for four new intermediates. Faggioli has clocked a great time, but we nevertheless dominated our Group E2-SS and bagged championship points. The car is working, and that makes me happy. Now we’re going to the Fito in northern Spain for the second European championship round on 16 May. A track of 5.350 km, very technical with a series of fast bends, a chicane to reduce the speed, and then the final section in the forest, where there is often residual humidity. It’s a race I like.”

The weekend in Portugal
On Saturday, in the first official practice run, Christian Merli in his Osella FA 30 Zytek LRM tops the timesheet on the steep Portuguese track which is new to all the European championship drivers. Simone Faggioli is 3”827 behind in his Norma M20 FC. In the second and third practice runs, the classification looks very much the same, and Merli goes on to win the first race heat. He also dominates the warm-up on Sunday morning. In the second race heat the track is humid, although it is not raining. Faggioli beats Merli by 0”288. The third race heat follows immediately, on a track which is now dry. Faggioli finishes first, with Merli 1”817 behind. The slowest of each driver’s times gets discarded and Faggioli climbs the top step of the podium. The Osella driver is second, 32 thousands of a second behind.

The European Hill Climb Championship calendar
9 May: 54th Rampa de Boticas (Portugal), 16 May: 49th Subida al Fito (Spain), 30 May: 40th Ecce Homo Sternberk (Czech Republic), 27 June: 60th Coppa Paolino Teodori (Italy), 18 July: 37th Dobšinský kopec (Slovakia), 25 July: 12th Hill Climb Limanowa (Poland), 15 August: 77th Course de Côte de Saint Ursanne (Switzerland), 29 August: 27th GHD Ilirska Bistrica (Slovenia), 19 September: 40th Buzetski Dani (Croatia).

Ruth Scheithauer

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