Ecce Homo 2018

2nd - 3rd June 2018

European Hillclimb Championship

The first June weekend is a traditional date of the Ecce Homo race. And this year was no exception. As ever since 1981, it was again a qualifying round of FIA European Hill Climb Championship, among many other local or minor championship, like Czech National Championship, Czech Trophy, FIA Historic Hill Climb Championship, Czech National Historic race, FIA Central Zone and Austrian modern and historic car championships. Out of over 200 entries more than 180 cars took part in the race. It could be probably classified as the quickest race in the Czech Republic in 2018 season.

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Despite the original rainy weather forecast, the Saturday practice was quite sunny and dry. As a bonus the day ended up with the fastest ever run on the Ecce Homo track. Christian Merli was 0.8 seconds faster than Faggioli's last year record time. However, according to the race director, Vlastimil Malík, the time has to be set during the race day in order to be accepted as an official track record. Similar situation happened already last year, but Faggioli was able to beat his practice record in the first race heat.

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This time, it appears much more complicated as it was about to rain by the time the fastest cars were scheduled to on the track. The Sunday race started overcast but anywhere near Šternberk, the city the Ecce Homo race is held in, was a rain or a heavy rain. Most of the first heat was dry but at noon, thunders were heard from the part of the track where the finish line is. The rain was expected in 5 minutes when some 7 cars had to complete the first heat. Merli was the last to start. But one car stopped on the track and four or five competitors were red flagged, to return to start and repeat their heat. First rain drops were reported at the highest part of the track when the last single seaters continued.

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Former multiply winner and champion Simone Faggioli running a two-seater sports car Norma, was already in the finish by that time, provisionally leading the race with 2:44.29 (compared to Merli's Saturday's time 2:42.51 a bit slower). It needs to be said that some of Osella sports car, together four pieces, run a central single-seat configuration in order to compete against standard formula racing cars rather than proper sports cars. And this year single-seaters raced the last, after all sports car had completed the heats. Merli and other were on the track while it was raining near the finish, as some reported. But the rain was not heavy yet.

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To the surprise of many, once the Merli was timed at the top, a new track record was really established - just like the last year. The new official best time is 2:41.37. Soon after the finish of the first heat, it was heavy rain all over the track 7800 meters long. Simone Faggioli in the E2-SC group was second after heat 1 and fastest local driver Miloš Beneš was third with his great time 2:46.39. Another Czech driver Václav Janík was another driver running under 2:50, exactly 2:48.41. There was a fantastic competition with altogether nine cars running under the limit of 3 minutes.

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The fastest closed/production based car was local driver Vladimír Vitver in an older Audi TT-R DTM. There was only one open wheel single-seater in front of the Audi. It was a Reynard-Zytek driven by former multiply race winner, László Szász, with 3:07.23. All four Osellas FA30 running in the same class E2-SS, including the one of Merli, were ahead of Szász. Note to say that two fast and regular formula drivers, Fausto Bormolini and Renzo Napione, both former sports car drivers, were non-starters, after troubles in Saturday's practice.

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Another notable car, actually breaking a complete hegemony of Osellas and Normas at the top was a new LobArt LA01 Mugen, driven by Swiss Marcel Steiner, setting 2:50.81, currently 5th overall in the middle of the race. No other car made it among top 9. And it was a Ligier of Czech driver Petr Trnka, who was best of the rest actually completing the first ten. With 3:02.30 was the first car in provisional standing with an over 3 minute time just ahead already mentioned Zytek. Another Osella and Norma behind the Zytek were followed by that DTM Audi.

The start of the second heat was postponed due to the rain and the need of changing tyres. At 13:20 the first historic cars moved forward to the hill in very wet conditions, still raining quite a lot - Steyr Puch and Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero were the first ones out. Some drivers were really very careful, or did not have proper quality wet tyres, so the times and positions were changing quite a lot. The second heat was actually not split into two parts, as usually, due to the later start, and the track was drying as the second group (EHC cars/classes) smoothly continued after the first group (all historic and the Czech Trophy).

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When the first sports cars appeared on the track, there were quite dry places, as well as those in a forest which were mainly wet. The times were still some 15-20 seconds slower for the production based EHC-legal cars. First returning rain drops soon dried out, but for the later sports cars and all single-seaters had the track wet again, even when it had already dried. The sports car part ended with a small sensation, when Janík was 6 second quicker than champion Faggioli and scored class sports car victory, actually taking valuable points from Faggioli, which had already lost points in one race earlier in the season (the points are awarded in each group separately, and thus both main favourites, Merli and Faggioli, fight against each other through their own group competitors.

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No other single seater (E2-SS) drivers but Beneš and Merli, both in FA30, had a real chance against provisionally leading Janík, despite the rain disappeared at this time and not so wet track, started drying again. Beneš penultimate driver in the finish failed to set a competitive time and with only 3:21 was only 7th in heat 2 and 4th overall. But phenomenal Christian Merli set 3:04, two seconds faster than Janík and won the race overall, moving Janík to the second overall spot, in his probably best achievement ever. Faggioli was third - in heat 2 and also overall. His performance was not that excellent as we were used in the past.

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Austrian Christoph Lambert in another Osella FA30 (single-seater) was 5th ahead of LabArt unique special in hands of Marcel Steiner, who was actually third among sports cars E2-SC. Norma, Ligier and another Osella FA30 followed, just keeping the Audi to close the first 10 sports. The best open-wheeler, the Zytek, was 11th followed by two extremely quick rally based hatchbacks - VW Golf Rallye and Ford Fiesta WRC.

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In the GT cars we had two McLarens against a lone Lamborghini and a slow Nissan. One of the McLaren won the class, while finishing 16th overall. The fastest historic car in the finish was Osella PA9/90 of Roberto Bonucci, 36th overall. But it needs to say that historic cars had much wetter track and the times with the EHC group were nearly incomparable. Bonucci was nearly one minute slower in the second very wet heat. Just for comparison he was 22nd in heat 1 but only 5 seconds off the 11th position.

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The race provided fastest racing in the Czech Republic and confirmed its growing level. It was only marred by a fatal accident which happened on open road just before the race on Saturday and about 5:30 in the morning. One hobby driver with an old race car from the 1970s, not entered in Ecce Homo or anyhow associated with the race or its organisation drove the hill quite quickly, went of his own line and fatally crashed into a random civil car running the opposite direction. The practice start was then postponed by more than one hour compared to the original schedule. Otherwise the organisation was quite smooth, with no big delays or any serious accidents and incidents during the meeting itself.

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