FIA Hill Climb Masters is a hill climb race which invites all national championship, as well as successful European Hill Climn Championship drivers to take part together in one big hill climb race at the end of the season. This tradition was established two years ago with a race in Luxembourg and is set to continue every two year in various places. For the second annual of the Masters race, the Ecce Homo track in Šternberk was selected. However a rather shortened version was used. The main reason was apparently the presence of rare British drivers whose races are much shorter than in continental Europe and the fuel cells are smaller - just about 4 litres and it would not be enough to cover the full distance of this track.
Main EHC rivals were here, most notably Simone Faggioli and Christian Merli. They dominated already the Saturday's practice heats. British drivers, which were quite new to this track, very soon proved that they would create the main opposition to the Italian masters. The British improved with every single practice or racing heat. But Italian with Faggioli and Merli were improving as well - more over European Champion Faggioli did not finish the two Saturday's practice heat at a full speed - to confuse his closest competitors - he still set the fastest time.
The race itself consisted of three racing heats on Sunday. Unlike in a standard hill climb race where all, or two best heats, are counted together, the FIA Masters counts only the best set time from all heats. That is fine - unless it starts raining too early - there is no motivation for drivers to continue in dangerous wet conditions with no prospect of an improvement. Apart from this little issue the system was rather interesting.
There was not only individual driver’s classification but also national team classification. And unlike the best time for drivers, it was far more complicated than a standard hill climb system. Any National Team had to nominate four drivers. The final result of each team was determined by the best three of them. But it was not based on the overall time but on the difference of the two closest heat times of each driver separately, i.e. it was some kind of regularity system to enable countries with slower cars to fight for this overall honours.
The foreword in the race programme was written by the top FIA man, the President Jean Todt - such important the race is in the eyes of FIA. Simone Faggioli, who is 9-time European and 12-time national Italian champion, remained unbeaten also during Sunday. Merli was able to beat his first heat time, but Faggioli immediately improved.
The first British, Scott Moran, in the fastest of rather special and very beautiful local formulas, was third with his last (3rd) heat time actually overtaking his fellow countryman Trevor Willis. It was still not better than Merli's heat 1 time. Unfortunately at the end of the third heat it started to rain near the finish, while most of the track remained dry, Bormolini in his modified Reynard became a victim of this situation, which he was not informed about - and crashed. French Sebastien Petit in his Norma sports car managed to pass by Bormolini's wreck and still set a time at the first heat level.
However the race was stopped then to remove the wreck. The final six drivers, with Faggioli and Merli among them - it was clear that they cannot improve their times so there was no point in risking a crash in slightly wet conditions. But spectators wanted to see those best ones once again. The wish of the drivers to climb the hill together was disapproved, so they ran some kind of exhibition heat. The Czech drivers Beneš, Komárek and Janík still ran in a decent pace, but Italians with Paride Macario running first of them were really terribly slow - Merli even waiting for Faggioli to cross the finish line side by side - almost a farce.
There were a lot of subclasses in the race - base two EHC Categories I and II were enhanced with a Category 3, which was created for so called Open classes, i.e. cars that do not fit to the standard European rules. Mainly British and some French top drivers participated in this class. Plus there were a large number of Open - non-FIA compliant Touring and GT specials. The best closed car was in the end very power Volkswagen Golf of the second generation, which driven by Karl Schagerl finished 20th overall, ahead of many prototypes or even some Formula 3000.It easily beaten all Grand Touring cars which were represented in much higher numbers and also quality than we are used to during standard EHC races. Best of those true GT cars was Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 in the hands of Lucio Peruggini, who ran it smoothly and was classified 31st.
All in all there were 108 starters, of which only one car did not complete a single heat - an Osella PA20 of Petr Vondrák, which actually got fire at the end of the first racing heat. Then there were up to four pace cars, or pre-race cars and another three non-starters. We bring to you photos of all participating cars, in the order they were actually classified in the main race.