Ecce Homo 2019

1st - 2nd June 2019

European Hillclimb Championship

While recent history started in 1971, the European Championship is held here since 1981, making it second most traditional race of the series. This year 39th edition of the European Championship brought up together one of best entries ever, if not the best one at all. Almost 200 cars, running for the main European Hill Climb Championship points, then Historic European Championship and Czech Trophy. Over 30 prototypes, several silhouettes including legendary Porsche 935 of 75-year old multiply European champion Jean-Marie Almeras, or Norma-prototype-based McLaren F1 GTR, plus great De Tomaso Pantera, a GT car from the early 1970s, regularly taking part in races such as Le Mans 24 Hours, or World and European Championship events.

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All that supported by nearly ideal weather. Already in Saturday's practice, the last year winner and record holder, Christian Merli, beat his own record from 2018 with 2:40.81! Former winning combination Simone Faggioli and his Norma M20 FC was second fastest in practice but with some 3 or 4 second gap. Altogether 10 cars practiced with a time in 2:56, something which was not seen here ever before. The practice day went very smoothly and by 3 PM there was nothing else to do, just go home, or visit the parking place, drivers, teams and see the cars.

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On Sunday, it was even sunnier and hotter, just the problems of various cars, repeated heats, track cleaning, etc. actually made the race to end at nearly 6:45 PM. It was even decided the historic cars would complete their second heat sooner that remaining prototypes and all single-seaters had a chance to start their first heat. The reason was a huge oil leak which was fixed for couple of hours and slower historic were considered safer to run earlier than the fastest present cars.

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This complicated our photographer's plans but in the end for the rest of second heat we tried a new place, in the forest behind the old start, where the photos were really bad anyway. So, we used none of the in the report :-). But it was clearly seen how each driver runs through the very quick turn, which influences the speed on the following straight. And Merli and some other few prototype drivers were excellent in entering this corner at high speed. Wrong line could even mean a contact with the barriers. This time fortunately all went well.

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While the first racing heat started at around 3 PM, when it was very hot, was actually slower than practice times of the day before. Merli ended up the heat with 2:42.29, i.e. slower than his last year's best ever: 2:41.37. Since the practice times are usually not considered a record, despite compared to circuit racing, there are no real advantages disallowing such times in consideration, we hoped the second heat in late evening and decent weather would create an opportunity to break the practice time and the track record as well. Faggioli was second fastest with 2:46.78.

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The second heat for modern cars started very late, even after all historic cars were done for the day, and some further delays would put into life a question whether the second heat times would not be cancelled at all. Fortunately, after a couple of acceptable breaks, everything went well with the fastest cars. When Simone Faggioli finished the sports car section of the race, he was provisionally in the lead with a decent time of 2:44.55, but nowhere near Merli's from heat 1. Then single-seater category concluded the entire weekend smoothly. Single-seater category actually featured 5 sports car Osella FA30 with a central seat, like during the 1980s Can-Am, while a lone Group CN PRC was also moved here in in a class called D/E2-2000, where only one other formula started. Not sure about the point but it was a true two-seater prototype, unlike the FA30s.

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Those Osellas FA30 were quite dominant in this class so that only Fausto Bormolini in open-wheeled Reynard could get among them, actually beating just Christoph Lampert who lost about 10 seconds in heat 1. In the second heat he gained 8 seconds back but that was not enough to have all those Osella in top 5 spots in the SS category. Those two drivers were actually 9th and 10th overall. The remaining positions up to place 14 were occupied by various sports cars. They were followed in place 15 by Marek Rybniček with a McLaren Sihouette, which was actually a Norma sports car with a F1 GTR body. Marek with his best heat 3:06.72 was also quickest among the closed cars.

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As the FA30s approached the finish, Simone Faggioli stayed in the provisional lead with Diego Degasperi, Joel Volluz and Miloš Beneš, who was traditionally best placed local Czech driver, followed him in this order. Then Christian Merli crossed the finish line and the timing system clocked at fantastic 2:39.93, the first time ever under 2:40, something hardly would anyone believe is possible a few years ago. This means an average speed nearly 176 kph, something unbelievable considering the track profile and many U turns.

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Despite the programme delayed nearly into the night, almost everybody left the Šternberk city with good feelings, great memories having just seen probably the best race ever held under the Ecce Homo banner. For the sake of completeness, other notable class winners were Jan Miloň among GT cars (McLaren 650S GT3 - 27th overall), Sebastien Petit in CN (Norma M20 FC - 17th overall), Uberto Bonucci among historic cars (Osella PA 9/90 - 20th overall), Adam Klus second historic cars with a former Miroslav Adámek's Interserie HSS March Audi Turbo Can-Am, which was here in 1990 overall. Klus actually beaten three other fast historic Osella spiders. Group N was won by Antonino Migliuolo (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX - 43rd overall) while theoretically faster Group A belonged to Lukáš Vojáček (Subaru Impreza WRX STI - 60th overall). Altogether 168 cars were classified out of 195 starters.

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