EHC: ALL THUMBS UP FOR BOTICAS

A new event in the FIA European Hill Climb Championship landscape, the “Rampa de Boticas” in Portugal has made its mark in the minds of the discipline’s top drivers.

When the European Hill Climb Championship makes a stop in Portugal, it usually stops in Braga, where the Rampa da Falperra is reputed to be one of the fastest on the continent and, above all, always the most crowded. But in October 2021, Braga will host the FIA Hill Climb Masters. As a result, it has given up its “European” place to Boticas, a small town in the north of the country whose municipality and mayor are particularly sport-oriented. Including motor sports – trials and motocross for two-wheelers – and hill climb for racing cars, as one of the nearby roads offers the ideal profile for this speciality. However, roads alone are not enough to host a hill climb race; the course requires some specific preparation. This is what the municipality of Boticas has done. And the result speaks for itself.

“This track is simply fabulous” analysed the Spaniard Javier Villa, the former GP2 and WTCC driver who now races in hill climb in a small BRC prototype powered by a turbocharged motorbike engine. “The surface is of excellent quality, the road has a variety of difficulties and bends and the safety facilities are reminiscent of those on a circuit.” Guard rails, often double, sometimes triple, sometimes supplemented with safety nets, line a large part of the 5-kilometre route and where these rails could not be laid (in the section through an industrial area) concrete “jersey” walls were laid.

“Some sections have a really impressive gradient,” added Sébastien Petit. “In fact, this race combines all the assets: a fabulous course, a large paddock close to the start, an ideal pre-grid area, a large parking area at the top, large spaces for the spectators and some panoramic viewpoints”.

With their long experience and having visited many different events all over Europe, the Italian drivers Simone Faggioli and Christian Merli were also able to evaluate the first international race in Boticas. And the two champions were full of praise for the race: “Nothing to complain about, perfect. This course has a lot of assets and the welcome of the organisers was just as great,” said Simone Faggioli. “In addition to the quality of the course and the surface, I would add the quality of the organization,” added Christian Merli. “For a first European edition, the organiser did a remarkable job: welcome, attention, services in the paddock, management of the race. Hats off to them.”

The only regret that the Demoporto club could have was not to have been able to transform this first international organisation into a great popular festival. Because of the COVID pandemic, many restrictions, including the isolation of the paddock, had to be put in place and rigorously observed. No real promotional campaign had been launched before the event to limit the number of spectators.

In principle, the proximity of the Spanish border would have meant that there would have been a large number of Spanish spectators in the audience, but this could not be the case this year due to the health conditions. The relative gloom was fortunately compensated by a race of high intensity and a suspense for the victories in Categories 1 and 2 maintained until the last race heat. The victory was decided by 32 thousandths of a second between Faggioli, winner, and Merli.

The FIA European Hill Climb Championship will continue this weekend of 15 and 16 May in Spain. The European drivers will be on familiar ground, as the “Subida Internacional Al Fito” has been on the Championship programme for many years. Without being a carbon copy, the list of participants in Al Fito is very similar to that of Boticas. In addition to the foreign participants present in Portugal, the Frenchmen Ronald Garces (Audi R8 LMS Ultra) and Stéphane Garcia (Peugeot 308 Racing Cup) and the Slovenian Ales Prek (Honda Civic Type-R) will be present. In Category 2, if victory should still be limited to a duel between Faggioli and Merli, it will be interesting to follow the debuts of Spanish Joseba Iraola (Nova NP01-2 Mugen) and Andorra’s Raul Ferre (Silver Car CS) with new cars.

For more information on the Al Fito event, click here.

Organizer’s website: http://subidaalfito.eu/2021/

Source : Fia