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Hillclimbing (also known as hill climbing, speed hillclimbing or speed hill climbing) is a branch of motorsport in which drivers compete against the clock to complete an uphill course.
It is one of the oldest forms of motorsport, since the first known hillclimb at La Turbie near Nice, France took place as long ago as 31 January 1897. The hillclimb held at Shelsley Walsh, in Worcestershire, England is the world's oldest continuously staged motorsport event still staged on its original course, having been first run in 1905.
A very different kind of hillclimbing is done with offroad motorcycles going straight up extremely steep hills. The winner is the one which could climb the highest, or in the case more than one made it to the top, the fastest. This kind of motorsport, which requires skill as well as bravery, has a long tradition in the USA and has been popular in France and Austria since the 1980s. The Austrian event in Rachau focused on crowd entertainment, and inspired many similar events.
Hillclimbs in continental Europe are usually held on courses which are several kilometres long, taking advantage of the available hills and mountains including the Alps. The most prestigious competition is the FIA European Hill Climb Championship.
An Austrian venue: Gaisberg. An historic course is at Semmering.
In the British Isles, the format is different from that in other parts of Europe, with courses being much shorter (Harewood Hillclimb is the UK's longest permanent hillclimb at 1,584 yards (1,448 metres)) - more akin to uphill sprints - and almost always taking under one minute for the fastest drivers to complete. For this reason, cars and drivers do not generally cross between the British and continental European championships.
Hill Climbing is also relevant to motorcycle sport; the governing body is the National Hill Climb Association.
The French hill climb championship, or Championnat de France de la Montagne, has been one of the most competitive of the European national series, attracting many new F2 and 2-litre sports cars during the 1970s and early 1980s. Notable champions from this period include Pierre Maublanc (1967 and 1968), Daniel Rouveyran (1969), Hervé Bayard (1970) and Jimmy Mieusset (1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974). The best-known Course de Côte are Mont Ventoux and Mont-Dore.
Two German venues: Freiburg-Schauinsland, Rossfeld (near Berchtesgaden). The fourth International Schauinsland hillclimb at Freiburg was held on August 5, 1928: "A car made the fastest time of the day, Heusser's Bugatti putting up 74.009 k.p.h., the fastest motorcycle being Stegmann's D.K.W. at 69.6 k.p.h." Caracciola (Mercédès) won the over two-litre racing car class.
In the Italian championship, also known as Campionato Italiano Velocità Montagna, there are the most long and challenging hillclimbs like Trento-Bondone, Coppa Bruno Carotti (the Italian races in FIA European Hill Climb Championship), Pedavena-Croce d'Aune, Monte Erice and Verzegnis-Sella Chianzutan, which are also the most known. Hillclimbing in Italy became famous in the 1970s, early 1980s, between 1994 and 2000 and at the end of the 2000s, especially in the last 2 periods thanks to TV services, magazines and live internet commentaries. The most famous Italian drivers, who won a lot even in Europe, are Ludovico Scarfiotti (famous Ferrari driver who won the F1 race in Monza 1966), "Noris" (he won almost every race in Italy until 1972, when he died), Domenico Scola (who runs a Sport Prototype even now at the age of 80), Mauro Nesti (over 20 championships between Italy and Europe, from the 1970s to the 1990s), Ezio Baribbi (three times Italian champion), Fabio Danti (1994 Italian champion, 1995-96 European champion, died in 2000), Pasquale Irlando (Italian champion in the early 1990s and European champion in the last 1990s, the one who turned the Osella PA20 in the monster we all know), Franz Tschager (three times European champion in the early 2000s), Simone Faggioli (the real Italian champion of the 2000s) and Denny Zardo (Italian champion in 2005 and 2008, European champion in 2003, he wins with every car he drives)
Hillclimbing is a very popular sport on the island of Malta. Numerous events are organised annually by the Island Car Club. Participants are divided according to their type of vehicle into various categories ranging from single seaters to saloon cars.
Hillclimbing is popular in Romania among drivers with limited financial resources. It has a long tradition in the country. The first major event was the Feleac course, in Cluj. From 1930, it was a round in the European Hill Climb Championship. The record of the Feleac was set by famous German racer Hans Stuck in 1938, driving a 600 bhp (450 kW) Auto Union Grand Prix car. Stuck stormed through the 7 km gravel course in 2'56". Despite several attempts in the 70s, Stuck's record was never beaten. In recent decades, the course was widened in order to be suitable for intense traffic and therefore is considered inappropriate for auto racing. Today's hillclimbing in Romania is referred to as Viteză în Coastă or Campionatul Naţional de Viteză pe Traseu Montan (VTM). In 2006, the Romanian National Hillclimbing Championship had 7 events, each containing two rounds (each scoring separately) held on Friday and Sunday respectively, with Saturday being a rest day. The seven events were Câmpulung Muscel (April 7/9), Braşov (April 28/30), Reşiţa (May 19/21), Bálványos (June 9/11), Abrud (July 28/30), Reşiţa (8/10 September) and Râşnov (September 29/October 1).
Motor racing was banned in Switzerland in the aftermath of the fatal collision between cars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1955. However, this prohibition does not extend to events where drivers compete only indirectly via the clock. Events such as rallies, hillclimbs and slaloms are very popular, including the FIA European Hill Climb Championship.
The most known hillclimb races are the Gurnigelrennen, the course en côte Ayent - Anzère, the course en côte St. Ursanne - Les Rangiers, and the historic Klausen Hill Climb known as the Klausenpassrennen. Ludovico Scarfiotti clinched the European hillclimb championship at Ollon-Villars on August 30, 1965, driving a Dino Ferrari 2-litre.
Canada's best known hillclimb event is the Knox Mountain Hillclimb, held in Kelowna, British Columbia. It is a 3.5 km paved road, climbing 245 m elevation. It has run annually since the 1950s, attracting drivers from the Pacific Northwest.
Since that time, hillclimbs have not been held in Mexico.
Hillclimbing in Australia dates back to the early 1900s, and was most prevalent in the city of Melbourne, at locations such as Templestowe, Heidelberg and Rob Roy. The course at Templestowe still exists today in the Domain Wetlands. The course was never trafficable due to the massive incline known as "the wall", with an incline ratio of 1:2.5 is thought to be the steepest bitumen surface in Australia, and so was only used during race events. Burgundy Street in Heidelberg was used for early Hillclimbs.
The course at Rob Roy hosts race meets regularly, including rounds of the Victorian Hillclimb Championships. It is located just off Clintons Road, Christmas Hills in an area of Smiths Gully known as Rob Roy.
Mount Tarrengower near Maldon in Central Victoria has an annual Hillclimb hosted by the Victorian Vintage Sports Car Club, Bendigo Light Car Club and the Historic Motorcycle Racing Association of Victoria. The event is held on the 3rd weekend of October. It is now a "classics" only event - after a serious accident in the 1970s. Vintage motorcycles are now a feature of this event. Reigning "King of the Mountain" for motorcycles is Mike Panayi on a Featherbed Norton 750 twin.
Hillclimbing is a popular club event in New Zealand, although a number of international competitors and foreign motor racing enthusiasts attend the premiere hillclimb event on the New Zealand motor racing calendar.
Race to the Sky was based near Queenstown. Held every Easter from 1998 until 2007, it starts from the floor of the Cardrona Valley and runs uphill for 15 kilometres through 137 corners to the top, climbing from 1,500 ft (460 m) to 5,000 ft (1,500 m) averaging a 1:11 gradient.
The best-known hillclimb event in South Africa is held annually during the Knysna Speed Festival, known as The Renault Simola Hillclimb. It is usually a two-day event, with the Saturday being taken up by practicing and pre-qualifying, and the hot cars finally racing each other on the Sunday afternoon up the 1.9 km (1.2 mi) Simola Hill course.
- "the oldest operational motorsport venue in the world". Shelsley Walsh. 2010-03-03. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
- "NHCA". NHCA. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
- Motor Sport, August–September 1928, Page 345.
- Competition Press & Autoweek, October 2, 1965, Page 3.
- Knox Mountain Hillclimb
- "Templestowe Hillclimb". Vhrr.com. 1987-12-06. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
- "The Renault Simola Hillclimb Event". Retrieved 2012-10-15.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hillclimbing.|
-  Australia's oldest purpose-built Hillclimb track.
- Hillclimb and Sprint Association. (Britain)
- TIME: Vroom at the Top (Friday, August 06, 1965)
- Photos and news from Italian hillclimbs (Italy)
- Photos of hill climbing in Malta.
-  Ollon Villars revival. (Switzerland)
- "Fearless Riders Turn Motor Bikes Into Goats" Popular Science, August 1932, early motorcycle hillclimbing