Ever since seeing a shaky video featuring some insane hill climb action at Switzerland’s Saint Ursanne Les Rangiers round of the FIA European Hill Climb Championship many years ago, I’ve told everyone that would listen that one day I would visit this magical event. Living all the way over the other side of the world in New Zealand meant that no one really believed me, and honestly, I only half believed it myself…
And yet, here I am, on a warm Saturday evening, sitting at a cafe in the middle of a medieval village in rural Switzerland writing this article. Next to me is a team of mechanics scurrying around a beleaguered Dallara open wheeler, while the beautiful signature tones of a Ferrari V8 warming up somewhere in the distance provides the perfect soundtrack.
Though I’ll be putting together a full story on the event later in the week, I couldn’t resist sharing a little of what I’ve experienced after one full day spent scrambling around the steep, rocky hillsides of this awe-inspiring part of the world.
After an extremely early start (these seem to be all the rage once you become a Speedhunter…) and a thrash along some seriously amazing roads, we arrived at Saint Ursanne to find the Game-of-Thrones-esque town, well… vibrating.
Every little piece of cobbled street was occupied by some form of amazing machinery, and all were making their way to the start line for the first practice run of the day.
The town was completely over run with the sound of lumpy idles, squealing ceramic brakes and rattling twin-plate clutches.
Because space is so limited, makeshift pit bays like Simone Faggioli’s pop up anywhere there is room. The Italian has taken the overall victory on the Course de côte for the last two years and also holds the overall elapsed time and average speed records. From what we saw up the hill this afternoon, he could well be looking to make it a trifecta.
Today was all practice sessions, with the timed race runs up the 5.1-kilometer climb kicking off tomorrow morning. And although most drivers seemed to ease into it, not all got it right in the early morning damp conditions. You think it’s scary watching a single seater like Adrian Meier’s Gloria B420Y swap ends on a race track; try watching it happen on a narrow mountain pass at 200km/h!
Meier actually got off pretty lightly all things considered, though he should probably look at adjusting his speed to match his new-found lack of downforce…
The greatest thing about hill climb racing is that the driver must push to the absolute limits of themselves and their machine over a short period of time, regardless of what they are behind the wheel of.
From screaming economy hatches that were originally destined for city driving.
To beautiful history-filled race cars like Bruno Ianniello’s Group B Lancia Delta S4.
And interesting one-off custom machines bristling with super-wide fenders and flame-splitting exhausts.
Now that we’re half way through this dream event, with another day of racing to go tomorrow, does it live up to the hype? Did I build it up to much after watching too many videos on repeat? I’ll leave my final verdict for next week, but so far, I can only imagine this is what it would be like meeting your greatest hero, and realising they’re just as cool as you always imagined they would be.
More from Saint Ursanne coming soon!
Additional Photos by Taryn Croucher
i wanna see more of that beauty of a ferrari 355, please!
loving this all-function machines!
Was there two years ago and it was one of the best races I ever
visited. You can not compare it to some circuit racing at Hockenheim or
Lausitzring. Just that feeling sitting on the lawn hearing the roar of a
Formula 3000 between two mountainsides coming towards you with some 250
km/h, then breaking hard, drifting through the serpentines and going away up the mountain...
Sky cleared up! Second day with perfect conditions! So happy to be here as well! Enjoy it.
Waiting for the openwheelers! But allready seen a lot of awesome cars!
Don't forget the "lignières historique" not so far of st-ursane @ lignières, it's an event with old race car in our little circuit.
more info here : http://www.lignieres-historique.ch/fr/ but it's the same day .... sad
Sorry to say Faggioli is not drivign an Osella this year, he moved to Norma early on in the year!
Post as much Delta S4 as you can. I never get tired of seeing them.
It's coming louis09! Stay tuned for full coverage later this week.
balston Your wish will be granted! We met up with the owner today and got up close and personal with it.
We love your enthusiasm @zz! Yes, full coverage plus spotlights will be coming up soon. Stay tuned.
MORE DELTA S4. amazing car need more, don't forget evos
LukeEVOVIII Captured plenty of both on race day today, the sound those S4s make is pure heaven! Look out for the full story this coming week.
EricSeanDelaney this was actually the first time I've ever seen one driven in anger in person - it was almost life-changing haha!
I know! You've gotta love the pure insanity of group B!
pedey Ugh I need to see one so bad!! I have a 1:18 model of it, but it's my dream to see one, even just parked. I can't imagine what it must be like when it's driven flat out.
RobertEvery Thanks for this Robert, you're dead right - we worked this out this morning when we arrived back at the track and foreheads were slapped! Cheers!
PetrolMad So pleased it didn't rain today, hope your day was as good as mine!
motorrennsportarchiv Spoken like a true Speedhunter my friend...
Jizanthapus Mine too, have been planning this trip for years, so it's safe to say I'm pretty happy to be here!
What is that second car? I can't seem to figure it out just from the rear 1/4
pedey RobertEvery Hey guys, it makes no difference, the bloke is just as quick, is Christian Merlie there too? He is factory Osella but only 2 litre! And what about those French BMW cars, sound of thunder! Wish we could have them in UK
LukeEVOVIII If you really like them, you can hire one from Ianello, bucket list I think?
iamcollin Looks like Opel Kadett.
Sounds like a plan!
Brume_S Was there (Lignières) today, what a day ! It was a small event compared to other international ones but had nothing to be ashamed about car-quality-wise
olivierkaenzig Brume_S Yeah for sure.
Never take a close look on to those S4s! It's alway a big chaos! But hell when it all works those cars are so maaad!
Sadly there were a bit to many interruptions! But if you see those badasses driving you definatly noe why! Such an awesome day! Crying engines between mountains, mad driving skills and so many balls of steel. Need to get a press pass next year! You guy realy get the best spots! Looking forward to the full feature! Thx in advance!
RobertEvery pedey Merli was just 1 sec slower with 1min 44secs! And as you said with 1000cc less. Pitty there was no 3rd run. Let's wait for next years battle!
Living the dream!
Yeah a Kadett, im an aussie and we got them as the Holden Gemini. Thats what I thought it was but being europe it'll be a Opal.
Speedhunters louis09 so nice , i love all your hill climb posts , i got so many ideas for my car
Your interesting one off custom machine is a wide body Fiat X1/9
Here's my slightly more original one:
saw a video of the GP2 car on this track! looks like it was fast-forwarded!
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner XTad thanks for the help guys.
Nikhil_P Seen this about 10 times and every time im like "Holy Crap!" Just love some of those straght bits when he gets up some speed and you start thinking slow down dude then like a boss he pulls another gear! Love it!
iamcollin Guys, in Berg Cup they run a lot of classes for older shape cars, they call it Group H. Kadetts, Ascona, Mk1 Polo, Escort, tuned to hell, they sound amazing! For some reason the Germans prefer to run older shape cars and develop them over years, great for pics!
@Leo To be more precise the car shown is a Dallara Icsunonove which was a grp 5 car based on the X1/9.
pedey EricSeanDelaney Living ins Switzerland I attended St Ursanne several times in the past. Ianniello S4 is the fastest farting machine I ever see/heard.
No pic of Alain Pfefferlé's porsche 935 ?
I really admire these guys (Hill Climber) and the ones doing Rally. They must have huge testicles as there isn't much margin between the car and the trees. Respect.
They must have cubic shaped balls made of titanium with sharp edges on them.
Awesome stuff, love the photos
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner Nikhil_P Full disclosure - I watched this at least a dozen times in the week leading up to the event... It's all much more believable after seeing it in person.
@No Sheep Agreed, heftier grapes than whatever I could muster.
oPignonLibre pedey EricSeanDelaney I'm saving them for the full post due to go live on Wednesday
@Leo Very clean, how do these cars behave on the road? They look like they would be a little on the nervous side? I must confess I've never really looked that deeply into these cars before seeing this one at St Ursanne.
Fantastic pictures! But let me ask you something. In your time as speedhunters i'm pretty sure you heard a lot of cool and fast cars, but what was your impression of hearing a fully race ready Lancia Delta S4? I've heard them once and it was special to hear that supercharger sound in front and the dump turbo sound at the back
Gianluca FairladyZ Definitely up there with one of the coolest sounding cars we've ever heard! When I saw the S4 above drive past for the first time, I know I had the biggest dorkiest grin on my face. You're right, it's truly a special experience!
I've said that I'd make my way to St. Ursanne at somepoint after seeing too many MPZRACEVIDEO clips!
Twincharged RS Evos, Porsche 935 K3s and Group B Rally Cars....right up my street!
Same here, MPZRACEVIDEO is awesome, would be such a great trip to St Ursanne!
Matt Burgess Love that channel!
Hey, I am glad that you wa there...
Markus of MPZRACEVIDEO
Hillclimbing is one of the coolest forms of racing for sure. Everything happens so quick and has to be spot on because unlike on a track there is no second lap to get that corner perfect. Heres video from the Duryea Hillclimb in Reading, Pa that I just ran over the weekend in my E36 Bmw.
I would love to make the journey to St. Ursanne one day...maybe.
Thanks, it's all original minus the vinyl ladder decals which haven't been replaced since its restoration.
It's no rocket ship being a 1300cc, but it's light and has a low centre of inertia so turns well. High profile tyres smooth out the bumps and with no mechanical assistance on brakes or steering you really feel the road.
Amazing! The scenery looks great and the diversity of the machines is awesome too. Nice teaser!
Can anyone tell me if spectating on the St Ursanne hill climb is restricted to dedicated spectator areas, or can you watch from anywhere so long as its safe to do so?
Trev450 Restricted. There is a shuttle to help you move to different areas between runs.
Many thanks for the quick reply. A couple of us went to the Woldsfeld Bergrennen hill climb last year and you are free to move around to watch from wherever you can, within reason.
what happened to the pictures?
Yes! Finally hill climb stories are back. I was hoping the team would get a chance to do these once again and shoot features. There will be some features right?