One thousand, eight hundred and fifty meters in length. One hundred and seven meters increase in elevation. Seven percent maximum gradient.
When you look at just the numbers, you’re not getting the full picture of the Eschdorf hill climb. Nothing in these numbers tells you that there are wet leaves on the course, that there are concrete drains running downhill at the side which can suck you into the scenery, if you carry too much speed and miss the apex at turn five you’re going into the armco and if you run wide on the last corner there’s chance you’ll end up looking a fool in front of the assembled spectators.
One of my own personal goals over the coming year or so, is to build my first competition specification track or hill climb car. I want to put myself in the driver’s seat and experience every moment of an event from the best seat in the house. Those minutes sat in the car waiting to approach the start line must be some of the most nerve wracking moments a driver can go through. Sitting patiently, waiting for your chance to attack the course. What a feeling that must be.
The cars of the Berg Cup are the stars of the show. The vast majority of cars present date from the 70s, 80s & 90s – In my humble opinion, some of the greatest years of motorsport.
But these cars are no relics – ground up rebuilds with little expense spared which embrace the best of modern technology – air shift sequential gearboxes, data loggers, digital dashes and fine tuned aerodynamics. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
The weekend’s weather played a huge roll in how the event would unfold. It started wet, dried a little but would remain wet in certain areas of the course. Tyre choice was a nightmare, especially considering the cars could be pre-gridded for up to an hour before their run, with no way of changing their rubber selection.
The two course cars for the weekend, a BMW 1M & E92 M3, would sweep the course between groups along with providing assistance for any incidents. Once they arrived back at the start line, it wasn’t long before the groups were drip released onto the hill.
Watching the first cars through was an eye-opener.
The way the cars moved and turned in was a little surreal if I’m honest.
But surreal in a good sort of way.
The cars are quite solid with very minimal roll – to the eye, they have the same characteristics of a single seater when turning and changing direction. It’s strange yet immensely cool.
However the cars often sit on a knife-edge of adhesion. Werner Weiss was accelerating through towards the second hairpin when the rear momentarily stepped out – Normally, some opposite lock would be applied, the slide controlled but with a slight loss of momentum costing time and you would continue on your way.
What happened here though was akin to what happens when the rear of an F1 car steps out of line – before you even realize it, the car has snapped back in the opposite direction and is catapulting you towards the scenery. As a driver, nine times out of ten, you’re only a passenger.
As a trackside photographer, this was quite alarming. I’ve never seen a car so violently step out of line in the metal before – usually you can see it progressively happening, almost as if in slow motion. I was glad to have heeded my father’s advice when shooting events like this – put something immoveable between you and the car. Wise words …
Thankfully, there was no damage done to the car or to himself, but how he managed to pirouette around a trackside tree is still a mystery to me.
With so much mud and dirt having been pulled onto the course, the organizers had quite a novel way of cleaning the track. Impressed I most certainly was.
This rather extreme Talbot Lotus Sunbeam impressed me no end – I’ll have a spotlight up quite soon on it.
Check out the trumpets hiding behind the black grill of this Fiat 127. It’s all these little details that just make the event and cars that bit more special.
Have I mentioned the noise yet? There is something incredibly moving about a built NA four cylinder bouncing of the trees.
It’s not that it’s loud, but it just seems to envelop your very being.
The ex-DTM Opels (One Astra & One Vectra) on the other hand were incredibly loud. Still, I can’t think of a better way to go deaf …
As the day moved on, I found myself refusing the offer of a free ride in the media shuttle and instead making my own way back to the top.
This allowed me to experience the event from as many different angles as possible.
As the course dried between rain showers, the speeds increased.
I’m not even going to attempt to describe the sound of this FB RX7 in an enclosed space.
Press access allowed us to get as close to the action as we dared. Albert Dobler’s ex-DTM E30 M3 – again, words cannot describe …
The long straight away around halfway through the course saw some of the cars exceed speeds of 140/150MPH. That’s 140/150MPH with trees on one side and rock face on the other. Not for the feint of heart.
Once again, the rain fell but this didn’t stop Herbert Stolz from taking advantage of his 935 DP2’s 4WD system.
I never really got to see the ‘Berg Monster’ at its limits as it always seemed to be wet when the car lined up at the bottom. Hopefully when I make it Oberhallau later in the year, I can experience it properly – 800BHP, twin-charged, circa 1080KGS and 0-62MPH in 2.3 seconds. That shall definitely be an experience.
With the rain continuing to fall on the Diekirch region, course times continued to drop.
By the time Sunday morning rolled around, there was a brief respite in the weather but I decided to change my focus from the hill, to the activities in the town of Eschdorf. I’ll be back soon with more …