Montee Coureur!

Whilst we all love the unique atmosphere and challenging venues provided by hillclimbing in the UK, many competitors also love the challenge of the longer and faster courses provided by the public road hillclimbs in Europe.

Crowds Form

Charlie takes to the hill in front of huge crowds.

 

 

A couple of Midlands Hillclimb regulars, Class B runners Charlie Martin and Jerry Neary, missed a couple of UK events earlier this season, hopped on a ferry and went to check out what European Hillclimbing is all about.

Charlie very kindly put together this great write-up of the weekends entertainment from St-Gouéno in Brittany, France.

Ever since I started hillclimbing, long before in fact, I’ve always been in awe of the super-fast looking European venues with F3 cars and LMP type prototypes hitting crazy speeds through villages lined with spectators & Fiat Pandas. This year was the fullflillment of a long held ambition to go to one and compete, and so I found myself at St-Gouéno in Brittany with fellow Class B regular and Westfield driver, Jerry Neary.

St Goueno Hillclimb

There are some amazing Sports Racers in French Hillclimbing

 

An hour’s drive from St Malo ferry, it’s pretty easy to get to – we took the overnight ferry from Portsmouth and arrived fairly fresh around 9am on Thursday. We filled up with Super en route, and arrived to a warm welcome, meeting Annes Lessard who kindly organises accommodation for all the UK drivers, and John Lloyd who does an excellent job of putting the whole Masters entry together. This means that we sidestep the FFSA regs and run under our own class structure & UK scrutineers, all you need is a 2kg fire extinguisher bolted in and a HANS device, which was on my to do list anyway. Oh and a massive Union Jack flag!

Charlie Martin Westfield SEi

Brits Abroad! Charlie flys the flag for British Hillclimbing

 

As the D14 is open as a public road on Thursday & Friday we took a few drives up to reccy the hill and get a more involved idea as Youtube never gives you the complete picture, especially elevation changes. Wider than a UK hill, 3.2km long and smothered in motorsport grade tarmac (M&S advert!), the organisers have put a lot of hard effort into making it a fantastic venue and a round of the Championat de France Montagne. I was very excited!

Every evening there was a superb meal laid on in the town hall, with drinks included, a stage with bands playing, and the whole event had a fantastic festival atmosphere that lasted from Thursday right through to Sunday evening. All the local community pitches in to organise it as the money raised goes back into local development and they are so friendly and welcoming – there are even free mini buses to ferry you home! Needless to say we had to exercise a little restraint on Friday & Saturday night, just a little though…

St Goueno Hillclimb

Evening Concerts were a highlight for competitors…. As well as the competing of course!

 

Saturday is made up of 3 practices, the first one un-timed, Sunday comprises 3 competition runs. In all there were 46 UK drivers, our particular class being made up of 7 Locaterfields. I couldn’t wait to get going despite having been advised by a few regulars ‘to take it easy’ as there isn’t much run off, and quite a bit of armco… Blessed with sunny weather, the hill itself is amazing – super fast & flowing, very grippy and intense – being around 1:40 in my car I found you just get into such a rhythm. As you drive about 2km to the start everything is warmed up by the time you set off, which helps. There were around 15,000 spectators over the weekend, with two giant TV scenes for interviews (I did two!) and coverage of the hill, it was more like a festival. Watching some of the top French cars like the Norma M20 of Nicolas Schatz (reigning champ) was awesome, silencing doesn’t seem to be an issue en France, loud = fantastique!

Jerry Neary Westfield SEi

Jerry Neary prepares for a run in his ex. Trevor Willis Westfield SEi

 

I’d gone to a lot of effort to memorise the sequence of corners as I figured this would be the key to pushing hard, it’s quite a challenge as the first half of the hill flows more making it tricky to remember which corners can be taken faster or tighten up. I have to say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a car, finishing 1st in class with a new class record was beyond my wildest expectations and now I just can’t wait to return next year with a new engine and go even quicker. The only fly in the ointment was that it was soooo much fun, that now I’ve dipped my toe in the French water and liked what I found I’m planning to do half my 2015 season over there and dreaming of screaming an Osella prototype up the mountains of Europe!

Charlie Martin Westfield SEi

The Westfield safely back at base with the spoils of victory!

 

Thanks so much for this report Charlie, it sounds like you & Jerry had a lot of fun, sorry that it took so long to post this….

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