Back In The U.S.S.R.

On his return from the FIA Masters at Sternberk we spoke to Trevor Willis about the meeting:
“When the event was first announced I wasn’t keen, especially with the prospect of an 1,150 mile each-way tow. However, a truck to carry the cars from the UK was arranged and looking back I’m glad I didn’t miss a fantastic event”.

All eight cars and gear loaded for the journey to Sternberk

Following the successful first Masters at Eschdorf, Luxemburg in 2014, the 2016 event was held in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. Sternberk has been hosting hill climbs for 110 years and is a regular venue for the European Hillclimb championship. For the Masters the course was reduced from the usual 7.8 km to 3.3 km and teams from 14 countries were invited to compete. There were three categories of competition, saloon cars, European Hillclimb Championship competitors, and the invited national teams, with a Nations Cup organised on a regularity basis for nominated members of the invited teams.

With the cars on their way, most of the UK contingent flew to Brno, where Trevor hired a car to cover the 100 km to the hill. On the Friday before the event the hire car was pressed into action to recce the hill, about 15 runs being completed before the Skoda’s brakes cried enough. There was also time to explore the local area, finding an interesting mixture of good architecture and some obvious remnants of the communist era. Accommodation was comfortable, but the choice of food was very limited - like being Back in the USSR.

Asked about the hill, Trevor said “It’s just like a British hill, only bigger. The track is wider, it’s bumpy, and I’ve not been anywhere where the throttle is wide open for so long. Changing out of 5th at 147 mph in the OMS 28 and then holding the throttle open in 6th for a long time was a new experience. Even the tighter corners were more open than expected, I found I was taking them in 3rd gear.“

Trevor had a brush with the barriers at the preceding Doune meeting, and this contributed to some problems in first practice on Saturday morning, with the repaired front wing cracking and an oil leak from a cam cover bolt. A new wing solved that problem, but a quick fix with sealant around the bolt would not last. However, second practice went well. Sunday morning dawned chilly, and on warming the engine it was clear that the overnight fix by Trevor and Lee Griffiths had not worked. Time before the first run was pressing, and long-time OMS helper Ray Rowan helped fashion a classic “bush repair” with 5-minute epoxy and tie-wraps. Running slightly out of order, Trevor drove straight to the start line (the start was about ½ mile from the paddock) and left without time to collect his thoughts. A slightly ragged but competitive run ensued, good enough for second in class behind Scott Moran.

Headingto the start line: photo Tim Wilson

The second run was taken in the correct order and a more controlled drive saw 1.22 seconds trimmed from his first run time, to take the class lead. The third run was taken immediately after the second due to late running of the meeting and despite some oil on the track and drizzle, Trevor managed to improve by another few hundredths; however, Scott managed a slightly bigger improvement to take the class on 1:18.93, just 0.18s ahead of Trevor 1:19.11, with Wallace Menzies a further  0.50s behind on 1:19.67 An excellent prize giving followed, with live music and a good attendance. The UK team undoubtedly misbehaved and it’s best to move quickly past their result in the Nations Cup (last); regularity obviously not their thing….

Locking up the brakes: photo Michal Hermanovsky

Looking back on the event, Trevor said it was an interesting experience to visit a great venue, and see how the organisation differs from what we are used to at home. Red flags and re-runs are almost unknown, and marshalling is certainly not to the high standard we enjoy. It was very tiring and stressful, largely due to the spread-out nature of the venue, and Trevor thanks Nicky and Lee Griffiths, Ray Rowan and regular helper Sam Wilson, for all their help. Looking back though “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and I’m looking forward to the next one in two years, rumoured to be in Italy”.

An all British podium in category 3

Date: 13/10/2016 | Author: D.Oldridge