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Hill climb time trials

Bike races take to the hills. One of Italy's favourite sports!

Hill climb time trials

The cycle, motorcycle and motor racing worlds are animated by all nature of races, on road and track, some iconic, some brand-new, but always followed by a plethora of fans and enthusiasts. One of the biggest crowd-pullers and firm favourites with both spectators and drivers competing in the numerous events, trophies and stage races held throughout the season,  is without doubt the hill climb time trial.

Hill climb time trials for cars  tend to be the most interesting, hence they draw the biggest audience, especially in live events, along with rallies.
As the name suggests, in an hill climb time trial the objective is to climb a hill in as fast a time as possible.  
Clearly there are many other rules in such races and the course must comply with a number of regulations in terms of road surface:

•    it must be asphalt or dirt track,
•    closed to traffic to prevent accidents,
•    it must be all uphill with no descents.

Judges inspecting the course to give it their official seal also look at the number and nature of twists and bends it presents. There shouldn't be too many or too dangerous for one very simple reason: the average speed in this type of car race is high, faster even than a rally. In any case, the roads must have safety guardrails along the side and the most dangerous sections protected with structures specially-built for the event. The courses of the many races held around the world vary in distance, a detail that is left to the organisers of each stage and event.

The race itself is subject to specific rules: practice sessions are held on race day to test out and memorize the course (not counted for qualification) as well as the official race with final scoreboard. Unlike other motor races, hill climb time trials have no qualifying rounds given that the main variable in the competition is that everyone is racing against the clock. On the morning of the race, drivers have a couple of practice runs then in the afternoon, set off roughly 10 seconds after each other, trying to do their run faster than everyone else.  Photocells which calculate the exact time each driver has taken to complete the race are used to determine the winner.

Rally cars and all others vehicles adapted from standard cars, GT, Sport Prototypes and single-seaters are eligible to compete. Just like in track motor racing, cars competing in hill climb races have no licence plates and are not registered. Another difference between hill climb time trials and the frequently-mentioned rallies is that drivers are able to study the course, not only during the one or two practice runs on race morning, but also on other days. Clearly, they must comply with the highway code on those occasions to prevent accidents, given that the race course will be open to traffic. 

Italy has an unusually hilly conformation which means we Italians get to see up close many of the most exciting races in national and international competitions. Almost every region in the country holds an individual or stage race of an official competition.
One of the most popular races in Italy is the CIVM (Italian Mountain Speed Championship) organised and governed by CSAI (Italian Motorsport Commission), ACI (Italian Automobile Club) and ACI Sport.

It's a stage race featuring a number of hill climb time trials held on steep hillsides. Most drivers competing in the CIVM and in hillside time-trialling in general, are not professionals (as used to be the case) so the cars admitted to each stage tend to be very different: touring cars, prototypes, single-seaters and many others.
The 2016 edition of the CIVM kicks off in May with the Sarnano Sassotetto hill climb time trial to be followed by these stages:

1 May - 26th Scarfiotti Sarnano-Sassotetto Trophy - Sarnano (Marche)

15 May - 59th Selva di Fasano Cup - Fasano (Puglia)

29 May - 47the Verzegnis – Sella Chianzutan – Verzegnis (Friuli Venezia Giulia)

12 June - 6th Morano – Campotenese climb- Morano Calabro (Calabria)

26 June - 55th Teodori Cup - Ascoli (Marche )

3 July - 66th Trento Bondone - Trento (Trentino Alto Adige)

24 July  - 54th Rieti Terminillo – 52nd Bruno Carotti Cup - Rieti (Lazio)

7 August - 18ª Reventino - Lamezia Terme Hill climb Time Trial (Calabria)

21 August - 51st Luigi Fagioli Trophy - Gubbio (Umbria )

18 September - 58th Monte Erice - Erice, Trapani (Sicily)

25 September - 62nd Nissena - Caltanissetta Cup (Sicily)

9 October - 34th Pedavena – Croce D’Aune - Pedavena (Veneto)

It has been officially announced that the Italian Mountain Speed Championship has teamed up with the Italian Renewable and Alternative Energies Championship. The ensuing race will still be open to drivers who are not professionals but will be for LPG cars, or more specifically, Kia Venga 1600 models prepared by BRC and generating 160 hp. In practice, not all stages will feature both official hill climb time trial competitions. The Italian Renewable Energies Championship will kick off from Fasano in Puglia region and will be raced at a total of "only" six events. Another interesting aspect of this new competition is the driver-car relationship. To make the championship even more appealing and exciting for time trial fans, the cars that each driver will driver will be picked at each stage. This means that the cars will have the same on-board equipment but no one will have the same car two races in a row. 

To get back to the Italian Mountain Speed Championship, competitors all have their sights set on snatching the title from long-standing champion Simone Faggioli, a motorsport driver from Tuscany who has won 11 national championships, six of which came one after the other from 2010 to 2015 (from 2010 to 2013 with an Osella FA for Team Faggioli then in 2014 and 2015 driving a Norma Auto Concept M – 20 FC). In addition to the Italian Mountain Speed Championship, there is also the TIVM North (Mountain Speed Trophy North) and the TIVM South (Mountain Speed Trophy North), often held in conjunction with each other and for double points. 

The amount of airtime devoted to the Italian Mountain Speed Championship on broadcast media and in the press is testament to the huge importance of each stage and of the event in general. It garners more than 343 hours of television coverage, 89 of which are on national TV (RAI, Nuvolari), a reach of more than 5 million through  daily sports papers (Gazzetta dello Sport, Corriere dello Sport), specialist press (L'Automobile, Auto Sprint publication),  almost 2 million views on YouTube and a community of more than 60,000 users.  Taken together, this is an extremely important asset, helping the sport to stand out from other more notable, but definitely no less exciting, disciplines.  You just have to watch a film shot from a so-called camera car to see the talent required to practice this sport and the thrill it creates in fans and professionals alike.

Leaving aside the importance and official status of the Italian Mountain Speed Championship, Italy also has a number of individual races with a long tradition of their own and attracting hordes of hillside time trial fans. In Calabria, for example, there's the Ponte Corace-Tiriolo hill climb time trial in which hundreds and hundreds of motorsports race, primarily from Calabria and Sicily.It is raced over a 4km course (which is often used for another famous race in southern Italy, the Sila Cup) with all kinds of bends (the "padadace" bend, for example, forces drivers to drop gears so quickly that the engine or gearbox often break, forcing them out of the race) and very few straight stretches. This makes it perfect for spectators lined up along the side of the road. In Sicily, home of high-profile teams like Island Motorsport, the Catania-Etna is held every year. The first race was run in 1924 and it is now into its 46th edition. It's a key race for the people of Sicily, among the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic of the sport. Another historic hill climb time trial is the Passo Spino, better known as the Spino time trial, now into its 44th edition. The course, from Pieve Santo Stefano to Passo dello Spino in Tuscany, will be open only to vintage cars in 2016. By no longer organising the race for modern cars (a decision taken by the local council), the Spino hill climb time trial is no longer valid for the CIVM. In the same area, Orvieto hosts the famous Castellana hill climb time trial, now into its 44th edition and part of the Italian Mountain Speed Trophy North and Italian Mountain Speed Trophy South. So, a single course that counts for both championships, in a location that favours both trophies.

Moving away from the CIVM and its offshoots and into European terrain, the biggest competition in terms of hill climb time-trialling is the FIA European Hill Climb Championship, known in Italy as CEM. The professional competition, organised by the International Automobile Association, originated in the 1930s. Two vehicle types (and respective sub-categories) line up on the starting line: Category I, or touring cars, in turn split into four further classes (N, A, SP20 and GT). Category II "only" has two classes, CN and D/E2, which are prototypes or extreme cars that otherwise wouldn't be seen in normal circulation. 

The races are held in several European countries, Italy included, which for decades has allowed its Rieti-Terminillo and Trento-Bondone circuits to be used.  A quick look through the Roll of Honour for this competition will give you an inkling how important it is.  Teams like Ferrari, Fiat-Abarth, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and Ford have made valuable contributions to its history over the years and continue to add to its appeal for future years.

Hill climb time trials are not just about cars! Motorcycle fans and riders can also take part in this type of competition and, just like their motorsport counterparts, are required to comply with strict regulations and safety standards. Competing bikes are split into piston displacement and type, scooter and sidecar.  The national cup in Italy is run by the FMI (Italian Motorcycle Federation) in collaboration with the various motor clubs throughout the country responsible for preparing the individual stages.  The first edition of the Italian motorcycle hill climb time trial was in 1959 and, albeit still running today, it was downgraded to "Mountain Trophy" from 1989 to 2008, "Italian Hill Climb Championship" in 2009 and since 2010, has taken the name CIVS ("Italian Hill Speed Championship") The CIVS plays an important role in motorcycle hill climb time trials, given that it's the only competition of its kind held on public roads following a tragic accident (the death of rider Bergamonti in the 1971  Temporada Romagnola race) which brought to an end all speed races on public circuits.


Winners in this exciting discipline include high-calibre riders the likes of Giacomo Agostini, who currently holds 15 world championship titles and whose career plays out at the apex of the sport.

The cycling version of hill climb time trials is undoubtedly the hardest of the three. This type of race is very seldom held on just the one climb and are rarely one-off events. Cycling hill climb time trials are usually incorporated within stage races like the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France or Vuelta in Spain. But even in this context, victory goes to the rider who gets up the hill in the quickest time, with staggered starts every three minutes.

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