The first round of the European Hillclimb Championship and the FIA International Hillclimb Cup and the third round of the Spanish Championship. Ubrique is always a well attended and highly competitive event and this year this was certainly the case. Not only was there a full entry of 87 cars but the event was overun with spectators. The service area prior to the start on Saturday was mobbed with many of the very young running round all the drivers collecting autographs, the organisers having produced a programme specially for this with a brief pen portrait of each driver, a photograph of the car and a space beside for the autograph. The kids love it! A great idea as the event is very much a family affair.
We had been keeping a close eye on the weather all week prior to arriving in Spain on Thursday and rain was forecast for both Saturday and Sunday, as it turned out Saturday remained dry all day. I was hoping for the rain as it is a good leveller between the cars and rain is not the preferred conditions of the Mosler pilot Borregeuro. Sunday was torrential downpours with rivers of water running down through the service park so no need to ask what the conditions were further up the hill.

Saturday started quite well with a reasonable time up a slippery road and I was happy enough, the first run is always a measured run as this as explained before is the training run used to test tyre pressure settings for the next runs. The second practice run is used to gather speed and test the reset pressures to optimise the efficiency of the slicks. We had suffered an electrical issue just after the start losing the dash warning lights and screen, but more of a problem I also lost the shift lights which are so essential, because without them you either run up to the rev limiter or you change gear far too early, both of which options lose you time on every up-shift.

Neil my mechanic did not have time between the first and second runs to fix the problem so again we approached the start without any dashboard or shift lights, not the best situation, but as we set off the car went into safe mode limiting the revs as it obviously detected a problem with the system and as such I only made it round the first three bends to park the car out of harms way.
The second run is a very important run, again i’ve probably mentioned this in the past as its the practise run where you test the car, admittedly not to its full potential but certainly to 95% in preparation for the final and timed run. As a result I lost out somewhat and undoubtedly knew this would affect the final run time. As there was heavy rain forecast for Sunday, the Saturday run, being a dry run would be very important as it would make up one half of the aggregate times, two of the three fastest produced are added together for the final standings. As a result we were pretty well off the pace and some 6 seconds down on the 3rd place GT car of Maldonado, the man we truly need to beat this year to achieve a top 3 position in the championship.

There was the usual GT cars present with a couple of new Pilots thrown into the mix, this weekend there were 4 GT3 Porsches entered, Janssens, Maldonado, Cordero and Abia. Borregeuro 2014 champion, in his mighty Mosler myself and a couple of others that truly weren’t going to cause a problem. Aldo de Alberto was present in his Seat Cordoba, Panella and Rosalles in Mitsubishis and Cordero’s old mount a Peugeot S2000 screamer driven by Jesus Moreno. The competition was good so I had much to do on the Sunday but as it was going to be wet.
I fancied my chances against everyone, including the four wheel drive cars, crazy idea really but I did think I could beat all the rest of the two wheel drivers and make back the 6 seconds lost on Saturday. We were lying in 5th place overall 4th GT after the first official timed run. As expected, the Mosler was leading on 2 mins 28.5 seconds, Janssens (GT3) 2.32.7, Maldonado (GT3) 2.34.3 Panella (Evo X) 2.35.5 and me down on 2.40.5, a bit of work to do on the Sunday.

We woke early on Sunday to heavy showers and running water on the roads coming down off the mountains, so for sure it was wet tyres, and boy when it rains in Spain in the mountains, it rains let me tell you, and it just doesn’t stay on the plane!!!

We prepared the car in readiness, Neil having carried out a temporary repair to the wiring harness for the paddle shift and Motec system, full wets being the order of the day. I had decided to keep my cards close to my chest and drive the first run, a practice run testing the grip, slower than intended for the official timed runs so as to not give away my turn of speed in conditions that I am used to. It worked but not quite as well as expected. We were lying in 2nd place GT with a time of 3.14.3, behind Janssens who was crazily on 3.01.7, and Maldonado on a 3.16.9 only a gap of 2.6 seconds. I needed to find at least another 3.5 seconds on the last run.

On the last run I had decided to throw caution to the wind and really have a go, I know i am good in the wet so put it to the test. I had a bit of a struggle getting off the start line, launch control not working as it doesn’t kick in until the engine revs hit 5250 rpm which is too high in wet conditions so down to me, the driver, to get away as fast as I can trying not to spin the wheels too much, not easy in running water. After the start I threw the car into every bend and in many parts of the run I was millimetres away from the edge of the road, much sideways driving, probably great for the spectators but a bit hairy to say the least.

At the end of the run, in a small village called Benaocaz at the top of the range there was the results and timekeepers so I dived out of the car to check my times and the times of the others to see if I’d achieved my goal a 6 seconds minimum gap between myself and Maldonado. I excitedly saw my time of 3 mins 6.763 seconds some 8 seconds quicker on my first timed run. The grin soon subsided when I looked down the list to see Maldonado’s time 3 mins 6.201 he’d really pulled it out of the bag and unexpectedly beaten me, all credit to him as I didn’t expect that at all.
Of those running in the national championship the final run times were:

  1. Janssens quickest (GT3) with an incredible time of 2 mins 50.354,
  2. Aldo (Seat WRC) 2nd on 2.58.541,
  3. Panella (Evo X) 3rd on 3.03.562,
  4. Maldonado (GT3) 4th on 3.06.201,
  5. myself 5th on 3.06.763
  6. Borregeuro (Mosler) 6th on 3.08.88 a very closely run battle but Janssens was in a league of his own, beating two top drivers in 4×4’s with a 2wd Porsche!

The final aggregate times for the top 6 touring car class were:
1st Janssens 5 mins 27.077
2nd Panella 5 mins 32.973
3rd Borregeuro 5 mins 37.455
4th Aldo de Alberto 5 mins 39.54
5th Maldonado 5 mins 40.57
6th Anderson 5 mins 47.276

In Current Championship standings the above result drops me now down to second place behind Janssens who I think will win the championship this year, it will be between him and Borregeuro for 1st and second and then between myself and Maldonado for 3rd.
The next event is Subida Al Fito 9th/10th May, closely followed a week later by The Rampa Falperra 16th/17th in Braga north of Portugal. Last year Maldonado was quick in Al Fito and beat me and it was the other way round in Falperra where we were quicker than him. It will be a close run battle this year that’s for sure!