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Hillclimb, what’s that?

The hands rest on the steering wheel with a firm grip. Still, they quiver. The glance is directed through the windshield over the bonnet and carried shields and beyond the narrow sight you can see before it turns up right through the woods. Adrenaline allows the entire body to shiver while waiting for the start signal. The gas pedal gets some slight touches; completely shallow, because the engine is heated and adjusted and perfected as good as it gets. It’s a little calming to feel that the engine can take it. The gearbox is in first gear and the slightly shaking left foot keeps the clutch pedal to the bottom.

Then the start signal appears, down with the right foot and up with the left. It’s all about avoiding the wheels spinning; You simply lose speed by doing that. On the other hand, it must also pull everything that it possibly can. It’s a balance that needs to be kept, even though the body quivers and it’s hard to keep your head cool. Up in second gear just at the right time, so the acceleration continues up through the turn without losing the foothold.

It’s also a balance which needs to be discovered.

After the railroad advent, comes the turns left, right soft curves, sharp curves. All the time upwards, all the while you’re trying to find the right gear, the right rpm, and the proper line throughout the turns. If the gear is too low, there is a lot of traction but too low speed. In case of excessive gear, the engine completely loses its flow, and you have to go down to a lower gear and thus losing crucial fractions of seconds. In many places, you balance the boundaries of what the tires are capable of. If you lose the grip, you lose the speed at best, at worst, you’re thrown out between the trees or into a straw bale. Such a 600 kg straw bale is hard to drive into, and you can easily get the car modified more than you would like.

Eventually a long move steeply up through a left-hand curve and you are past the finish line. Puuh! Every time you feel a relief and a thrill. How did it happen? If something went wrong during the race, you come to know, but how much did it cost? If everything went according to the protocol, you’re hoping on a time which is distanced from the rest. It is only revealed once you have parked the car and arrived at the time board. There you’ll see, black on white that you are still not as much of a world champion as you thought you were for a brief, happy moment.

Hillclimb has a rich history behind it. In the early days of the cars, it was how the factories demonstrated what their vehicles were capable of, and already around WWI a tradition for hill racing emerged. The most dramatic event took place in the Alps where the famous passing roads were blocked so the giants could fight. During the twenties and thirties, international championships emerged, and the big factories built cars specifically for Hillclimb, where the great stars of the day could get a chance to amaze.

During that period, the large crowds marched into the famous hills, and Hillclimb was in par with the Grand Prix, Formula One of the Time. After World War II, Hillclimb was submerged into a small side discipline in motorsport, so it is quite appropriate that in Denmark it is the Historical motorsport who has partaken, that type of motorsport. It began about 15 years ago that Historical Motorsport Denmark found a small road on Zealand which they were allowed to block off.

It was not a particularly long or steep hill, but the participants had fun, which is the most important part. Ever since then it has developed into a championship series of six races spread across Zealand, Jutland and Funen. There are more steep slopes here in the country than most people think and know of, but there is no doubt that Munkebjerg is the king of all. Both Norwegians and Swedes are excited and must admit that the hill from Vejle Fjord to Munkebjerg Hotel is indeed a challenge.

When the drivers meet up for the Munkebjerg hillside they have already driven at Frijsenborg, in Ganløse and in Bornholm, and left are the races at Gjern and on Funen. In other words, we are in the middle of the championship series. One starts to know who the favorites are, but much can still change. There will be excitement on the rankings. Having said that, one should not forget that for the participants it is first and foremost fun to see how much their classic cars can actually perform. On the road, the rest of the traffic and road rules put a natural stopper on the excitement. Here at the hill, you can try your own skills, with your car and at the road. It’s entertainment of the highest class.

Niels Jonassen