Driving along the Route de Merveilleuse towards the top of the Citadelle of Namur today, it is hard to imagine that this 2 kilometre long road once hosted one of the most important hillclimb races in Belgium. For example there is a narrow chicane on the bottom part of the road, which on closer inspection is actually a fortified gatehouse! But the most extreme part of the track comes right after. Halfway up the hill the drivers must negotiate a 360 degree turn where they have to cross both under and over a 3 metre wide bridge! That must have seemed a little crazy even back then!
The Course de Côte de La Citadelle was part of the very first season of the Belgian Hillclimb Championship in 1957 and it remained on the schedule until 1991. The video below is from the 1990 edition. The winner was Marcel Tarres in front of his French compatriots Christian Debias and Anne Baverey. Gerard de Ville de Goyet steered his mighty Porsche 935 to fourth and was best Belgian driver. With fifth place Hervé Bayard was well on his way to his 8th Belgian Championship (out of 10). Some of the names lower down the order sound familiar even to today’s readers, like Christian Hauser (father of David), Yanick Bodson and Leon Linden. Full results of the 1990 edition can be viewed on the trackpage.
There has been a calendar change in Belgium. The Course de Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne, with 5,5 kilometres the longest in Belgium, will not take place this year. Orignally scheduled for 28th of May the race will be replaced with the Course de Côte de Ry des Glands.
Situated near “village of the book” Redu, the Ry des Glands Hillclimb was the fastest hillclimb in Europe. At the final event in 2011 race winner Jelle de Coninck stopped the clock at 1:19,23. This translates to an average speed of 181,75 km/h over the 4 kilometres long road! In comparison the average speed at the Course de Côte de Saint Ursanne – Les Rangiers is 181,90, but that was only achieved last year…
The Ry des Glands Hillclimb takes the former date of La Roche on 28th May and just like its substitute it will be included in the national as well as the regional Belgian hillclimb championships.
The Sprint at Chimay is the 4th of June.
The Course de Côte de ‘M’ de Bomerée is the oldest hillclimb in Belgium. It rained almost all day which makes for some interesting results. That Anthony Loeuilleux won the event, closely followed by Jacques Marchal was hardly a surprise. But that Martin Bach won the touringcars and finished third overall was quite a shock. No less spectacular is the fourth place for home-driver Christophe Le Nouvel in his little Citroën AX. Didier Boemer finished fifth, just ahead of Daniel Allais in the Reynard 97D F3000.
In Category II only a miracle can prevent Marchal from becoming champion. The same goes for Anthony Loeuilleux in the Cup. In Category I Stéphane Emond lost valuable points to Fabrizio Casciario in Bomerée. The difference between them is just 4 points with one more event to go. Eric Schwilden only has a chance if he scores a good result in a foreign race to compensate for his drop score. Georges Goedert has already secured the Cup in Category I.
For the first time in years the Bomerée Hillclimb also counted towards the regional championship. Favourite Julien Vandeput retired early with transmission problems alsthough he continues the lead the Division 4 points. Instead it was Francis Gilles who took a much-needed victory. By finishing ahead of his championship rivals Christophe Le Nouvel and Olivier Dubois he also takes over the points lead in Division 1-2-3.
The Belgian Hillclimb Championship continued this weekend with the short but ultra fast Course de Côte de Grandcourt. The race was dominated by three Norma M20 sportscars that finished within a second of eachother. Repeating his victory from last year was Jacques Marchal but he was closely followed by Georges Hubert and Corentin Starck. Philippe Dewulf was best touringcar driver with a three second lead over runner-up Stephane Emond.
The regional race also counted towards the (regional) championship this year. Julien Vandeput had little opposition in Division 4 and the points leader took a simple victory. Christophe Le Nouvel had a brilliant event in his little Citroën AX GTI. He was faster than the numbers one and two in the championship, Francis Gilles and Olivier Dubois. Sadly there was one other driver who was quicker than Le Nouvel: Quentin Guilbert.
Jacques Marchal has won the Course de Côte de Marchin. The reigning champion is focusing on the national championship this year but made a rare appearance at the regional Marchin Hillclimb. Second place was for another driver who competes mostly in the national championship: Philippe Dewulf. With his mighty Citroën Xsara Dewulf was also best touringcar driver. Frederic Souris steered his Speed Car GTR to the final podium spot.
In the championship Julien Vandeput remains the leader in Division 4 for sportscars. In Division 1-2-3 for touringcars Olivier Dubois remains in the lead. However at Marchin Dubois was once again beaten by his rival Francis Gilles. If you already count the drop scores, Gilles is actually in the lead.
The Belgian Hillclimb Championship continued this weekend with the Course de Côte d’Alle-sur-Semois. Jacques Marchal took control of the race right from the start. He was fastest in practise and again in the first two race sessions. Only in the third race was Corentin Starck quicker but that was not enough to keep Marchal from victory. Anthony Loeuilleux completeted the podium.
Philippe Dewulf once again dominated the touringcars. The Citroën Xsara pilot was seconds quicker than nearest rival Stephane Emond. Martin Bach is still learning the limits of his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI and at Alle-sur-Semois he was scored a season-best third.
The event also counted towards the regional Hillclimb Championship. Julien Vandeput increased his championship lead in Division 4 with another class victory. Florian and Bruno Collard shared their BRC B-49 to second and third place. Best touringcar driver was once again Francis Gilles. Although this time he was closely followed by Olivier Dubois.
The Belgian Hillclimb Championship continued this weekend with the Course de Côte de Felenne. Practise was more or less completed in the dry but in the afternoon it started to rain. The complete first and second races were contested in the rain but before the third and final race it had stopped. When the last cars started their final run the track was basically dry.
Champion Jacques Marchal (Norma M20F) was fastest in the first race but Cup winner Anthony Loeuilleux (Tatuus Master) was fastest in the second race. Than out of nowhere Jacky Gourdet suddenly rose to the top. The French Ligier JS49 pilot is normally a mid-field driver in Belgium. In fact he was only 20th after the first race today. But now he suddenly set a blindingly fast time that almost looked like enough for victory. Almost… because in his final attempt Jacques Marchal set an identical time to Gourdet! And because Marchal was faster in the other two races the tie-breaker and therefore the final victory was in favour of the current Belgian Champion. Still second is a career best for Gourdet in Belgium.
In the touringcars Eric Schwilden drove a great race to take victory. Especially in the rain the Peugeot 205 Targez pilot was head and shoulders above the competition. Fabrizio Casciaro beat Stephane Emond for second which means that the three leaders at Felenne remain very close in the championship too.
Just like last weekin La Roche Francis Gilles benefitted optimally from the 4-wheel-drive in his Ford Escort Cosworth to take overall victory in the regional race. Even though he made a great push in the last run, Florian Collard came up short to Julien Vandeput in division 4. The two also finished second and third overall behind Gilles.
For the first time in 2011 the Belgian Hillclimb Championship visited the Course de Côte de La-Roche-en-Ardennes, the longest hillclimb of the country. For the regional hillclimb championship it was also the first visit since 2011 although the event was a non-championship regional race the past few years. The weather conditions were very difficult with hard rains all morning long. Before the racetrack was properly dried out the heavy rains resumed before the third race.
Anthony Loeuilleux was in his element this weekend. The French Tatuus Master pilot navigated the 5,5 kilometres much quicker than everybody else. His lead over Georges Hubert and Jacques Marchal was 6,5 seconds. Yanick Bodson made a rare appearance in Belgium this weekend. With his Porsche 997 GT3 he was the fastest touringcar driver and fourth overall.
National champion Francis Gilles actually competed in the regional race this weekend. He benefitted from the 4-wheel-drive in his Ford Escort Cosworth to win by a large margin. Jeremy Delchambre returned to the championship after his accident in Sy to finish second. Rally driver Jonathan Georges completed the podium in his Renault Clio. Christophe Le Nouvel was not present in La Roche with his regular Citroën AX as the engine in that car was not ready yet. With a replacement Peugeot 205 he still finished a strong fourth.