HILL CLIMB WINNERS 1897-1949

List Guidelines


Contents

1       Introduction
2       The Events
3       Categories, GP Formulae
4       International Country Codes
5       Hill Climb Championships
6       In Memoriam
7       Summarized History
8       Hill Climbs or Mountain Climbs?
9       Belgium, France and North Africa
10     Great Britain and its Hill Climbs
11     The Extremes of Automobile Hill Climbs 1897-1949





Introduction

The list originated from various work sheets of alpine mountain climbs, which I made up in 1990. Because of the continually increasing data, it became necessary to condense it within one list and provide only the most pertinent information for each event. The original list from 1995 comprised around 500 events but over the following years it reached proportions beyond my original intention and imagination. By early 2003, it had grown into a mammoth product of many collaborators. The yearly headlines of the chronologically arranged list indicate the order in which the continental groups of events were arranged within each year. To further ease the search for venues, courses and events, an alphabetically arranged listing was added. The reason for making the list public after all those years in the dark, is twofold. First, I hope to inspire others interested in these events and second, I received an offer I could not refuse. Leif Snellman would publish this hill climb record on his very popular web site of the Golden Thirties.

The intention was to show every mountain- and hill climb during the 1897-1949 period, but it will probably never be a complete list of all events because some are hard to find or completely unknown. I therefore encourage the reader with knowledge about hill climbs that are not shown, to help by contributing such information with the goal to make this list as complete as possible. In an effort to minimize errors, individual source information is kept for each event and will be made available upon request. Although great care has been taken to assure accuracy, if a source provided faulty information, this mistake may have been carried over into this list. Similarly, if you know anything that is not correct or just doubtful, please let me know, so that all errors can be corrected. I will definitely take a good look and make changes as needed in a revised edition. You can reach me here Thank you!


ATTENTION!
We are trying to give as correct spelling as possible for all names and have therefore sometimes been forced to use codes not supported by the ANSI 8 bit standard. On some systems/browsers it is possible that certain letters of Czechoslovakian or Polish language will show up as boxes or questionmarks. In case of confusion, please refer to the following list:

Brno-Soběšice = Brno-Sobesice
Dobřany-Plzeň = Dobrany-Plzen
Knovíz-Olšany = Knoviz-Olsany
Litoměřice = Litomerice
Plzeň-Třemošna = Plzen-Tremosna
Svatý Kopeček = Svaty Kopecek
Zbraslav-Jíloviště = Zbraslav-Jiloviste
 
wyścig górski = wyscig gorski
 
Bondy, Miloš = Bondy, Milos
Junek, Čenek = Junek Cenek
Urban, Čenek = Urban Cenek
Veličkovič, T = Velickovic, T
Veřmiřowsky, Josef = Vermirowsky, Josef



The Events

The total number of hill climbs that took place during the 1897-1949 period remains unknown. This list shows over 3900, including those, that were planned, but for which no results have yet been found. Some of them may have been cancelled. The initial intention was to show as the winner only the fastest racing car, which usually resembled the grand prix cars of that period. Some hill climbs were held only for sports or touring cars and those events are also included.

The events appearing in the list are divided into three categories of different significance as shown in the following example from 1930.

1 - Feleac (Cluy-Brasov)1 - Major international championship events are in bold font and shaded in turquoise.
2 - Zirlerberg (Zirl)2 - Other international events are in bold font.
3 - Hohnstein (Dresden)3 - All other national or club events are in regular font.

Event and course names: An attempt was made to translate the original names of events and courses into English, but this rule was not always strictly followed due to the lack of sufficient English sources available, describing these events.

? - in front of an event, it suggests that the event was planned for that calendar year but may not have taken place.
? - by itself or in conjunction with information, it means that the information is not yet known or its accuracy is questionable.
* - Behind the winner's time, it indicates a calculated time from the speed and course length. When behind the course length, it indicates a calculated distance from the speed and time.
> - like in >17 mph, it means speed higher than 17 mph.
~ - like in ~1.0 mi, it means approximately 1 mile.
FTD - Fastest Time of the Day
p/o - part of
f/s - flying start
s/s - standing start
s/s&f - standing start and stop at the finish line


Categories, Grand Prix Formulae

Categories:
C = Cycle car, 1100 cc (1920's)
H = Heavy Car (1898-1905)
L = Light Car (1901-1905)
R = Racing Car (1900-1949)
S = Sports Car
T = Touring Car
Tr = Tricycle (1896-1899)
V = Voiturette (1898-1949)
The intent was to show primarily winners of the racing car category but sometimes the overall victorious cars came from the Light Car, Voiturette or Tricycle categories during the very early days. Some events did not allow entries for racing cars but were staged just for sports- or touring cars and are shown as well. Motorcycles, at times quicker than the fastest racing cars, are not shown in this list. At times they established FTD (fastest time of the day), because of different weather conditions encountered by the contestants during their individual runs uphill. To classify the early cars of the twenties was not always straightforward. A racing car was usually thought to be a car with open wheels. However, this was not always the case as shown in pictures, like Kracht's Bugatti Brescia racing car at the 1922 Gurnigel, where it had started with fenders removed but the headlights were left on the car. Another example is Nieth's Hispano-Suiza at the 1922 Klausen where it was driven in the "Open Class" without weight restrictions. Nieth drove without headlights but left the fenders on the car. Therefore a racing car was not necessarily an open-wheeled car or a totally stripped down sports car.

You find the 1897-1949 period Grand Prix Formulae here.



International Country Codes

A= AustriaFL= LiechtensteinP= Portugal
AUS= AustraliaGB= Great BritainPL= Poland
B= BelgiumGR= GreeceR= Romania
BR= BrazilH= HungaryRUS= Russia
CDN= CanadaI= ItalyS= Sweden
CH= SwitzerlandIRL= IrelandSF= Finland
CS= CzechoslovakiaL= LuxembourgSGP= Singapore
CY= Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)MAL= MalayaTN= Tunisia
D= GermanyMA= MoroccoUS= USA
DK= DenmarkMC= MonacoVN= Vietnam
DZ= AlgeriaMEX= MexicoYU= Yugoslavia
E= SpainN= NorwayZA= South Africa
F= FranceNZ= New Zealand


International country codes have changed over the years. The ones applied for this list were used during the thirties and are slightly modified.

Note: The terms UK (United Kingdom) and NI (Northern Ireland) are not used in this tabulation. GB (Great Britain) is applied instead. Here a rough guide by David McKinney: The kingdoms of England and Wales were united circa 1292. The crowns of England and Scotland were united in 1603, but the countries remained separate political entities for another 100 years (approx), at which time the parliaments were combined and the term Great Britain came into use. GB completed its political takeover of Ireland in the early 1800s, thus the United Kingdom of GB and Ireland. Ireland's struggle for independence was successful in (or around) 1922, except that the northern part remained within the UK (which then became the UK of GB and NI). The south became officially the Irish Free State, and in 1937 a republic. All of which is why I don't like using 'GB' in tables (such as this) - it really should be UK (otherwise problems arise when you need to include Northern Ireland).




Hill Climb Championships

International Hill Climb Championships for drivers took place for the first time in 1930 and were introduced by the A.I.A.C.R. (Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus). The first European Hill Climb Championship consisted of 10 events. Hans Stuck, the 1928 and 1929 Bergkönig "Mountain-King", became the first European Hill Climb Champion for racing cars in an Austro-Daimler. In 1931, the championship comprised eight events and was won by Juan Zanelli in a Nacional Pescara. The following year the racing car division was won by Rudolf Caracciola in an Alfa Romeo. The championship had now shrunk to five events, with only the four best results counting. By 1933, interest in hill climbing had declined to such an extent that only four events were nominated for the last European Hill Climb Championship, which was won by Carlo Felice Trossi in an Alfa Romeo. Except at Stelvio, German cars and drivers did not contest the 1933 championship, which was already influenced by German Third Reich politics via the newly established DDAC and NSKK organizations.

National Hill Climb Championships for drivers were held for the first time in Germany during 1934 and won by Hans Stuck, while the first British Hill Climb Championship in 1947 was won by Raymond Mays. Switzerland was the first nation in Europe to announce a National Automobile Championship in 1926, which consisted of six hill climbs and one speed trial. The Italian Automobile Championship usually included one hill climb as did the Hungarian Automobile Championship. The Austrians held their first Automobile Championship in 1928, which consisted of three hill climbs. Hans Stuck was the 1928 Austrian Champion, a feat he repeated in 1929 and 1930. The first Portuguese Hill Climb Championship,"Campeonato Nacional de Rampa", was organized by the ACP in 1935, which saw Monte Real as racing car champion and Ribeiro Ferreira winning for the sports cars. It took place until 1938.


1930 European Hill Climb Championship
Racing Cars
Sports Cars
 Hans StuckLaszlo HartmannH.J. von MorgenR. Caracciola
May 11CS - Zbraslav-Jíloviště
5
3
2
5
June 29I - Cuneo-Colle d. Maddalena
1
-
-
5
July 12GB . Shelsley-Walsh
5
-
-
5
August 10CH - Klausen (Altdorf)
4
2
2
5
August 17D - Schauinsland (Freiburg)
4
2
5
5
August 24F - Mont Ventoux (Avignon)
-
-
-
-
August 24PL - Tatra (Kraków)
5
-
-
-
September 14A - Semmering (Vienna)
5
3
-
5
September 21H - Svab (Budapest)
5
2
-
5
September 29R - Feleac (Cluy-Brasov)
5
4
-
-
TOTAL3916-35
1st place finisher = 5 points
2nd place finisher = 4 points
3rd place finisher = 3 points
Every other finisher = 2 points
Every non finisher = 1 point  
Non starters = 0 points
  In order to qualify, each contestant had to participate with the
same make of car in at least 50% of the total events held.
Only Hans Stuck (Austro Daimler) and Laszlo Hartmann (Bugatti)
were eligible in the racing car class, while Rudolf Caracciola
(Mercedes-Benz) became European Champion for sports cars with
Ernst Günther Burggaller (Bugatti) not qualifying with only
four sports car events contested.


1931 European Hill Climb Championship
Racing Cars
Sports Cars
 Juan ZanelliEsteban TortMax Arco-ZinnebergR. Caracciola
May 17E - Rabassada (Barcelona)
4
5
-
5
May 31CS - Zbraslav-Jíloviště
2
2
-
5
June 14D - Kesselberg (Kochel)
5
2
2
5
July 5I - Susa-Moncenisio (Turin)
2
-
-
-
July 11GB - Shelsley-Walsh
2
2
-
-
August 16PL - Tatra (Kraków)
-
-
5
5
August 30F - Mont Ventoux (Avignon)
3
2
-
5
September 20 H - Hármashatár (Budapest)
-
-
5
5
TOTAL1813-30
A series of 12 events was planned for the 1931 European Hill Climb Championship. Cancelled venues included
Malchamps (B) on June 7; Bernina (CH) August 23; Semmering (A) September 13; Feleac (R) September 27,
reducing the championship to eight events.
1st place finisher = 5 points
2nd place finisher = 4 points
3rd place finisher = 3 points
Every other finisher = 2 points
Every non finisher = 1 point  
Non starters = 0 points
  In order to qualify, each contestant had to participate with the
same make of car in at least 50% of the total events held.
Juan Zanelli and Esteban Tort (Nacional-Pescara) qualified in the
racing car class, while Rudolf Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz SSKL)
became European Champion for sports cars with Otto Spandl
(Mercedes-Benz SSK) participating in only two sports car events,
did not qualify with only eight points.


1932 International Automobile
Hill Climb Championship
Racing Cars
Sports Cars
Rudolf Caracciola - D
(Alfa Romeo)
Henry Täuber - CH
(Alfa Romeo)
Hans Stuck - D
(Mercedes-Benz)
Charly Jellen - A
(Bugatti)
June 12D - Kesselberg (Kochel)
1
5
1
3
July 24A - Gaisberg (Salzburg)
1
2
1
2
August 7CH - Klausen (Altdorf)
1
5
1
3
August 28I - Stelvio (Meran)
2
5
1
4
September 4F - Mont Ventoux (Avignon)
1
4
1
5
TOTAL416412
1st place finisher =   1 point  
2nd place finisher =   2 points
3rd place finisher =   3 points
4th place finisher =   4 points
all other finishers =   5 points
non finishers = 10 points
  1 - Every driver had to contest each of the five events.
2 - Only the four best results counted towards the total score.
3 - Championships for racing cars and sports cars only; no classes.
4 - Drivers could participate with different makes of cars in each category.
5 - Drivers could participate with cars of different engine size per category.



1933 European Hill Climb Championship
Racing Cars
Sports Cars
 C. F. TrossiLuigi PremoliLuigi CastelbarcoMario Tadini
July 2A - Gaisberg (Salzburg)
1
2
-
1
August 27I - Stelvio (Meran)
1
-
2
1
September 3F - Mont Ventoux (Avignon)
-
-
-
1
September 24CH - Monte Ceneri (Lugano)
1
-
5
5
TOTAL3--3
Note: It could not be established that the 1933 European Hill Climb Championship, set up by the AIACR, was
carried out to its end. Since records of the 1933 championship rules could not be found, slightly altered 1932
regulations were provisionally substituted for this listing. In absence of official regulations, the above 1933
point scores are therefore not official. Instead, they indicate nothing but one possible scenario.
1st place finisher =   1 point  
2nd place finisher =   2 points
3rd place finisher =   3 points
4th place finisher =   4 points
all other finishers =   5 points
non finishers = 10 points
  1 - Every driver had to contest at least three events.
2 - Only the three best results counted towards the total score.
3 - Championships for racing cars and sports cars only; no classes.
4 - Drivers could participate with different makes of cars in each category.
5 - Drivers could participate with cars of different engine size per category.







In Memoriam
The Toll of Hill Climbing

Mainly drivers and riding mechanics are shown below but far more spectators lost their lives during the events, not to mention those injured.

† 1900 - Wilhelm Bauer (D) crashed his 24-hp Daimler at La Turbie (F) on March 30 and died the next day; riding mechanic Braun was slightly injured.
† 1903 - Count Eliot Zborowski (GB) in a Mercedes crashed at La Turbie (F), and died instantly on April 1. His riding mechanic survived.
† 1903 - Jean Danjean (F) died testing his Richard-Brasier November 8 at Gaillon prior to the climb; his mechanic Chaucholle died November 13.
† 1921 - Wallace A. Coleman (US) in a Chevrolet crashed and died during a test run at Pikes Peak (USA).
† 1921 - Josef Žák (CS) died on May 22, when his 45-hp Praga Grand spun out of a corner in Ban? at Zbraslav-Jíloviste, flipped twice and buried Zak.
† 1921 - René Eycken (B), passenger of André Boillot in a 3 L Talbot-Darracq GP died at the Malchamps climb at Spa (B), on 30. August.
† 1922 - Otto Hieronimus (D) in a Steyr died during training at the Riesberg Climb (A) on May 8. He was born 1879 in Cologne/Rhine.
† 1923 - Etienne Grua (F) died on March 4 after his 180 hp racecar spun at 150 km/h in a Le Camp (F) turn, crashing down a 200 meter ravine.
† 1923 - Evasio Lampiano, born May 21, 1888 in Turin (I), crashed to his immediate death in his 1.5-L Fiat at Faucille (F) practice on June 14.
† 1923 - Two spectators were injured and one girl was killed when the Steyr of Huldreich Heusser crashed down a slope at Krähberg (D) on Oct 14.
† 1925 - Passenger Flör (D) leaning out while going through a turn hit a tree with his head at July 19 Selbecke climb, causing his immediate death.
† 1925 - Onesimo Marchisio (I) was gravely injured when he rolled his Diatto at Cuneo-Colle della Maddalena (I) and died next day, August 10.
† 1925 - Passenger flight lieutenant Bussigny died immediately when Wuhrman's Bugatti racecar overturned during August 23 Klausen practice.
† 1926 - A. V. "Archie" Turner (AUS) crashed his Bugatti T30 at Brookvale, NSW (AUS) on May 15, 1926 and died the following night.
† 1926 - Captain R. B. Howey (GB) in a 4.5-liter Ballot died at Boulogne-sur-Mer Climb, Mont Lombert (F) on August 27.
† 1927 - Dr.Jan Havranek (CS) died at May 4 Zbraslav-Jíloviste practice w. passenger Frantisek Skopal, Junek's riding mechanic, i. Junek's Bugatti T35.
† 1927 - Riding mechanic, Countess Paula von Schlik (A), died on September 4, at the Salzberg climb (D), when she was thrown from the car.
† 1927 - Bohumil Matcha (CS) died on September 16, 1927 during practice for Ecce Homo (CS).
† 1929 - Three spectators died, many more were injured on May 26 at Lückendorf (D) when Ernst Mahla's (CS) Bugatti left the road.
† 1929 - Vladimir Horák (CS) and riding mechanic Fröhlich in Bugatti T35B hit motorcycle rider Edmund Müller during Ecce Homo practice Sept. 21;
              Müller died immediately and Horák later while Fröhlich survived.
† 1930 - Théodore Namont (F) in a Rally crashed fatally at the Fontainebleau hill climb on May 25; born 1897 in the département de la Somme.
† 1931 - Count Max Hardegg (A) in a Bugatti got killed at the 10 km climb of Baden-Baden–Geroldsau-Plättig–Bühler Höhe (D) on June 28.
† 1932 - André Boillot, 41, (F) in a 301 sports Peugeot crashed into a tree during Ars-La Châtre (F) practice on June 4 and died five days later.
† 1933 - Fréderic Toselli and mechanic Jacques Peltran crashed in practice for April 30 Val de Cuech. Peltran was dead, Toselli died on May 5.
† 1933 - Nino Grassi (I) died at Pontedecimo-Giovi Climb, near Genova (I) on June 18.
† 1934 - "Eric Lora" and 6 spectators died, many more were injured, when his Bugatti ran into the crowd at Fontainebleau (F) on May 13.
† 1935 - Seven spectators died and 18 were injured when Joseph Cattanéo's Bugatti skidded into the crowd at Château-Thierry (F) on April 7.
† 1935 - Robert Cazaux, 29, (F) in a Bugatti T35B, won at Sézanne (F) on June 16. On a climb of honor his car overturned and he was killed.
† 1935 - Rudolf Steinweg (D) in a Bugatti died at Guggerberg Climb (H) during practice on Saturday, November 2. He was 45 at this time.
† 1936 - Georges Soulié (DZ) in a 20 hp sports Delahaye crashed during morning practice at Bouzaréa Climb (Algeria) on December 6.
† 1950 - Joe Fry (GB) in the Freikaiserwagen crashed during practice at the Blandford Climb (GB) end of July.




Summarized History

During the early history of mountain climbs, or hill climbs if preferred, few events could compare in age and significance with La Turbie, Semmering or Mont Ventoux. Although French courses like Chanteloup and Gaillon were older, they did not belong in the same class as the great international events. Similarly, the myriad of tiny British hill climbs were far less important, few were permanent fixtures, and most were merely local club events. Petersham Hill and Dashwood Hill, the earliest of British hill climbs, were run only a few times. In contrast, Shelsley-Walsh, the best known climb in the British Isles, has a long history with international events.

The first Semmering meeting in 1899 was not a pure contest but more of a club outing. But vehicles were already split into two groups; motorcycles and cars. The following year was the first serious event and contestants were now divided into five categories. By 1901, vehicles were split into four classes by weight, using the same rules as applied by the ACF for automobile racing. However, there was an additional category for electro-mobiles, to accommodate the Lohner-Porsche Electric, which was driven by it's young designer Ferdinand Porsche. For the 1903 event, the electric class was dropped with regulations, which were close to those outlined by the ACF. After 1904 the AIACR regulations were adopted, to be described here.

The most important mountain climbs were held in the Alps and Lower Alps region, a mountain chain extending across Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Yugoslavia. Although the Carpathian Mountains stretched over Czechoslovakia and Poland, mountain climbs in these countries took place mostly at other locations near large towns. These early mountain roads provided a challenge for the ancient cars to demonstrate their ability in mastering steep roads and being able to go anywhere. Some of these first courses were not really steep, but for cars of the time with little power any snaking mountain road was a challenge. Let's look at some of those important early Alpine events of which the Bernina near St. Moritz in Switzerland was acknowledged as the hardest mountain climb. During their life span, some courses were changed in length and the data shown for the following events refers to the last year indicated.

Venue
Years
Height Difference
Maximum Gradient
Course Length
- Aosta-Gran San Bernardo (Italy)1920-19491890 m for 30.5 km course33.910 km
- Bernina (Switzerland)1929-19301216 m8.6% (1 in 11.62)16.530 km
- Gaisberg (Austria)1929-1933 800 m12.7% (1 in 7.87)11.900 km
- Grossglockner (Austria & Germany)1935-19391276 m 12% (1 in 8.33)12.600 km
- Kesselberg (Germany)1905-1935245 m6% (1 in 16.66) 5.000 km
- Klausenpass (Switzerland)1922-19341273 m8.5% (1 in 11.76)21.500 km
- La Turbie (France) 1897-1939, started on a 17 km course, was changed several times and as of 1924, a 6.3 km course was used.
- Mont Ventoux (France)1902-19491599 m13% (1 in 7.69)21.600 km
- Schauinsland (Germany)1925-1949418 m10% (1 in 10)12.000 km
- Semmering (Austria)1899-1933 418 m10.4% (1 in 9.61)10.000 km
- Stelvio (Italy)1926-19391200 m11% (1 in 9.09)14.000 km
- Tauern Climb (Austria)1925-1927856 m21% (1 in 4.76)20 km in 1926
- Zirler Berg (Austria)1914-1930456 m22% (1 in 4.54)5.000 km


1897The first known organized climb was held from Nice to La Turbie on January 31, 1897.
1898The event at Chanteloup Hill in Paris on November 27, 1898 is often claimed to be the first hill climb.
1904On June 20, 1904, a meeting of the International Automobile Clubs was held in Homburg (Germany) and the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus was formed at this meeting. In addition to the German Automobile Club, the founding members of the A.I.A.C.R. were the Automobile Clubs of France, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, America, Russia, Denmark and Portugal, who all took part in the meeting.
1914-1918WW I broke out August 2, shortly after the 1914 Susa-Moncenisio Mountain Climb. During the war, hill climbs ceased in Europe but continued in the USA and Australia. After the end of hostilities on November 11, 1918, the Gilly-Burtigny Climb at Geneva, Switzerland on June 1, 1919, was the first hill climb in Europe.
1922The A.I.A.C.R. (Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus) formed an international subcommittee, the C.S.I. (Commission Sportive Internationale) to look after all aspects of motor racing, draw up regulations and introduce the rules for international GP racing. Members of the CSI were representatives from France, Italy, England, America, Belgium and Austria.
1927 The A.I.A.C.R. eliminated the touring car category, which until now had comprised ten classes. This left only two categories, racing cars and sports cars. Touring cars had been nothing else than highly tuned sports cars with more than two seats and, since the rules were hard to control, the touring car category was simply thrown out.
1930The A.I.A.C.R. held annual European Hill Climb Championships for drivers, from 1930 until 1933.
1939-1945WW II started September 1, 1939. Events already scheduled in Europe were cancelled and racing came to a virtual stop in Europe. After hostilities had ended during May 1945 in Europe, the first hill climb was staged on August 18, 1945 at Naish House, Clapton-in-Gordano (Portishead), England and was won by Walter Watkins (Watkins-Nash Special).
1946After WW II, Germany was barred from international racing till 1950. Therefore German cars and drivers as a general rule did not compete outside Germany during this period. Hans Stuck had dual citizenship and used his Austrian licence.




Hill Climbs or Mountain Climbs?

The fastest ever to climb the 21.5 km (13.36 mi) long course of the Klausen Pass was Caracciola in his 1934 Mercedes-Benz W25 grand prix car at an average of 83.9 km/h or 52.1 mph. It took him 15 minutes and 22.2 seconds to climb 1273 vertical meters (4,176 ft). It sounds absurd to call this giant of a sprint run merely a hill climb. Longer climbs like Mont Ventoux, St. Bernhard, Klausen, and others are better referred to as 'Mountain Climbs'. But in the end it is up to the reader what term to use since there were also comparatively short climbs like Gaillon, Gometz-le Châtel, Griffoulet and Chanteloup on the continent and the 1000 yards long Shelsley Walsh, England's premier hill climb. These small hills could be conquered in less than one minute. Except for Shelsley Walsh and a few other well known British climbs, the myriad of short hill climbs on the British Isles are excluded from the list only after 1905.

One century ago in England, they coined the term 'hill climb', when events were held every other week using convenient little hills in the country side. This English term "hill climb" has remained to this day and is applied generally to all uphill sprints including the giants of the Alps and the 'Race to the top of the World', the 20 km long Pikes Peak in the Rocky Mountains. In France and Belgium they are called "Courses de côte"; in Austria, Germany and Switzerland they are referred to as "Bergrennen"; "corsa in salita" in Italy; in Poland "wyścig górski"; in Portugal "Rampa"; in "Spain "Subida" or "Carrera en Cuesta" or in Catalonia they use "Pujada" or "Pujada en Costa" and "Cursa".

The Swedish word is "backlopp" from backe = hill (related to English "bank") and lopp = run, race (related to English "leap"). "Backtävling" (hill competition) has also been used but is easly confused with ski jumping. The word lid / liden that can be seen as part in some of the Swedish hill climb names is an ancient Swedish word for uphill road.

Mountain or hill climbing lacks that certain excitement seen in a direct side by side duel, where drivers have to make instantaneous decisions. In a mountain climb, drivers and cars both must constantly give 100 per cent since they are racing against the clock and therefore race against themselves. They need to be fully concentrated and dedicated to what they are doing. Split seconds lost by making a mistake, cannot be made up since there is just one run to the top. Hill climbing, one of the toughest and most demanding forms of motor sport, was part of the calendar of the world's greatest drivers during the twenties and thirties.



Belgium, France and North Africa

The French and Belgian events had looked rather incomplete until Alessandro Silva came to my rescue by providing additional information, doubling the number to over 120 different venues. The data was visibly still incomplete, lacking primary source material. This situation changed, when Marc Ceulemans from Bruxelles contributed new facts from his vast data collection in the form of two large list of Belgian, French and North African hill climb events. There is no question in my mind, that without Marc's generous help the information on this list would indeed be very incomplete. The effort Marc puts into his superb data compilation can be seen by his following primary sources.

Primary Sources used by Marc Ceulemans for his research:
Belgian newspapers: La Dernière Heure – La Gazette de Liège (Liège) – La Meuse (Liège) – Le Matin (Anvers) – Le Patriote Illustré – Le Soir – Le Sporting (Bruxelles) – Les Sports (Bruxelles) – L'Etoile Belge – Neptune – Vélo - Sport (Bruxelles).
Swiss newspapers: La Gazette de Lausanne – Le Journal de Genève.
French newspapers: Excelsior, journal illustré quotidien (Paris) – La Dépêche de Toulouse – La Tribune de l'Aube – L'Auto – Le Figaro – Le Journal (Paris) – Le Petit Journal, Paris – Le Petit Parisien – Le Temps, Paris – L'Eclaireur de Nice.
Periodicals: Bulletin Officiel du Royal Automobile Club de Belgique (Bruxelles) – Englebert Magazine (Liège) – La Belgique Automobile (Bruxelles) – La Moto et l'auto, revue technique et sportive (Bruxelles) – La revue Sportive Illustrée (Bruxelles) – L'Actualité Automobile (Paris) – L'Automobile (Weekly, Belgium) – L'Automobile Belge, Organe officiel de la Fédération Belge des Automobiles Clubs Provinciaux (Bruxelles) – L'Illustration Sportive (Bruxelles) – Mon auto, revue mensuelle dédiée au tourisme automobile (Bruxelles) – Motor, Organe officiel du Royal Motor Union (Liège) – and so many others, …

French and Belgian hill climb names mostly began with "Côte…", "Côte de…", "Côte du…", "Côte des…" and the original French language of these events was changed for this list. I hope that titles are still recognizable in their present wording and any errors are entirely mine.



Great Britain

Great Britain deserves to have a separate list. The myriad of tiny local club events during 1900-1904 are all tabulated. Since hill climbs on the British Isles were of a different character than the continental events, only the major British events are shown from 1905 onwards. It is therefore important to understand the special nature of the British racing scene at that time.

While driving speeds were not restricted on the continent, from 1896 Great Britain had imposed a speed limit of 12 mph on all public roads, which was enforced everywhere. Therefore racing on public roads was officially impossible. Since public highways could not be legally closed, hill climbs took place out in the country. This was possible because long-distance traffic went by rail, and local traffic mostly consisted of farm traffic or cyclists except on market day. Organizers preferred a remote location, to avoid attracting too much attention and not to annoy the locals with their crowds and noise. Without the use of road circuits, the Brooklands track was not available before 1907, the various British automobile clubs held their club meetings on short stretches of rural and main roads, which were almost deserted. Contests were staged as speed hill climbs and normally took place over not more than a mile of road, sometimes only a quarter of a mile, or speed trials on a short, flat piece of road to avoid the appearance of sustained law-breaking.

This situation was influenced by the 'Horse Lobby' -the upper class-, which had sufficient clout to stifle the whole motor industry in its early days. It also has to be remembered that Britain was the first to have an industrial revolution and it is therefore absurd that France and Germany took to the automobile and Britain did not. The horse lobby in pre-WW1 Britain was a relatively small minority, but they dictated the course of events.

It was customary to give the average speed instead of the elapsed time over the measured distance. With the increase in speeds, often neither times nor speeds were published because the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland (ACGBI) was already looked upon with suspicion and the speed given was not necessarily the true speed attained. The 12 mph limit was commonly ignored, while normal touring cars reached speeds of 20 mph. As of January 1, 1904, the overall open road speed limit in Great Britain was raised to 20 mph and remained in force until 1926.

In 1905 about 26 hill climbs took place, and this rose to at least 48 during the 1907 season. The number of meetings fell to 18 in 1914 when WW I began. After hostilities ended, hill climbing restarted in 1919 and by 1924, about 37 events were held. But the next year, only four climbs took place. An accident at Kop was the spark, which caused the ban by the RAC on April 2, 1925 on any further meetings on public roads because of difficulties in controlling spectators in places to which the public had the right of access. Doug Nye commented, "Francis Giveen's Bugatti accident at Kop hill-climb was immensely damaging for British motor sport. By triggering the ban on the only proper vestiges of motor sport on mainland public roads it really screwed us up effectively - in this respect - for evermore…"



The Extremes of Automobile Hill Climbs 1897-1949

Probably not to be found anywhere including in the Guinness Book of World Records.


The longest hill climb --- 66.500 km or 41.323 mi – Cuneo-Colle della Maddalena (Italy).
The shortest hill climb --- 190 meter or 209 yd – Kypperedsjölider (Borås, Sweden).

The steepest hill climb --- 27% or 1 in 3.70 – Salzberg (Berchtesgaden, Germany).
The flattest hill climb --- 1.3% or 1 in 76.92 – Grand-Saconnex (Geneva, Switzerland).

The fastest hill climb --- 174.757 km/h or 108.594 mph average – Gaillon (SE of Rouen, France) on October 10, 1920.
The slowest hill climb --- 5.942 km/h or 3.692 mph – Mount Washington (Gorham, NH, USA) on August 31, 1899.

The highest elevation at finish --- 4,275 m or 14,110 ft – Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs, CO, USA).
The lowest elevation at finish --- estimated at 137 m or ~450 ft – Bouley Bay (Jersey, UK).

The largest height difference --- 1,890 m or 6,237 ft – Aosta-Gran San Bernardo (Italy).
The smallest height difference --- 10 m or 33 ft – Grand-Saconnex (Geneva, Switzerland).

The longest lasting hill climb --- 2 hours, 10 minutes, 00 seconds – Mount Washington on Aug 31, 1899.
The briefest hill climb --- 14.9 seconds – Kypperedsjölider (Borås, Sweden) on October 7, 1934.








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© 2011 Hans Etzrodt , Leif Snellman - Last updated: 14.07.2014