Munkebjerg Hillclimb. The mother of all hillclimbs! – well, within the confines of little Denmark anyway.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. A hillclimb? In Denmark? But isn’t Denmark utterly flat? Uhmm… well yes, it is pretty flat. But my fellow countrymen have managed to find a wonderfully twisty piece of tarmac with an incline. With that covered, you can obviously trust any half-committed motorsport enthusiast – regardless of nationality – to organise a hillclimb.
Now in its 19th year the Munkebjerg Hillclimb at Vejle Fjord in Denmark has truly cemented itself as THE hillclimb event of the season in Denmark – and with good reason too. The run up the hillside is almost precisely one mile long, and rises approximately 245 feet in the process, with a max inclination of 16% at its steepest point. But it’s not just the boring statistics that make up the Munkebjerg Hillclimb. The tarmac is quite smooth as it slithers its way from the shoreline of the scenic Vejle Fjord, into a hard right before passing through the very narrow “Viaduct” and into the thick forest. Then it’s up to the epic left-hand switchback “Casino Corner” before a slightly more open switchback corner in the opposite direction. From here the last half of the run becomes rather fast is it goes through a succession of flowing bends up to the finish line at Munkebjerg Casino. There are some quite challenging corners, but there’s still a beautiful flowing balance to the climb. Add to that the stunning scenery, charming open paddock outside the Casino, and the great camaraderie among the participants, and it’s easy to see why Munkebjerg Hillclimb has evolved into being the best attended – both by drivers and by spectators – of the seven hillclimbs & sprints which make up the Danish HMS Hillclimb/Sprint Championship.
Last year I was charging up the hill myself, and I had naturally signed up this year again. I was so looking forward to it too, when this happened:
So sadly I had to drive to Munkebjerg in my stock BMW 2002 as a spectator. On a positive note though, after a rainy Saturday, the Sunday turned out to be a lovely summers day with clear blue skies. As I parked up in a corner of the paddock, I immediately bumped into some old friends, and that seemed to be a continuing theme of the day. So much as I would have preferred to have been blasting up the hill myself, it still turned out to be a great day out.
The line-up at Munkebjerg seems to get both bigger but also more and more diverse for every year, with the 107 participating cars ranging from a reasonably strong pre-war contingent of six cars up to late-80’s youngtimers. For me though, it’s especially those very early cars that I find fascinating. We’re lucky that these enthusiasts keep bringing their rare pre-war sports cars for us to enjoy. Ernest Kristensen is a regular with his pristine Jaguar SS100 from ’35. But also Magnus Neergaard in his Riley and Sven Algren in his blown MG Magnette seem hooked on the Munkebjerg fix. This year they even got company from a couple of Swedes where especially Roy Palm’s Bugatti Type 51 was particularly impressive.
The two-stroke Saab 93’s and 96’s are also always great fun to experience, as they scream their way up the hill – some of them even with surprising pace considering their limited power output. There’s always a strong representation of Fiat 600’s, Mini’s, Lancia A112’s and of course fast Escorts too. But there was great variety with some new cars attending such as Erik Pedersen’s recently finished and very purposeful ’79 Mazda RX-7. My own personal favourite though has to be Enzo Santangelo with his amazing ’73 Fiat X1/9 Dallara. Both driver and car have become living legends on Munkebjerg – the X1/9 always perfectly presented, Enzo always a quietly spoken Gentleman, and their performance up the hill always very dedicated and spectator friendly, usually getting him into the top three.
The many participating classics are divided up into 12 different groups, which start the day with two test runs up the hill. Then the competition begins with three timed heats, where their combined time decides the final result. I had of course been planning some in-car footage from my BMW 2002, but with my weapon of choice dumping all its engine oil, that obviously wasn’t going to happen. But arguably, you dear reader, are left better off, as I instead managed to get my GoPro installed in Per G. Hansen’s thoroughly sexy ’76 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.0 in full Rothmans livery. You’re on a winning streak here, as both car and driver are no doubt capable of things we would have never achieved with me behind the steering wheel of my little BMW…
At the end of the day, Per’s brave efforts at Munkebjerg, with three timed runs consistently in the low 59 seconds, earned him an overall fifth place and third in class. Overall winner was Heino Mejer in his vicious ’83 Volvo 242 Turbo. While Enzo Santangelo managed to hurdle his well-prepared Fiat X1/9 to the fastest run of the day in his second heat, with a hugely impressive 56.634 seconds, he still only achieved an overall second place this year. Third on the podium was Johnny Pedersen with his ’90 BMW M3 (e30).
However, Munkebjerg Hillclimb is not just about the winner. It’s about the great camaraderie, the many fabulous classic racing cars and the picture-perfect settings. I’ll most certainly be back for more next year, and you really ought to as well…