You may indeed be excused for asking, “What summer break?”, since in reality there is nothing further from the truth.

Some people actually do put their race cars away during
the summer months, but not the hard core nuts like
yours truly. There is no truth in the claim that real racing
enthusiasts put their toys away in summer to go to
the beach. In fact, I carry out regular tests to check the
veracity of that statement. I visit a number of garages
on a regular basis, and I certainly don’t see any let off in
the amount of work being done on race cars all over the
island.

Darren Camilleri made an excellent debut with his Tatuus
Honda 2000 which he virtually built himself

It is true that the ‘Time Attack’ championship at the
Autodromo Valle dei Templi at Racalmuto, does in fact
miss the month of August, but there is a very valid reason
for this. In that month, the 2.6km circuit gets its annual
going over. Things get repaired, the rooms in the hotel
right there in the middle of the circuit get a good going
over and a fresh coat of paint – as do the pit garages,
restaurant, conference room, and other areas. The circuit
itself is constantly being maintained, which is one good
reason why those lap times keep tumbling.

Whilst Racalmuto is on ‘pause’ for August, the CSAI hill
climb scene in Sicily is in full swing. The season started
with the lovely Val D’Anapo Sortino in the Siracusano
this year. I did my first hill climb there in 1980. It was a
happy affair, for the overall winner that year was the very
likeable driver Piero La Pera. As he raced for the same
Catania Corse team for which I have been racing since
1978, there was plenty of partying and celebration on the
Sunday night after the race. Unfortunately, things turned
very sour the following year, when Piero lost his life there,
in one of the most horrific accidents. I still stop at the
roadside memorial at the point where he crashed every
time I am there to salute him. May he rest in peace.

James Dunford had an eventful time at his 4th Salita dei Monti Iblei

Back to 2018. I was planning on competing again this
year – having done so in 2016 and 2017- but unfortunately
the powers that be decided to change the date of the
event, so I had to forget it. Noel Galea was the only driver
taking part this year, and as usual, he acquitted himself
admirably with some excellent times, driving his faithful
Ford Escort Mk 2.

My Mini ran like clockwork all weekend, enabling me to improve on my times

Next on the calendar was another of my favourites – the
8km ‘Giarre Montesalice Milo’ hill climb on the East side
of Mount Etna. This was the location of my very first win
in Sicily, in 1980. This year was the fifth time I took part in
this challenging hill climb. Unfortunately, things didn’t go
according to plan, for I had a drive shaft failure on the first
run, and ended up spectating for the rest of the weekend.

Organizer Nicola Cirrito presented me with this lovely memento, remembering 40 years since my first Monti Iblei

On to everyone’s favourite; the 61st ‘Salita dei Monti Iblei’
at Chiaramonte Gulfi in late August. Six Maltese drivers
competed this year; Didier Bugeja (Peugeot 106), Noel
Galea (Escort 2000), James Dunford (Radical PR6), Darren
Camilleri (Tatuus Honda 2000), Mark Micallef (Force
Suzuki), and myself. I was celebrating forty years since
my first hill climb there in 1978. The Mini ran faultlessly all
weekend, so I was able to improve my times with every
run. The cherry on the cake was not so much the trophy
for a class win, but the memento that the organiser,
Nicola Cirrito, presented to me in remembrance of those
40 years. It was a lovely gesture, just the sort of thing
that makes Nicola, and his charming wife Anna Maria the
best race organisers in Sicily.

As I write this article, on Wednesday 19th September, Noel
Galea has just returned from his 3rd or 4th successful hill
climb at Erice. His father and son, Jes and Ryan Mangion,
and myself, are presently loading our race cars on trailers
again to board the Virtu Ferry tomorrow for another
stab at the fastest and oldest hill climb of them all; the
64th edition of the ‘Coppa Nissena’, on the 5km hill from
Capodarso to Caltanissetta. This is my third time at
Caltanissetta, and I love it more after every climb. I’ve
done a bit of work on the engine since Chiaramonte, which
should add a few more horses, but unfortunately, I have
been unable to do any testing here in the last couple of
weeks. The only testing ground available locally is the ¼
mile drag strip run by the MDRA, which is currently being
resurfaced.

Malta group in festive mood at Chiaramonte Gulfi

One week after the Coppa Nissena I was hoping to
compete in another nostalgic hill; the famous ‘Floriopoli
Cerda’, which runs along the first 9 kilometres of the
famous Targa Florio, about which I wrote last month.
Unfortunately, again due to a late change of date, I will
have to forgo this one too. However, all is not lost, for
on the weekend of the 30th September, the Island Car
Club will be promoting another hill climb at Mtahleb,
and if all goes according to plan, I intend on competing
in that, too.

That will just about bring the hill climb season to an end,
for most, but it won’t mean no racing. The next round of
the excellent ‘Time Attack’ championship at Racalmuto
takes place just one week later. The October round is
always a very popular one with Maltese motorsport
enthusiasts. In fact, with three weeks still to go, there
are already 17 Maltese drivers who have entered for this
great event.

Noel Galea has been the most prolific hill climber this season

It’s not all over yet either, for just one week after that,
it will be time for the annual ‘Mdina Grand Prix’, which
will also include a hill climb this year, sponsored by my
friend Joe Gerada of Thomas Smith. This will be held at
Mtahleb once again, and if my good old faithful Mini is
still in one piece, and if the organisers accept my entry,
I will be happy to participate in that one too. It’ll be a
busy weekend. Apart from the hill climb on Thursday,
I have promised my friends at the Historic Motorcycle
Club, that I will take a few of my old motorcycles to the
Mdina concourse on Friday, too.

Did somebody say something about a summer break?

JOE ANASTASI

© 2018 – VIDA Magazine