After an incredibly stressful build-up to the race at Glasbach, Charlie Martin was faced with a race against time – and of course, a race on a brand new circuit to content with. She tells us in her own words exactly what’s happened in the past week.
It’s fair to say that I’m not someone to shy away from a challenge, but even by my standards what I attempted to pull off at Glasbach was pushing the boat out a little. Conscious of the fact that I didn’t want to harass the team who were rebuilding the car I managed to wait until Monday afternoon before sending a gentle text asking simply how it was going.
A picture came back showing an engine sat on the floor of a workshop. Right, work in progress then… and a 900km journey ahead of me, and a hill I’ve never driven, in a country I’ve never raced in where I don’t speak the language.
My journey to Glasbach seemed like a race against time before I even got in the car. My logistics were pushed to the limit as I travelled across Europe on every conceivable form of transport available – taxi to the station, train to Luton, bus to the airport, flight to Lyon, metro to the station, train across France, taxi to meet the team, drive 650km to Germany.
Amazingly, it was going well until a 90-minute wait in Lyon for baggage reclaim threw me behind, but I finally arrived with the team around 8.30pm on Thursday evening. They’d worked from dusk until dawn to rebuild the car in a matter of days (finding the right car parts took a long time) and as I saw it sitting in the workshop ready to race it was a huge boost to my morale. They invited me to eat with them once we’d loaded the van and I was on the road for 10.30pm, pulling over to sleep at 1.30am.
Getting to grips with the Glasbach circuit
Back on the road for 7am the next morning I drove non-stop for 5 hours to arrive in the little village of Bad Liebenstien just after lunch time. I’d been in regular contact with Kevin Ferner who is part of the organisation team and had to speak with him en route as the electrical connection for the tail lift on my van had snapped the previous evening and I couldn’t unload the car. Kevin kindly sourced one (it was 20 years old and came from the GDR) and he had it waiting for me on arrival along with someone to fit it – the hillclimb community never fails to amaze me.
With limited time to drive the course I took a few passenger rides with Paride Macario in a borrowed 911 before joining Team Faggioli for dinner that evening (after finally taking a shower). The next morning was sunny and dry and as I began preparing for the first drive I was thankful to have the support of a team around me; my stomach was churning and my head spinning as I sat strapping myself into the car.
I was not in happy place, but pulling up on the start line, engine purring inches behind me, I regained my focus and eased the car away only to lose the back end on the first bend! I was convinced that the setup was all wrong so I drove up incredibly slowly, but everyone else on the grid confirmed that there was no grip in the first sector and reaching the top I felt elated. I had a long way to go, but I felt a million times better than I had just moments earlier.
That evening I joined the Simone Faggioli’s team once more along with my friend Fabien Bouduban who races with them in a Norma sports prototype. I wish I knew some Italian but Andrea Bormolini speaks good English and over dinner he offered to take me for an early morning practice run. The course opens at 5am on Sunday and while I was tired already I reasoned it’s better to know the course and drink coffee all day than to miss out on some vital research!
Practice makes perfect
It was still night time as we set off from the hotel, and I was taking notes and absorbing as much as possible – I knew this session could make or break my race times. I’d gone 20 seconds quicker on my second practice run and I wanted to keep pushing as my confidence returned.
The course itself is flanked by rails the whole way up, it twists and turns with little in the way of markers to get your bearings and finding the right line at the speeds we reach (230km/h in the FR) is critical to carrying speed.
On the first run I took 4 seconds off to post a 2:42:579, not bad but I was struggling to downshift in a few corners and still backing off into the fast fifth & sixth gear bends. I guess part of me just didn’t want to fully commit after the early wobbles and the rapid rebuild.
In the second run went better and I dipped under 2.40 to post a 2:39:496 but again I was bogging down in fourth gear a number of times as I fought the gearbox. I think it was purely down to technique and made a mental note to preload the stick.
By 6pm I felt my energy levels flagging as I struggled to stay alert for the final run of the weekend. It all came together but I had to ease off a little due to yellow flags. Still, a 2:40.090 was good enough to take 3rd in group (in the European Championship they combine your two best times) ahead of some fast F3 cars and I also took fastest lady too!
To be stood on top of the podium that evening felt like a fairytale ending, I was very emotional and both physically and mentally exhausted but over the moon. The odds have never felt so stacked against me and I owe so much to the people who helped get me back on the track, thank you to everyone who made this possible!
We’re sure you’ll all join us in sending our congratulations to Charlie on what was an outstanding achievement, even more so given the hectic build-up to the race. Come back to the Euro Car Parts blog next week to find out what Charlie Martin has been up to this week, and how preparations are going ahead of the next round of the Hillclimb championship.