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Motorsports: The annual Vernègues hill climb

We recently attended the annual hill climb in Vernègues, France, a small town located approximately an hour away from Marseilles. Typically held in the spring, the race takes place on a 1.2-kilometer-long section of a public road called D22 that features a 9% grade.

This year, participants from all over the region showed up at the starting grid with an eclectic selection of cars ranging from home-made racers to purpose-built open-top single-seaters. One of the most impressive machines we saw was the blue BMW 3 Series Compact (e36) pictured below. We have no idea how it was built, what it’s powered by or who drives it but it was one of the fastest cars out there by a country mile. We also really liked the first-gen Renault Twingo and the two Talbot Sambas.

It’s interesting to note that most of the cars that competed in the hill climb are roughly 20-years old. There were exceptions, notably a Peugeot 208, a late-model Renault Clio and a Fiat 500 Abarth, but economy cars from the late 1980s and early 1990s were unquestionably the most common machines at the event. A participant we briefly talked to explained racing with an older economy car is a no-brainer: most of them are light straight from the factory, they’re simple to fix, easy to tune and cheap to purchase.

Simca 1000s were a dime a dozen but, upon closer inspection, most of them were basically rebuilt from the ground up and nearly every component stamped with a Simca parts number was tossed out decades ago. By contrast, the 205s and the Super 5s are stripped and tuned but they’re still relatively close to stock – a few are even street-legal.

We’ve compiled a gallery of pictures we took during the race. Don’t hesitate to shoot us a message if you want more pics of a particular car or high-res shots.

8 thoughts on “Motorsports: The annual Vernègues hill climb

  1. Thoroughly cool! Love the E36s, the Alpine, and the superCinqs have a metric ton of character! Also the Ascona is pretty nice, too. Was the blue R8 a real Gordini or just a replica?

  2. Great to see so many econo-boxes from the mid 80’s to mid 90’s – the zenith of small car design in my view. They were lightweight so quite large for passenger/luggage – this led to decent performance and economy from a selection of lowish tech easy to maintain engines in cars that could be “improved” on a budget.
    Your moderns are all well and good but packed to the rafters electronics etc that they are factory fix only – and so bloody expensive to boot Lol !!
    I’ll take any Uno/205/Supercinq/AX/Samba/106 – the list goes on

    • I think the guy racing the Twingo is ahead of the game – in 10-20 years, you’ll see a lot more of them at these small hill climbs.

      It’s small, it’s light, it was built for over a decade and it remained relatively simple, it was never a complicated car. Plus, it’s dirt cheap, you can buy a worn-out model (so perfect to build into a race car) for like 200 euros.

      I have to say, I attended the launch of the new Twingo last fall and I really liked that car. That’ll be a fun one to turn into a light, cheap race car too, though that’s at least 25 years away..!

  3. Pingback: Motorsports: The 16th annual Rallye National du Laragnais | Ran When Parked

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