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Haltech Heroes: Manuel Michalko and his Hill Climb Citroen Saxo

If ever there was a car totally deserving the title “pocket rocket” this would have to be it.

This Citroen Saxo weighs in at under 790kg, redlines at 8000rpm and punches out in excess of 350hp. And it does it all with an engine capacity of just 1150cc!

The car was originally built to Group A specs and as such was limited by the class rules.

Manuel wanted to reduce the car’s weight and add a few performance mods which would make the car go faster and handle better but that meant moving up to the Open Class.

Since the original engine used in the car was a 1.6L – it competed in the 1.6L Open Class. Manuel chalked up five consecutive wins in the 1.6L class before deciding to move up to a bigger capacity class.

In the 2L class the rules allow either a naturally aspirated engine up to 2L in capacity or a turbocharged engine using a 1.7 parity multiplier. Manuel opted to go with the second option.

The engine block came from a modern Citroen with a factory displacement was 1400cc. The bore was reduced with sleeves and a custom crankshaft so the displacement dropped down to 1150cc.

Cylinder head porting has been done by Nemeth Motortechnik in Germany while ECU Performance in Austria assembled the engine.

The turbocharger at the time of this story was a factory twin scroll item from a Peugeot RCZ R, it has since been upgraded.
 
With the new turbo the engine is capable of producing over 350hp and 300Nm of torque, with the maximum torque available at 5000RPM.

A SADEV 6-speed full sequential gearbox was fitted giving Manuel a flat-shift option.

The Saxo sports Bilstein Cup suspension at the rear and a fully adjustable KW Competition system up the front. 

Interestingly, Manuel uses drag racing brakes from Wilwood with carbon brake pads to slow down his hill climb rocket. 

The tyres are AVONs, 10 inch-wide and 15 inch in diameter.

It its previous guise, the Saxo used Haltech’s Platinum Sport ECU but the new setup has been upgraded to the Elite Series engine management system. 

The ECU controls everything from ignition, injection and electronic throttle through to boost control, flat shift and traction control.

The steering wheel control panel gives Manuel instant access to:
ignition, wipers, interior fan, onboard cam, power sterring, IQ3 display toggle, IQ3 warning lights, boost control rotary trim, ALS control, traction control, launch control.

“The plan was to control every function of the car at this location. In my old setup I had the control panel next to the driver’s seat on the center tunnel.”

While not as massive as on some Pro level time attack cars, hill climb aero is still imposing and an integral part of a competitive package.

“I am convinced Aerodynamics is one of the most important factors in Hill Climb.”
 
“Due to the nature of hill climb tracks we don’t reach high speed levels, so for us it’s less about the air resistance and more about the downforce.”

“The speed through corners is very important so the whole team is focused on that area because that’s what makes the car quick.”
 
The aero package has been designed and developed by Manuel and his father.

They’ve started by making a 1:10 scale model of the car and tested in a home-made wind tunnel using a household vacuum cleaner as the win source.

Beautiful scenery, screaming machinery, high revs, wide bodies with big aero – it’s not hard to see why Hill Climb racing is popular not just with the competitors but with racing fans as well.

It’s a cross between rally, time attack and street racing with some of the best driving you’ll ever see!

“At Hill Climb races you only have one car on the track. If you make a mistake, it’s all on you. You can win or lose a race in just two or three corners.”