Simola Day 1: All the results, background, interviews

  • Franco Scribante (1970 Chevron) takes Conqueror again
  • Charles Arton runner-up in 1979 March Formula Atlantic
  • ‘Spirit of Dave Charlton’ award to car guru Dickon
CLASSIC CAR FRIDAY PODIUM: May 5 was the first race day of the 2017 Simola Hillclimb weekend. Winners (from left) were Charles Arton (second) , Franco Scribante (first) and Peter Jenkins (third). Image: Motorpress
CLASSIC CAR FRIDAY PODIUM: May 5 was the first race day of the 2017 Simola Hillclimb weekend. Winners (from left) were Charles Arton (second) , Franco Scribante (first) and Peter Jenkins (third). Image: ROB TILL

By Special Correspondent
COLIN MILEMAN

KNYSNA, South Africa, May 5 2017 – The eighth annual Jaguar Simola Hillclimb got under way in Knysna on Friday (May 5 2017) with Classic Car Friday setting the tone for an action-packed three days of racing.

Nearly 60 Classic Car entries made it to the start with South African racing legend and Daytona 24-Hour winner Tony Martin in the ceremonial role of Grand Marshal and waving the drivers off on the 1.9km high-speed ascent.

TONY MARTIN: SA racing icon was Grand Marshal at the 2017 Simola Hillclimb. Image: Rob Till
TONY MARTIN: The SA racing icon was Grand Marshal at the 2017 Simola Hillclimb. Image: ROB TILL

Once again it was two-time winner Franco Scribante who dominated the proceedings in his 1970 Chevron B19. He was fastest in all three practice sessions and the two qualifying runs leading to the finals.

FRANCO SCRIBANTE: South African racing legend and his 1970 Chevron B19 dominated the 2017 Simola Classic Car Friday.  Image: ROB TILL

Hot and sunny conditions greeted the competitors ton Friday morning then clouds rolled in and dropped some showers just before the final runs.

Scribante set his fastest time in the second qualifying session, 41.554sec/average speed 164.6km/h. He had seemed set to beat his personal Classic Car Friday record of 41.432sec but that changed with the damp conditions.

Nevertheless, his 41.671sec was impressive, beating Charles Arton to win Class H5 by 1.8sec – despite Arton lopping more than 2.4sec off his winning time from 2015 in a completely restored 1979 March Formula Atlantic single-seater.

‘FASTEST IN A PRICELESS COLLECTION’

Simola newcomer Peter Jenkins powered his 1971 Chevron B19 to third (46.558sec) during the first qualifying session. His car picked up a misfire as he pulled off for his class final that cleared into the fast right-hander for turn one and he salvaged third in H5 – by far the fastest car among in the priceless paddock collection at the bottom of Simola Hill.

READ MORE Simola Hillclimb features on Carman’s Corner

Among the ‘Golden Oldies’ it was classic car journalist Stuart Grant who took the class win in H1 in Rodney’s Green’s 1929 Bugatti Type 35b 12.5sec ahead of second-placed Roger Lewis (1958 MG ‘Hedgehog’). Jacques Steenkamp (1935 Riley Sport Special) was third.

STUART GRANT: Journalist and classic-car expert and his 1929 Bugatti Type 35b took a clear 12.5sec win in the Golden Oldies class at Simola 2017. Image: ROB TILL

Malcolm Uytenbogaart led Class H2 in his Ford V8-powered Sunbeam Tiger (56.667sec) followed by two Jaguar E-Types – Ron Hollis in a 1966 model and Alexander Krahe in his 1964 car.

H3 was won by Gavin Rooke (1970 Porsche 911 / 55.238sec) ahead of Anton Rollino (MG B GT V8) and Craig Wessels and It was an all-British H4, wth Chris Champion the winner (1959 Austin Healey 3000 / 58.969sec) from Rodney Green (1964 MGB) and Ashley Ellis (1965 Austin Healey Sprite).

Trevor Tuck’s 1973 Alfa Romeo Giulia Rally (52.272sec) took Class H6 from Francis Cusens (1978 Lancia Beta) and Peter Kaye-Eddie (1966 BMW 2002).

There was a fantastic duel in Class H7, with Knysna resident Brent Watts beating rivals Graeme Nathan (1972 BMW ) and Enzo Kuun (1972 Datsun 240z) with a time of 47.650sec.

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WHAT HILLCLIMBS USED TO BE ALL ABOUT: Jacques Steenkamp and his 1935 Riley Sport Special was third from the Golden Oldies event. Image: ROB TILL 

Ford V8 power dominated Class H8, Justin Price winning with his1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe’ (48.698sec), followed by Josh Dovey (Ginetta G4R) and Michiel Simons (1980 Ford GT40 replica).

All-or-nothing Top 10 Shootout

THE DAY’S QUALIFYING set the scene for the Top 10 Shootout to determine the 2017 Classic Conqueror title. The session order was slowest to quickest based on qualifying time.

Josh Dovey set off first on the slightly greasy road and set 50.490sec to slot into eighth position. Peter Lindenberg was next in a 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350, scything his way into seventh (50.121sec).

Circuit racer Graham Nathan did one of the most spectacular pre-start line burn-outs in a 3.4-litre BMW CSI and was rewarded with fifth (49.064sec) – his quickest run of the day.

BURNOUT TIME: Graham Nathan warms his wheels at the 2017 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb in a BMW CSi. Image: ROB TILL
BURNOUT TIME: Graham Nathan warms his wheels at the 2017 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb in a 3.4-litre BMW CSi. Image: ROB TILL

Rally champion Kuun was last (51.009sec) in a Datsun, just behind rival Brent Watts (50.841sec). Price set off seventh slot and rocketed his mighty Daytona to fourth with the fastest time of the day (48.545sec).

Ultimately it was down to the expected top-three in the two lightweight Chevron sports racing cars and the March Formula Atlantic. Peter Jenkins was the third-last runner (47.568sec), a second slower than his best qualifying result.

He told me later: “I’m very happy to be on the podium. It was my first Simola – I watched in 2016 but was really surprised by the level of competition this year.

“You have to push really hard to get anywhere close to the times that Franco is doing but I thoroughly enjoyed the event. This is definitely South Africa’s most prestigious motorsport event – nothing can compare with its organisation, facilities and spectators.”

‘NO BEATING MR SCRIBANTE TODAY’

Despite Jenkins’ performance, Arton trounced him to take second with his final dash, crossing the line in 44.925sec. He told me: “I’ve had the car completely restored since I won Classic Car Friday two years ago so my best time today was more than two seconds faster than my winning time in 2015.

“There was no beating Mr Scribante today but I’m pleased with the result – we had a good time… which is what Classic Car Friday is all about.”

All eyes were on Franco Scribante for the last run of the day and he didn’t disappoint, stopping the clock on 42.795sec to take his third Classic Conqueror title and the Jody Trophy.

‘NICE TO HAVE ONE IN THE BAG’

He said later: “We got very close to my record in qualifying but it was a bit greasy for the last two runs – the road was quite dirty and slippery all day. The car is the best it’s ever been so I was confident we could have set a record but I’m very happy with the result – it’s a great win for my entire team.

“It’s nice to get this one in the bag in preparation for (Sunday’s) King of the Hill – I’m greatly looking forward to the next two days of competition.”

The American Tale

ONE OF THE key features of 2017’s Classic Car Friday was the participation of two accomplished racing drivers from the United States, one of them Randy Pobst, a champion in various categories that include two Daytona 24-Hour wins.

GUESTS FROM AMERICA: Randy Pobst (left) and South African export Kai Goddard stroll and chat at the 2017 Simola Hillclimb. Image: Supplied
GUESTS FROM AMERICA: Randy Pobst (left) and South African export Kai Goddard, son of the Simola sporting director and racing driver Geoff Goddard stroll and chat at the 2017 Simola Hillclimb. Image: ROB TILL

He was invited by Jaguar SA – the event’s main sponsor – to compete in its 1983 Jaguar XJS powered by a 5.3-litre V12 engine and liveried in the distinctive white and green colour used by Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) in the 1984 European Touring Car championship.

JAGUAR XJ-S: The automotive weapon of chioce for Jaguar guest Randy Pobst. Image: Rob Till
JAGUAR XJ-S: The automotive weapon of choice for Jaguar’s American  guest Randy Pobst. Image: ROB TILL

The American took the British car to a time of 53.493sec and said later: “The XJS is very much a street car mildly prepared, yet it competed against race cars and did very well. I’m really happy with our results and the car is a delight to drive, the V12 singing all the way up the Hill while flat-out.

“It was great fun and I landed up racing neck-and-neck with two cars with big American V8s – a Ford Capri Perana and a Ford Fairlane. Only 0.4sec separated us in qualifying.

“Simola is quite challenging – a short, fast, twisty run. The smooth, sweeping, corners are very fast and my average speed was almost 130km/h, so it’s a really quick course. I’m glad I had the opportunity to compete in today – it gave me a chance to learn the course before I go out there in the very fast new 423kW Jaguar F-Type SVR for King of the Hill.”

Another American guest driver – he was instrumental in securing Pobst for this year’s Simola.- was Kai Goddard, son of the event’s sporting director Geoff Goddard and a lead professional driver for the Inde Motorsports Ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

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NOSTALGIA TRIP: Kai Goddard in Tony Viana’s Stannic Group N BMW 325i Shadowline launches at Simola 2017. Kai says he was driving the car, also owned by his father Geoff,  with tears in his eyes. Image: ROB TILL

Fittingly, Goddard jnr competed in the ex-Tony Viana Stannic Group N BMW 325i Shadowline that his father once owned and identical to the car that he raced against the now late Viana in the 1980’s.

‘TRULY WORLD-CLASS

He said: “This was my first Hillclimb and my first time competing in a right-hand drive race car – but it’s one of those things you have to learn in a hurry.

“This event is truly world-class and the whole day has been a bucket-list of dreams-come-true because the car has been a huge part of our family.

“I got to watch it racing as a kid then moved to the US and hadn’t seen it since. It’s rather emotional and I’ve never driven a race car with tears in my eyes..

“We ended fourth in class – I’m really happy and had an awesome day. On Saturday I’ll be driving a Masters V8 so after today at least I know where the track goes.”

Spirit of Dave Charlton Award

THE SPECIAL Spirit of Dave Charlton Award recognises the person who reflects Dave Charlton’s spirit of impeccable attention to detail, meticulous preparation, and commendable performance and the 2017 Classic Car Friday Spirit of Dave Charlton Award went to Dickon Daggit, a legend in the Classic Car fraternity and consultant engineer for the Franschhoek Motor Museum near Cape Town.

Ian Shrosbree, Jaguar Simola Hillclimb managing director, commented: “Dickon helps classic-car owners all over the place. He’s the go-to-guy for technical assistance and brought his Cooper 500 here for Wayne Harley to drive as a demo.

“Although he’s not well Dikon made the effort to be here and to be part of the event. He’s a real petrol head who knows a lot about vintage cars and is so helpful Hillclimb drivers. We wanted to acknowledge him for his enthusiasm, support and dedication.”

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