- Bezuidenhout, Baard, Scheckter the drivers to beat
- Great day of qualifying for Simola Hillclimb 2017
- Epic battles in Road and Supercar categories
By Special Correspndent
KNYSNA, South Africa – The scene is set for a battle of the Titans today (May 7) in the Knysna Hillclimb ‘King of the Hill’ if the times from the first day of practice and qualifying are a guide.
Andre Bezuidenhout was fastest up the 1.9km course on Saturday in his 1989 Dallara F189 Formula 1 car. He was the first driver at the 2017 event to clock less than 40sec – and that during the early second practice session. He eventually completed first qualifying with a time of 38.731sec at an average speed of 176.6km/h.
He didn’t go out for second qualifying, satisfied with his time and with air temperature falling, leaving him 0.085sec slower than Franco Scribante’s Jaguar Simola Hillclimb record of 38.646.
He said later: “It was a good day for us. In 2016 I knew we could get so much more out of the car but we were using five-year-old tyres and I only had four runs, during which I clocked 39 seconds.”
‘SECOND HALF SO FAST!’
Andre added: “This year 2017) we have new super-soft tyres and I know the course a lot better but the Hillclimb still has to be respected. The second half of the track is so fast in this car that I couldn’t tell if I got the apexes right.
“However, the car feels good and I’m sure that by Sunday afternoon we’ll be doing 37 seconds.”
Robert Wolk was the only other driver to dip below 40sec on Saturday. He was driving a 2004 Formula Renault V6 single-seater and clocked 39.925sec during the second qualifying round.
He told The Corner’s special correspondent: “We’ve been struggling a little bit with the car’s balance, chipping away at it, but I was comfortable with the set-up on the two qualifying runs.
“39 seconds is good for this car… I don’t think it will go much faster, despite its power.”
Two-times King of the Hill winner and reigning champion Franco Scribante also set his best time in Q2 after minor issues with the engine. He was third-quickest with 40.110sec.
Modified Saloon Cars
THIS CATEGORY WAS ON Saturday an all-out tussle between two former Jaguar Simola Hillclimb winners: 2011 champion Wilhelm Baard was fastest in his 2014 Nissan R35 GT-R.
In fact he was the fastest tin-top driver of the day with 40.326sec, Only 0.178sec slower than Des Gutzeit’s winning time in 2015.
Baard, back in the pits, told The Corner: “We started off slowy and worked progressively to get the balance right – suspension, engine, gearbox – but I’m very pleased with our qualifying performance.
“There’s more to come from the car – on Sunday we can map the GT-R for specific sectors of the Hillclimb so there’s a lot of tweaking still to do and I’m confident we can get close to 39 seconds.”
Des Gutzeit had to settle for the second-fastest of the day – 41.030sec in his black-and-yellow 1993 Nissan R32 GT-R. “The car is running beautifully. We had a decent day but there’s more time to find on Sunday.”
Dawie Joubert was third with 41.767sec in the 2006 Honda-powered Lotus Exige.
Road and SuperCars
FORMER CIRCUIT RACER Reghard Roets dominated practice for this class and in his NXGen-prepared 2017 Nissan GT-R with 44.270sec in the fourth practice session, 1.17sec faster than reigning SuperCar Shootout champion Jaki Scheckter in a similar car.
However his challenge ended early when, in Q1, he drifted wide and on to the dirty part of the entry into Turn 2, slid into a ditch, and damaged the car’s rear suspension.
This left Scheckter to battle SA land speed recordholder Dawie Olivier in a new Jaguar F-Type SVR convertible, a car making its official South African debut at the Jaguar-sponsored Hillclimb today.
Olivier set 45.125sec in Q1, Scheckter 0.016. Colin Cary was third-quickest in a 2014 Lamborghini Aventador (46.054sec),
Then came Q2, and Scheckter improved to 45.014sec at an averge 151.953km/h, Pobst on 45.145 and Olivier wrapping up the day 0.5s slower than his first qualifying run.
Cary logged 46.096.
This morning, Sunday, there will be four more qualifying session to secure places in the categories’ class finals before the Top 10 shoot-outs based on the top qualifying times.
Simola 2017 will see three individual King of the Hill titles: Road and Supercars; Single-Seaters and Sports Cars; and Modified Saloons.
You can watch the streaming live broadcast from 1.30pm-5.15pm on any smartphone, tablet, laptop, personal computer or even on a smart TV by visiting the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb webpage.