Glorious end to record ’17 Simola Hillclimb

  • Final day of the 2017 Simola Hillclimb
  • Record times in three new categories
  • Record attendance for best weekend yet
ANDRE BEZUIDENHOUT. Image: ROB TILL
ANDRE BEZUIDENHOUT. He won the 2017, 1.9km, King of the Hill challenge in a record time of 37.695sec with an average speed of 181.456 km/h.  Image: ROB TILL

KNYSNA, South Africa – The 2017 Kynsna Hillclimb took the annual event, the eighth, to new heights with an estimated 15 000 spectators, slick organisation by main sponsor Jaguar and what has been described as “an awe-inspiring line-up of cars”.

They ranged from showroom-spec hot hatches to exotic supercars and some of the wildest track machines in South Africa and were piloted by drivers among whom were circuit racing and rally champions, motoring celebrities, and guest drivers from the US.

Records were broken in the three new competition categories – Road and Supercars; Single Seaters and Sports Cars, and Modified Saloons – their drivers striving for individual King of the Hill titles and Jody trophies for the three respective winners.

Here’s what happened on May 7, Day 3 of the Jaguar-sponsored event…

Single Seaters and Sports Cars

ANDRE BEZUIDENHOUT AND HIS rare 1989 Dallara F189 Formula 1 car, broke Franco Scribante’s 2016 lap record of 38.646sec by almost a second with a masterful display of committed driving to win the 1.9km King of the Hill challenge in a record time of 37.695sec with an average speed of 181.456 km/h, from a standing start.

He was even faster in fourth qualifying – 37.162sec.

“Everything went well, we had a perfect weekend,” Bezuidenhout said after his record run. “The organisation, the people who put it together, the spectators and the exceptional competition were – Simola is without question a world-class event.”

READ MORE Simola Hillclimb features on Carman’s Corner

Outgoing champion Franco Scribante did his utmost to secure his third King of the Hill title in his 1972 Chevron B26, but took 39.387sec seconds during qualifying. His class final run was 0.218sec slower and he wrapped up his Single Seater and Sports Car Top 10 Shoot Out in second place on 39.754.

He said later: “There was no catching the F1 car at any stage today, My last lap was near-perfect but I’ve noticed that this year’s times were lower than those of 2016, despite top speeds being higher. It’s not clear why but it was the same for everyone.”

Robert Wolk was third with a 39.807sec run in this Formula Renault V6.

Modified Saloons

THE HOTLY CONTESTED Modified Saloon category became an all-out battle between former champions – 2011 winner Wilhelm Baard and 2015 champion Des Gutzeit, each driving a supertuned Nissan GT-R in two days of competition.

Baard and his R35 GT-R broke Gutzeit’s King-of-the-Hill record for road-based race with the first sub-40sec time in this category – 39.892 in the Top 10 Shoot Out. He told The Corner’s special correspondent:

“The car was cutting boost during qualifying and the class finals but it all came together and I gave it everything in the final shoot-out. It’s been an amazing team effort and I thank the entire team.”

‘PINNACLE OF MOTORSPORT’

Baard, now as a double champion though six years separate his victories – also praised the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb organisers: “We have to take our hats off to their managing director an Shrosbree and his team for putting this Hillclimb together, for making it the pinnacle of motorsport in South Africa.

“The changes – new and different categories – worked very well… it’s time for more manufacturers to take part.

Des Gutzeit pushed hard in his search for glory in his distinctive 1992 R32 GT-R and was second with a time of 40.114sec despite beating his 2015 time of 40.148sec.

Anton Cronje took the third step of the podium after his 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX finishing with a time of 40.754sec.

Road and Supercars

THE EXQUISITE RACE-BRED machines in this class set the time sheets alight and thrilling tussle developed between the 2017-spec Nissan GT-R’s driven by Reghard Roets and outgoing champion Jaki Scheckter and the Jaguar F-Type SVR entries of American racing ace Randy Pobst and Jaguar’s own Dawie Olivier.

REGHARD ROETS: Victory in the Road and Supercars class went to Reghard  Roets in the NXGen-prepared Issan - regarded as a remarkable feat for his debut outing. - Image: ROB TILL
REGHARD ROETS: Victory in the Road and Supercars class went to Reghard  Roets in the NXGen-prepared Issan – regarded as a remarkable feat for his debut outing. – Image: ROB TILL

These top four were in a class of their own throughout the weekend but victory went to  Roets in the NXGen-prepared car – regarded as a remarkable feat for his debut outing – though he had a scare on Saturday when he damaged the rear suspension with a slide into a ditch.

FAST REPAIR JOB

The team repaired the car overnight and Roets re-joined the action on Sunday, eventually putting in the fastest run yet by a road-legal car and winning the 2017 King of the Hill title – 44.766sec,

“I’m over the moon,” he said later. “The car was faultless, the team did an amazing job after a late night and very early morning. It’s one hell of an exciting drive up this hill!”

Title sponsor Jaguar celebrated too with American guest driver Randy Pobst taking second in the Top 10 Shoot-Out with a 44.999sec run in his F-Type SVR Coupe. His post-event comments:

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in South Africa; the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb was a fantastic experience. “It took me a while to figure out the ideal settings for the sophisticated electronics of the F-Type but I found the best set-up for the final three runs and I’m really happy with the result.

“The course is very challenging, extremely exciting, and the beautiful location in Knysna made it so special. I was very surprised by the level of the cars, particularly Andre’s F1 car and Franco’s commitment to winning Classic Car Friday and doing his best in King of the Hill in those two amazing Chevrons.”

Scheckter took the lowest step of the podium with his 45.171sec run and Dawie Olivier took his all-new Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible home fourth place in 45.286sec.

Spirit of Dave Charlton Award

ONE OF THE MOST legendary names in motorsport, a driver with six consecutive South African championships, a team owner and manager responsible for bringing numerous championship-winning drivers to the fore through four decades, Peter Kaye-Eddie was awarded the Spirit of Dave Charlton floating trophy at the 2017 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb.

It was a fitting finale to the biggest and best Jaguar Simola Hillclimb yet and, subject to confirmation the attendance was likely to be at least 1000 greater than the record 14 000.

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