Simola Hillclimb to offer its spirited spectacular once again

Classic car enthusiasts and automotive and motorsport fans are in for a treat when this year’s Simola Hillclimb action kicks off on September 3, as the Classic Car Friday line-up will feature a stunning array of legendary road and race cars spanning more than six decades.

A total of 30 manufacturers will be represented on the 74-strong entry list – the largest yet for Classic Car Friday. Among the marques that will be present, Ford is the most prolific with 14 entrants, while Porsche is a close-run second with 13 entries. Jaguar, MG and Austin have four entries each, and the line-up includes a long list of other illustrious names such as Morgan, Lotus, AC, Ferrari, Austin Healey, McLaren, Chevron, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Shelby, Chevrolet, Ginetta and Lola – so there truly is something for everyone at this year’s event.

“Classic Car Friday is a unique opportunity to see some of the most significant road and race cars of all types dating back as far back as 1928, gathered together for a fantastic celebration of automotive history,” said Simola Hillclimb’s sporting director, Geoff Goddard. “There simply isn’t any other event on the local calendar that assembles such a fascinating and diverse range of cars that are not just put on display, but are driven with enthusiasm up the short but challenging 1,9km Simola Hill.”

Greig Smith – 1928 Austin Seven. Photo by Rob Till .

The driver line-up is equally impressive, with many of South Africa’s top racing drivers of past and present relishing the opportunity to be part of the Simola Hillclimb, widely regarded as South Africa’s premier motoring and motorsport lifestyle event.
Hillclimb regular Greig Smith’s Austin Seven is the oldest car in the field. It relies on a tiny 750cc engine and stripped-down chassis derived from the Baby Austin – a compact road car that provided affordable mobility for the British market and abroad during the 1920s and ’30s. Following World War II, many of these cars were stripped and rebuilt into affordable racecars and competed the world over – and Smith’s 1928 model is a fantastic example.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 2021 Simola Hillclimb will feature a 1989 Minardi MN189 – only the second Formula 1 car to compete at the event to date. The first was André Bezuidenhout’s Dallara F189 from the same year, which he raced in King of the Hill in 2016 and 2017.

However, the Minardi, owned and driven by single-seater regular Ian Schofield, will compete in Classic Car Friday, and is undoubtedly set to be one of the top contenders for this year’s Classic Conqueror crown. According to Schofield, this particular car (chassis M189/001) has an impressive pedigree as it is probably the most successful F1 car that Minardi built. It is the only one to have started on the front row of the grid (second at the 1990 United States Phoenix GP), and the only Minardi to have led a grand prix lap (during the 1989 Portuguese GP).

The car reportedly went directly from the San Marino Grand Prix in 1990 into a private collection where it stood untouched for decades. “It is probably one of the most original F1 cars from that era,” Schofield explained. “Even the paint is still original. It’s a very special car.”
After purchasing the car, it was disassembled and brought to South Africa where it was meticulously rebuilt by Greg Canny and his team at DAW Racing. The 600hp (447kW) Cosworth DFR 3.5-litre V8 engine was also completely overhauled, with the crucial parts sourced from Cosworth in the UK. (A full story on the car will be published in the August/September 2021 issue of On Track magazine.)

Gavin Rooke – 1974 Ferrari Dino 308 GT4.

It will be fascinating to see if Schofield will be able to match or beat the King of the Hill-winning time of 37,695 seconds set by Bezuidenhout in the Dallara in 2017, but all bets are that the current Classic Car Friday record is set to tumble. Bezuidenhout will be competing with his iconic and very quick Martini-liveried 1974 Porsche 911 RSR.

Scribante unleashes the Chevron B26 on CCF

Schofield will not have an easy run to the 2021 Classic Conqueror title, as Franco Scribante will be in the hunt for his sixth win in the category. The avid racer will be competing with his immaculately prepared and very fast 1972 Chevron B26 for the first time on Classic Car Friday, having claimed all of his previous wins in the light and agile Chevron B19.

Franco Scribante – 1972 Chevron B26. Photo Colin Mileman.

Powered by a custom-built, high-revving 2.9-litre V8 engine, Scribante powered the B26 to a KOH-winning time of 38,646 seconds in 2016. He will be keen to use the added performance of the B26 to maintain his unbroken dominance of the Friday event.
“I initially entered the B19 for Classic Car Friday, but with the F1 car competing this year, we needed to up our game to stand a chance of victory,” Scribante said. “On paper, the F1 car should be one to two seconds quicker up the hill than the B26, but at least we’re in with a shout.”

Not quite as fast, but no less appealing, will be Knysna classic car collector Brian Bruce’s 1956 Jaguar D-Type Replica. Built by L&R Roadsters (now Realm Engineering) in the UK, this D-Type was produced in 1988 as a homage to the legendary D-Type (XKD501) that won the 1956 Le Mans 24-hour race – which was recently sold on auction for a staggering $22 million.

“My D-Type replica, CX5827, was raced on various short circuits in the UK before retiring to South Africa with its owner in 1993. The car was seldom used, but was serviced by Alec Saunders, who acquired the car in 2001,” Bruce said. “I bought the car in 2013, and set about substantially improving it. Although it is a replica, it is a fitting tribute to the racing pedigree and heritage of Jaguar through the 1950s and in its own right, a 40-year-old classic.

Ian Schofield – 1989 Minardi M189 Cosworth. Photo Dave Ledbitter.

“I am grateful for this single opportunity each year to test our cars at the Simola Hillclimb, as it has become a gateway to new ventures that involve more of our youth in the preservation and repurposing of classic cars,” Bruce, having participated in all of the last six events, explained.

Di Dugmore is another stalwart of the Simola Hillclimb, having competed in every edition to date. “It has been amazing to see the Hillclimb grow into what it has become today. It has been a long wait for the 11th Simola Hillclimb to take place, and I am really looking forward to the challenge,” she said. “The organisation is good, and the event is a great time to catch up with old friends and faces that you perhaps only see once a year, on the hill. The results are simply academic.”

For the 2021 event, Dugmore has switched from road cars to the single-seater category and will be driving a 1976 Van Diemen RP76 Formula Ford. “Having competed in every Simola Hillclimb since its inception, it has been important to change cars to keep it interesting for me and for the spectators. From the Lotus Elise, Lotus 23, Barson Special (Honda S800) and the Healey Sprite, the Formula Ford will be a different challenge for sure!

“With this year’s Hillclimb Ladies Team racing in memory of Donny Lamola, and helping raise funds for the greater Knysna charities, it is fitting for me to be driving a Formula Ford, the series that Donny excelled in on the track,” she added.

Dutchmann goes Italian

Gavin Rooke is the founder of Dutchmann, a renowned builder of bespoke classic Porsches based in Lanseria, Gauteng. He has competed in eight Simola events thus far, and finished on the Classic Car Friday class podium with one of his much-loved 911s – yet for the 2021 Simola Hillclimb, he has gone all-Italian with a 1974 Ferrari Dino 308 GT4.

“I’m a devout Porsche 911 fundi and fan, and I’m not a Ferrari or Italian car guy,” he said. “However, the 308 GT4 is the ‘un-Ferrari’. It’s the only one designed by Bertone, instead of Pininfarina, and its shape appealed to me because its aesthetics made it almost unrecognisable as a Ferrari. Bertone’s Marcello Gandini, who designed the 308 GT4, was also responsible for the Lamborghini Countach, Lancia Stratos and Fiat X-19, and you can see that iconic and definitive wedge theme coming through in this car.

Di Dugmore – 1976 Van Diemen Formula Ford.

“I bought the GT4 from a gentleman who owned it for close to 40 years, and he only sold it because he was moving into a retirement home and couldn’t take it with him,” Rooke explained. “It’s the only car that isn’t a 911 that I own, and also ticked the right boxes for me as it’s the first in the series, and was built in the first year of production in 1973. When I bought the car, it had around 92 000km on the clock and is totally original, so it was just driven and fixed as it went along. It has a great V8 motor that is very reliable and delivers a fantastic driving experience.”

Rooke has subsequently had the mechanicals of the car, including the engine, gearbox and suspension, extensively restored by Pablo Clark in Kyalami to ensure it is a dependable driver – and he and his wife will be driving the car to the Hillclimb, competing and then driving back to Gauteng. The exterior and interior remain completely original, other than replacing the original Cromadora wheels with Ferrari’s distinctive five-spoke rims finished in gold, which was available as a factory option at the time.

“I love racing, and without a doubt, the Simola Hillclimb is the premier non-circuit motorsport event in the country,” Rooke said. “The classic car community at the Hillclimb is very supportive and always keen to help, and I’ve met many great people and made lots of friends at this event.”

Needham’s Shelby muscle

For the Needham family, comprising father Charles and son Jonathan, their participation at the 2021 Simola Hillclimb is all about mighty Shelby Ford V8-powered muscle. “Jonathan will be driving a brand-new GT40 MkIII replica, which is fundamentally identical to the 1966 Le Mans-winning car, and is listed on the Shelby registry in the US,” Charles said. “It is aesthetically identical, and the chassis is as per the original car. The only differences are that it has air conditioning, modern brakes and fuel injection for the 6.0-litre V8 engine.”

Charles will be driving his recently acquired 1998 Superformance Cobra MkIII, which is the only Cobra built under license from Shelby. “It has a 560hp (418kW) 8.8-litre V8 engine and is an absolute beast to drive,” he said. “Peter Lindenberg, his family and the Shelby South Africa team have supported the Needham family in arranging these dynamic collectors’ cars and encouraged our participation in the various track and speed festival events, including the Simola Hillclimb. It is so special to be able to share my love of fast cars with my family at these events.

Charles Needham – 1998 Superformance Shelby Cobra MkIII.

“The Simola Hillclimb is very well organised, and you have a lot of fun driving these cars within your limits, and sharing the experience with a lot of like-minded people,” Needham added. “It’s a pity that there won’t be any spectators this year, as it definitely adds to the character of the Hillclimb, but it’s understandable under the circumstances.”

The 2021 Simola Hillclimb takes place from September 3 to 5, starting with Classic Car Friday, followed by King of the Hill on the Saturday and Sunday. Due to Covid-19 regulations, no spectators are allowed, but the entire event will be livestreamed.

Source: MotorPress
Release compiled by Colin Mileman

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