Motoring

The Simola Hillclimb 2023 – thrilling and spectacular, as promised

The event, held in Knysna, once again proved why it is such a highly rated and respected motorsport event. Read all about it here.

The Simola Hillclimb is only 1.9km long.  But chase some high-performance cars and drivers up that hill and you are treated to the ultimate adrenaline-generating sport, even for stock standard and classic cars of yesteryear.

The event, which was also attended by Petter Solberg and Mika Salo, was also live-streamed over the weekend from Friday to Sunday, May 5 to 7.

As has become the norm, it also featured some of the most powerful and fastest cars on the planet – from specialised hill climb single-seaters to outrageously powerful saloon cars. Accordingly, it was no surprise that the weekend saw spectator numbers return to pre-Covid-19 levels, with an estimated 17 500 people attending the event over the three days, which included Classic Car Friday.

Thrilling King of the Hill action saw André Bezuidenhout earning his sixth consecutive title in the single seater and sports prototype category in the 2007 Gould GR55.

Bezuidenhout produced a masterful demonstration of strategy and focused determination to power the Gould GR55 to a winning time of 37.580s. This was some 3.4s off his outright record in 2022.

“I tried for six years to win Classic Car Friday, and only managed it this year, so that’s motorsport,” Bezuidenhout said.

“On King of the Hill, I thought Rob had a good chance this year, until his car broke down, so it was an easier run for me until it rained, and it was quite a challenge to get the car over the line in the wet conditions. Prior to the final run, I hadn’t driven on the wet tyres, because every time we fitted the wets, it stopped raining, so I didn’t have a single practice on these tyres and I’m very lucky that I made it.

“Having someone like Petter Solberg here is going to take this event to the next level because in World Rallycross, he is the Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen. It’s lovely for the event to have Petter, Henning and Mika here, and it’s great for Knysna and South Africa.”

While Bezuidenhout ruled supreme once again, the runner-up in the Top 10 Shootout with a time of 40.794s was Devin Robertson in a 1992 Radical Pro Sport, which is powered by a 1 300 cc Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engine. Andrew Rackstraw took the final step of the podium with a time of 41.589s in the Formula VW single-seater.

Modified Saloon Cars

Petter Solberg in his VW Polo R WRX Supercar was undeniably the highlight of the mighty race-tuned saloon cars.

Solberg last drove this car in 2019 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, after which it was placed in the Volkswagen Museum in Germany. He posted an eye-popping time of 40.867s on his very first run up the 1.9km Simola Hill.

During the two days of fierce competition, it became a three-way tussle for the title between Solberg, Reghard Roets and four-time King of the Hill Franco Scribante in his radical time attack-inspired GT-R, called ‘The Sheriff’.

Roets posted the fastest-ever unofficial time for a tin-top car during Saturday’s final qualifying run on 38.045s – 800ths quicker than Scribante’s current official record of 38.129s from the 2022 event. However, the title slipped from his grasp at the final hurdle when he braked a moment too late on wet tyres going into turn 3, and he had to settle for second place with a time of 40.539s.

“I probably had less pressure on me than Reghard did, because he outperformed me the whole weekend. My team did an amazing job as we changed things chronically and put everything into getting the package right for that final run. But it finally all came together at the end,” Scribante said.

Solberg completed his final dash up the Simola Hill in a series of full-attack power slides in the Polo R WRX Supercar, and he was rewarded with third place in the Top 10 Shootout on 41.281s.

“I didn’t have the right tyres, so my last run was just okay, but I’m very happy with the result. I’m very lucky that the wet weather arrived just in time so I could get the podium. The car was perfect, and to finish in the top three with a four-cylinder Polo against some serious hill climb cars isn’t bad,” said Solberg.

“The fans and the atmosphere have been amazing, and it has been really special to meet all the people, sign autographs and feel so appreciated. We came here to make a great show of it and have fun, and the racing side of it went a lot better than I expected. I would really like to come back next year, so we’ll see what the future holds.”

Road-going Saloon Cars and Supercars

JP van der Walt stamped his authority on the standard production car category by scoring his third consecutive King of the Hill title in a 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S with a Top 10 Shootout time of 44.991s in wet conditions.

Garth Mackintosh was the closest rival in his 2017 McLaren 720s, coming within 0.3s of Van der Walt in the dry.

However, the rear-wheel drive McLaren was no match for the all-wheel drive Porsche in the wet conditions, but Mackintosh held on to finish second in the Top 10 Shootout on 47.261s.

Finnish Formula 1 driver Mika Salo delivered a tenacious drive in the wet conditions to claim third place in the 2023 Mercedes-AMG A45S, crossing the timing beam in 47.876s.

“This was something different for me as I’ve never done a hill climb before. It was not easy to get to know the course, and I was quite cautious at the beginning, but I saved the best for last when I pushed the limits. It was a nice event with a great atmosphere, and I really enjoyed the experience.”

Source: MotorPress

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