Motorsport: Simola Hillclimb
The scene has been set for a titanic King of the Hill battle for 2017, judging by the results from the first day of practice and qualifying at this year’s Jaguar Simola Hillclimb.
Leading up to the event, Andre Bezuidenhout insisted that he would be returning for his second attempt at the Hillclimb with one goal in mind: to win. After topping the time sheets throughout the day in his spectacular 1989 Dallara F189 Formula One car, he has certainly thrown down the gauntlet in the Single Seater and Sports Car category.
The racing car aficionado was the first driver this year to break the 40 sec barrier, as early as the second practice session, and he went faster every time out. He ultimately completed the first qualifying in an impressive time of 38.731 at an average speed of 176.6 km/h over the 1.9 km course – from a standing start!
With the late-afternoon temperatures dropping, Bezuidenhout didn’t even go out for the second qualifier as he was completely satisfied with the result, which put him within 0.085 seconds of Franco Scribante’s current outright Jaguar Simola Hillclimb record of 38.646 sec.
“It was a good day for us,” Bezuidenhout said. “Last year 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 did a time of 39 seconds.
“This year 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 can’t even tell if I got the apexes right, but the car feels good and I’m sure that by Sunday afternoon we’ll be doing 37 sec,” he stated.
Robert Wolk was the only other driver to dip below 40 sec today, powering the 2004 Formula Renault V6 single-seater to a time of 39.925 sec in the second qualifying round.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit with the balance of the car, but we have been chipping away at it and I was comfortable with the set-up on the two qualifying runs,” Wolk said. “A time of 39 sec is good for this car, and I don’t think it will go much faster, even with the amount of power it has.”
Two-time King of the Hill winner and reigning champion Franco Scribante set his best time in Q2 as well, after having some minor issues with the engine. Although he only managed third-quickest on 40.110 sec, he’s sure to be on a charge when the action picks up again in the final contests beginning on Sunday morning.
Modified Saloon Cars
The explosive Modified Saloon Car category was an all-out tussle between two former Jaguar Simola Hillclimb winners. The 2011 champion Wilhelm Baard wrapped up his day at the front of the field in his radically impressive 2014 Nissan R35 GT-R.
He was the fastest tin-top competitor during the two final practice sessions, and secured the psychological advantage in the first qualifying round with an impressive time of 40.326 sec – a scant 0.178 sec adrift of Des Gutzeit’s winning time from the 2015 event.
“We started off slowly today, and worked progressively to get the balance right with the suspension, engine and gearbox, but I’m very pleased with our qualifying performance,” Baard said. “There’s still more to come from the car, and from me, tomorrow. We can map the GT-R for specific sectors of the Hillclimb route, so there’s a lot of tweaking still to do and I’m confident that we can break into the 39 second area.”
Des Gutzeit had to settle for the second-fastest time of the day, ending on 41.030 in his wild black and yellow 1993 Nissan R32 GT-R. “The car is running beautifully and we had a decent day, but there’s definitely more time to find tomorrow,” Gutzeit said.
Dawie Joubert was third, achieving a best run of 41.767 seconds in the 2006 Honda-powered Lotus Exige.
Road and SuperCar category
Former circuit racing ace Reghard Roets dominated the practice sessions in the Road Car and Supercar category in his NXGen-prepared 2017 Nissan GT-R, achieving a scintillating time of 44.270 seconds in fourth practice – 1.17 seconds faster than reigning SuperCar Shootout champion Jaki Scheckter in a similar car.
Unfortunately, the Roets challenge came to an end in Q1, as he drifted slightly wide onto the dirty part of the entry into turn two, resulting in the back of the GT-R sliding into a ditch which damaged the car’s rear suspension.
This left Scheckter to battle it out with SA land speed record holder Dawie Olivier in the exciting new Jaguar F-TYPE SVR Convertible that made its official South African debut at the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb today.
Olivier claimed the first blood in Q1, crossing the line in 45.125 sec, with Scheckter ending a mere 0.016 sec adrift. Colin Cary was third quickest in the screaming 2014 Lamborghini Aventador on 46.054 seconds, with guest driver and multiple US racing champion Randy Pobst bringing his Jaguar F-TYPE SVR Coupe’ home in fourth place, just 0.408 seconds adrift.
It was a case of musical chairs in Q2, as Scheckter went even faster, crossing the beams in 45.014 seconds and recording an average speed of 151.953 km/h. Pobst was close on his heels on 45.145 seconds, with Olivier wrapping up the day 0.5 seconds slower than his first qualifying run, while Cary ended on 46.096 seconds.
The action resumes on Sunday morning, with the drivers having four additional qualifying opportunities to secure their places in the Class Finals for the various categories. This is then followed by the Top 10 shootouts based on the top qualifying times. For 2017, there are three individual King of the Hill titles up for grabs, comprising Road Cars and Supercars; Single Seaters and Sports Cars; and Modified Saloon Cars. Fans will certainly be treated to an adrenaline-charged run to the finish!
If you’re not fortunate enough to experience the thrills and excitement first hand, watch the Live Stream broadcast from 13h30 to 17h15 on any smart phone, tablet, laptop, personal computer or even on a smart TV by visiting www.jaguarsimolahillclimb.com.