Motorsport: Knysna Hillclimb
One of South Africa’s best-selling supercar remains most popular KOTH contender
Japan is taking on the rest of the world in May, when the Nissan GT-R returns to Knysna to defend its supercar crown and fight for two of the three new King of the Hill titles. No less than 12 Nissans will compete in the various production, modified and supercar classes at the 2017 Jaguar Simola Hill Climb. Of these, 10 are GT-Rs from different areas and in different stages of tune, making it the most popular vehicle at the Hill Climb by some margin.
Amongst the registered contenders for the 2017 Hill Climb is the R32 GT-R of Desmond Gutzeit, which is rumoured to have even more power than the 1 800+ horsepower it delivered last year, R34 GT-Rs and several standard and highly modified R35 models. This year also sees the first entry of a unique wide body Liberty Walk R35 Nissan GT-R.
Nissan South Africa has supported several of the contenders and is directly involved in the Hill Climb campaigns of the 1 000+horsepower BB GT-R, which will be driven by Nissan Competitive Vehicle Assessment Specialist Wilhelm Baard, and a standard production MY17 Nissan GT-R driven by Jaki Scheckter.
“The fact that so many people have chosen the GT-R to race at Simola and that no single GT-R is alike, is a testament to the car’s engineering brilliance. Some of the GT-R models are driven to the race, and then on the hill, with 95 octane fuel and standard road-going tyres. Other GT-Rs violently shred the tar with more than 1 500 kW of power,” says Xavier Gobille, Director for Sales, Marketing and Aftersales at Nissan Group of Africa.
To accommodate the various GT-R models and the wide range of other standard and highly modified cars that have entered the 2017 Simola Hill Climb, the organisers have added a range of new categories and three different King of the Hill (KOTH) titles. Of these, Nissan GT-R models will compete in the KOTH for road going saloon and supercars and the KOTH for modified saloon cars.
The BB Group and Nissan South Africa will enter Baard’s GT-R in class B2 for 4WD six cylinder cars with forced induction. The team has managed to extract so much more power and handling from the engine and chassis that they have informally renamed this car “Armageddon” from last year’s “Godzilla”.
“This car has seen its most major overhaul to date,” says Baard of the 2014 GT-R with which he raced in 2016 and which he is bringing back to Simola this year. “While we are still tweaking the engine performance and handling, we can confidently say that this R35 model will have far more than 1 000 horsepower (745 kW) and 1 400 Nm of torque.”
According to Baard the team made major advancements in the vehicle’s handling, including lowering the vehicle weight by over 300 kg and lowering the centre of gravity for improved handling and steering on the tight upper part of the 1.9 km Simola hill. A large number of engine and chassis components are completely new.
“The BB Nissan GT-R also features bespoke engine mapping that allows us to finely tune the engine performance and torque characteristics for different parts of the hill. It is truly incredible how you can tune the R35 to the most exacting standards,” says Baard.
The new engine mapping will help this GT-R to launch better off the line and an extra rear diffuser, a different air management system and new rear wing will enhance its high-speed aerodynamics as it seeks to conquer the hill in under 40 seconds.
The BB Nissan GT-R will also benefit from specialised oils and lubricants, sponsored by Motul, and, for the first time, several sets of soft compound tyres. Last year, it had to compete in the final run with worn tyres, which cost it extra seconds as it launched off the starting line.
The second GT-R to be supported by Nissan South Africa will be driven by well-known international racer and past winner of the Motorsportsman of the Year, Jaki Scheckter
Scheckter’s GT-R has the same livery as the 2015 model entered last year, but it is a new MY17 model, which now has more than 400 kW as standard. The MY17 model has seen the GT-R improve its performance from 379 kW to 408 kW and from 628 Nm to 632 Nm. The model has a new individual ignition timing system that now offers more mid-range torque and it has much-improved gearbox mapping for faster, smoother changes.
“Last year we managed to beat all the European contenders with a MY15 model, so we have high hopes of retaining of KOTH title with the new GT-R. The extra power and better mid-range torque will certainly help and since it is a Black Edition, the Recaro seats are a definite boon,” says Scheckter.
The Simola Hill Climb starts in earnest on 5 May, with classic car races up the hill and administration and scrutineering for the GT-Rs. On Saturday, the cars start with time trials and fine tuning, which continues Sunday morning. The final runs for the ultimate KOTH titles are held on Sunday-afternoon, 7 May.