Motorsport: Simola Hillclimb
Already renowned as South Africa’s premier motorsport event, the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb just gets better and more spectacular every year. And this is certainly the case for the 2017 event, scheduled from 5 to 7 May, which is expected to garner a whole new level of competition and spectator interest following the adoption of three separate King of the Hill categories and respective titles up for grabs.
Of particular interest is the impending battle between the modified saloon cars, or tin-tops as they’re commonly referred to, which now compete for their own King of the Hill crown, as do the single-seater and sports racing cars, as well as the standard road cars and supercars.
“The introduction of individual King of the Hill titles with equal status for the three categories allows similar types of cars to compete against each other, and represents the natural evolution of the Hillclimb as the cars have become a lot more specialised,” says Jaguar Simola Hillclimb sporting director, Geoff Goddard. “The modified saloon car category is not only by far the biggest with 39 entries, but is also expected to produce one of the most exciting battles this year.”
Indeed, with no less than three former King of the Hill title winners in the mix, there’s plenty to look forward to! Des Gutzeit, the 2015 winner and last year’s overall runner-up with a best time of 40.324 sec, will be back in his explosive Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 with up to 1 500 hp (over 1 100 kW) on tap, and he is undoubtedly one of the firm favourites for the King of the Hill title.
“I think having separate categories is a move in the right direction, because no matter how much power we have, a heavy production-based car will never be a match for the lightweight single-seaters and sports cars,” Gutzeit says.
“My goal is to try and break the 40-sec barrier after having a lot of issues with the car last year, particularly with the fuel we were using. I was actually faster in 2015, so we have gone back to basics and have also done a lot of work on the suspension set-up. We are coming well prepared this year,” he states.
Gutzeit will be going head-to-head with the likes of 2011 champion Wilhelm Baard who is among the mighty contingent of extensively modified new-generation R35 Nissan GT-Rs, along with hot contenders Darron Gudmanz, Quinsley Sale and former circuit-racing star Reghardt Roets who is due to make his Hillclimb debut. Geoff Mortimer, the 2010 winner, will be back in a highly-tuned Nissan 350z.
A new addition to the line-up this year is karting champion Aldo Scribante, who has entered an extensively reworked version of the ex-Terry Moss Racing Audi S4. As a cousin of double Hillclimb winner Franco, the family has a long and proud legacy in motor racing dating back to the 1960s. This includes grandfather Aldo Scribante who ran the SA Lotus Formula 1 team with Dave Charlton who won six consecutive titles, and also built the famous Port Elizabeth race track that was subsequently named after him.
“I’m really looking forward to the Hillclimb, as it is a great event and I think my car will be very well suited to this event,” Scribante says. “We’re doing a lot of work on the car, taking it from the Production Car racing specification and raising the power to around 525 kW, making it about 150 kg lighter with a carbon fibre body kit, and doing a lot of work on aerodynamics with a front splitter, rear diffuser and GTC rear wing.”
Another fierce four-wheel drive competitor will be Anton Cronje, who is always among the leading contenders in his racing Subaru Impreza WRX. He is aiming to go quite a bit faster this year, having reduced weight in the car by 60 kg, improving the aerodynamics and extracting more power to unleash about 400 kW on the wheels.
“We have also fitted a paddle shift gearbox which allows much quicker gear changes, and I’m importing soft race tyres, so I’m pretty confident that I can break below 40 sec this year,” Cronje suggests.
Although the 4WD cars clearly have a start-line advantage, fans can look forward to a determined challenge from the rear-wheel drive brigade too, including a trio of 5.7-litre V8 Masters cars – with 2015 Classic Conqueror winner Charles Arton once again competing in the custom-built race machines.
Notably, the 2017 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb will see racing drivers from the renowned Inde Motorsports Ranch near Tucson, Arizona, joining the fray – thus adding to the international flavour and appeal of this award-winning event. The line-up includes Kai Goddard, an accomplished racer and lead professional driver for the multi-faceted motorsport oasis, as well as its vice president of business development.
Kai was instrumental in securing multiple American GT and touring car champion Randy Pobst for the 2017 Hillclimb, who will be competing in Jaguar-backed entries in both Classic Car Friday and King of the Hill for road and supercars.
Inde Motorsports Ranch member Steve Kimpton will be competing alongside Goddard in an identical V8 Masters car in Class B6, along with the thundering WesBank Modified-era 6.3-litre V8 Opel Rekord of Willie Hepburn and a Lexus-powered Chevrolet Corvette driven by Craig Czank.
Another regular Jaguar Simola Hillclimb competitor will also be taking on the challenging 1.9 km hill in a V8 Masters car – but with a difference. Former rally champion Enzo Kuun is upping the ante in a modified version featuring NOs, or nitrous oxide injection, which places him in Class B3 for force-fed engines.
“It’s difficult to judge where we will fit in, but we try and improve every year with a bit more power, as it seems that’s the name of the game,” Kuun says. “The first year we came to the Hillclimb we had 500 hp, then added 100 hp in 2016, and now this year we will have about 700 hp (522 kW) as we’ve fitted a nitrous pack on the engine. The challenge is to get off the line quickly in a two-wheel drive car. We saw last year that our last sector is pretty much as fast as the winning cars, but our first sector is where the problem lies. We’ll give it our best shot.
“It’s always great to just make the cut for the Hillclimb, as this event has reached such a status that just getting an entry is an achievement in itself, and we’re really looking forward to competing this year,” he says.
Kuun also believes that dividing King of the Hill into three categories is a good move. “The reason the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb has become the ultimate event on the SA motorsport calendar is because it’s put together by a team of organisers that think progressively, listen to competitors and allow the event to evolve, which makes it really exciting for the drivers and spectators.”
The two-wheel drive fight in Class B3 also features the Giannoccaro family, with father Jimmy racing a Chev V8-powered BMW Z4 specifically built for hillclimbs, along with his two sons – Ricky now sporting a turbocharged version of the BMW M3 GTR he ran last year, while Gianni will be driving a full race-spec turbocharged BMW 135i. “Last year we brought a knife to a gunfight, this year we’re coming with all guns blazing,” Ricky confidently states.
Clearly, the sparks will be flying in the modified saloon car King of the Hill challenge, which guarantees a spectacular two days of action that simply cannot be missed!
A handful of lucky visitors to the 2017 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb will win an experience of a lifetime, with an exhilarating ride in a Jaguar up the 1.9 km Hillclimb course.
All tickets purchased via www.iTickets.co.za will qualify for the daily draws, with the winners contacted by cellphone and invited to the pit lane for this exclusive adrenaline-charged ride, seated alongside one of Jaguar’s advanced drivers.
Be sure to secure your Day, Weekend and Pit Access tickets online at iTickets, and stand a chance of winning a Golden Ticket to a ride of a lifetime!