Even a Model T Ford to take on the Hill

In just over a month, one of South Africa’s premier motorsport events will take place in the hills around Knysna with the Simola Hillclimb taking place from 4 to 11 May.

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With six manufacturers officially involved in sponsoring the event, this year’s race up the Hill promises to be one of the most competitive yet.

The performance of the diverse range of cars making up the Simola Hillclimb’s Classic Car Friday is all relative of course. A 1926 Ford Model T – which will be the oldest car competing in this year’s event – seems light years away from a 1969 Ford GT40, which pays tribute to the illustrious Le Mans-winning cars that dominated the French race from 1966 to 1969.

The Model T could hardly nudge 70 km/h while, just 40 years later, the GT40 was capable of over 340 km/h on the La Sarthe circuit’s six-kilometre long Mulsanne Straight.

Patrick Gearing in his 1935 Riley TT Sprite will also be in action.

The line-up features the giant-killing original Mini, which defied all odds by winning the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, along with a stunning replica of the infamous Porsche 550 Spider, known as ‘Little Bastard’, which will forever be associated with film star James Dean.

The Italians are represented by charming and agile cars such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia 2000 Rally and the boxy Fiat 131 Racing, while memories from the heydays of WesBank Modifieds and Group N will be relived, as some of these iconic cars, and many more, will be seen in action at this year’s Classic Car Friday on 5 May 2023.

A total of 65 cars are scheduled to take on the challenging 1.9 km Simola Hillclimb course, with 20 vehicle manufacturers represented.

Ian Schofield in his 1977 March Ford 77B ready for action.

Single-seaters and sports cars:

The 2023 Simola Hillclimb sees the return of six-time Classic Conqueror, Franco Scribante, in his rapid 1970 Chevron B19 sportscar for class H9. While the rules have been relaxed slightly to align with local historic racing, sequential gearboxes are strictly not permitted for Classic Car Friday. Accordingly, Scribante’s car will use the standard manual gearbox, and will also have to make do without the rear diffuser, but he is likely to once again be the man to beat.

Racing saloon cars:

Tin-top racing cars start in class H5 for pre-1970 four-cylinder machines, with two Austin Mini Cooper S models driven by Kyle Brink (1959) and Chris van der Walt (1962) going head-to-head against the 1962 Fiat Abarth of Kurt Wesson, Richard Wiederhold’s 1969 Fiat 124 Sport Coupé and racing stalwart Peter Kaye-Eddie, now 75 years old, in his 1965 BMW 2002.

The big-bangers occupy class H6, headlined by the ever-spectacular tyre-smoking Graeme Nathan in the Peter Kaye-Eddie-owned 1970 BMW 3.0 CSi, the two familiar 1967 Porsche 911Rs of Johan de Bruyn and Kobus Brits, along with Richard Evans in the iconic 1969 Chevrolet C3 Corvette.

Farouk Dangor is bringing his iconic Stannic Group N BMW 325iS to the party and will compete in Classic Car Friday for the first time, while BMW South Africa is planning to have a couple of nice surprises in this class too.

Classic road cars:

Pre-1965 road cars occupy class H2, featuring a David versus Goliath battle between Hedley Whitehead’s nippy 1964 Mini Cooper S and Jacques Pickard’s 1.6-litre 1961 Porsche 356B on the one hand, against three very quick replica cars: Barry Ingle’s 1955 Porsche 550 Spider, Brian Bruce’s 1956 Jaguar D-type and Peter MacPherson’s 1964 Ford GT40.

H3 is for pre-1985 four-cylinder road cars, and the line-up includes a 1967 Alfa Romeo GT Junior driven by Ashley Baud, Dave van der Merwe’s 1965 Ford Anglia, Simola Hillclimb co-founder Francis Cusens in his 1981 Fiat 131 Rally and Nadia Viljoen in a 1967 Mini.

The line-up gets a whole lot more muscular in class H4 for the larger-capacity pre-1985 road cars, featuring modern recreations of the mean supercharged 1967 Ford Mustang 500 CR driven by Ivan Marx, and a pair of Shelby SA entries comprising Clayton Kimber in the 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupé and Jonathan Needham in the wild eight-litre V8 1965 Cobra. They are joined by Robert Flooks in another 1969 Ford GT40, and the two 1970 Porsche 911 entries of Gavin Rooke and Jennifer Abbot.

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