Former F1 driver in action at Simola Hillclimb

The Simola Hillclimb is renowned as South Africa’s premier motoring and motorsport lifestyle event, and its growing stature internationally has attracted three star drivers from the world of Formula 1, the World Rally Championship (WRC) and World Rallycross (WRX).

23 Mika Hillclimb1

Former Formula 1 driver, Mika Salo, is the latest high-profile addition to the starting line-up for the 13th Simola Hillclimb, which takes place in Knysna from 4 to 7 May 2023.

The famous Finnish driver’s participation is backed by Mercedes-Benz South Africa and ATK Esports. He will be joined by the Solberg brothers, Petter and Henning, thanks to Volkswagen South Africa, with the two Norwegian drivers both having achieved successful careers in WRC and WRX.

Mika Salo.

“The local line-up of cars and drivers for the Simola Hillclimb has always been exceptional, and it is widely considered to be on a par with some of the best Hillclimb events around the world,” says Ian Shrosbree, MD of the Knysna Speed Festival, which owns the Simola Hillclimb.

The Simola Hillclimb was given a huge boost when Pieter Zeelie, the 2021 Modified Saloon Cars King of the Hill, competed in the FIA International Hill Climb Cup in Germany last year and finished on the podium first time out – proving just how competitive the South African event is.

“We’ve been hard at work with our event partners and other interested parties to create opportunities for more international drivers to participate in the Simola Hillclimb, and this year really ups the ante with Mika Salo, Petter Solberg and Henning Solberg joining the action,” Ian says.

Henning Solberg and Petter Solberg.

Mika forms part of a two-car entry from Mercedes-Benz South Africa, with the Finnish driver competing in the Road Car and Supercar category in a showroom-spec 310 kW AMG A45S. His participation is supported by ATK Esports and was facilitated by Patrick Walton from the Garden Route Film Commission, who has worked with Mika on several occasions and sees this as a great boost for the local film tourism industry.

“I’ve seen the Simola Hillclimb on social media and always really wanted to go there,” Mika says. “It will be a great challenge and looks like an incredible event. I’m happy to be driving the AMG A45S provided by Mercedes-Benz South Africa.”

Mika competed in 109 F1 races between 1994 and 2002, driving for Lotus, Tyrrell, Arrows, BAR, Ferrari, Sauber and Toyota. His most notable performances were the two podiums he scored for Ferrari in 1999 while standing in for the injured Michael Schumacher, which contributed to the team’s constructor’s championship win.

The versatile Finn also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and claimed the GT2 class victory in 2008 and 2009 and was part of the development programme for the Maserati MC12 GT. He also raced in a number of the FIA GT events, dipped into the Australian V8 Supercars series and won the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour in a Ferrari 458 GT3.

The second Mercedes-AMG A45S will be driven by local racing driver Clint Weston, who also heads up the AMG Driving Academy in South Africa. The two AMG cars will compete in class A2 for standard production turbocharged four-cylinder four-wheel drive cars.

This is the first time Mercedes-Benz will be involved in the Simola Hillclimb, making it a total of eight vehicle manufacturers that have signed up as event partners or entrants for this year’s edition, including Suzuki, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai, Ford and Toyota.

  • Tickets can be purchased on the event website (www.simolahillclimb.com), with the prices for General Entry remaining unchanged from last year. Upgrades are available for Pit Access, turn 2 Grandstand seating and VIP Parking.
  • More information on the Simola Hillclimb is available on the website: www.simolahillclimb.com

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