Single seater action at Simola Hillclimb

The Single-Seaters, Sports Cars and Sports Prototypes category at the Simola Hillclimb may make up the smallest portion of the field, but these thoroughbred racing cars are the undeniable masters of speed.

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They will be one of the highlights at this year’s Simola Hillclimb, the 14th edition of the event that’s taking place in Knysna from 2 to 5 May.

Six-time winner, André Bezuidenhout, is once again the man to beat for the King of the Hill title. He claimed his first win in 2017 with the 1989 Dallara F189 Formula 1 car, then returned the following year with the 2007 Gould GR55 – a purpose-built hill-climb race car, which has dominated the class with five consecutive victories.

He currently holds the Simola Hillclimb record, which was achieved in 2022 with an astonishing time of 34.161 seconds for the sprint up the 1.9 km Simola Hill. He recorded an average speed of 200.228 km/h – from a standing start. To put that into perspective, Franco Scribante’s outrageously powerful, multi-winged and carbon-fibre bodied (yet still much heavier) Nissan R35 GT-R is a fraction under four seconds slower up the 1.9 km Simola Hill, holding the Modified Saloon Car record of 38.129 seconds at an average speed of 179.391 km/h.

Based on last year’s times, which were ultimately hampered by rainy conditions on the final day, a sub-34 second time is definitely on the cards for the 2024 event if it’s dry, with Bezuidenhout exuding calm confidence, as always: “The Gould is a well-sorted car. The two weeks prior to the Simola Hillclimb are the most important from a preparation point of view. We only run this car once a year, so I cannot wait to get the testing underway.”

Back to the contemporary era in King of the Hill, André’s most serious challenger for the overall title (and class C3 for unlimited single-seaters, five cylinders and above) will once again be single-seater and saloon car racing driver, Robert Wolk. Having competed previously with a Formula Renault V6 and A1 GP car, Wolk has driven the 1989 Pillbeam MP58 since 2022 – also a specially designed hill-climb car, albeit from a different era compared to André’s 2007 Gould.

In class C2 for naturally aspirated four-cylinder cars, there’s sure to be a close battle between the pair of 2.0-litre machines, comprising the 2023 Forza Formula VW car driven by Theodore Vermaak and the 2018 Formula Ford Mygale SJ driven by Ian Schofield.

Class C4 (four-cylinder sports cars/sports prototypes) features three Lotus 7-based entries, made up of Tom Barrett in his Toyota 2-litre powered 2006 car, Bill Annetts in a 2023 model that uses a 2-litre Ford Zetec engine, and Josef Kotze behind the wheel of his 2016 Birkin S3 with a 1.6-litre Toyota engine.

The big guns in class C6 comprise Rui Campos in the superb-looking and sounding Ford 5-litre V8-powered 1990 Shelby CanAm, along with Heinrich du Preez in a 7-litre V8 Cobra KCC.

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