PRIMED FOR A CLASSIC BATTLE

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The Simola Hillclimb always delivers an exceptional showcase of some of the most spectacular cars in South Africa, whether it’s a monstrous modern machine taking on King of the Hill or one of the vintage old-timers blowing out the cobwebs and competing for glory on Classic Car Friday.

The opening event for this annual event is always captivating, as iconic cars spanning no less than 98 years of motoring and motorsport in South Africa, piloted by a mix of enthusiast and professional racing drivers, are given full steam each time the flag drops for the timed 1.9 km runs up the winding Simola Hill.

From stripped-down road cars dating to the pre-World War II era to some of the greatest machines from the heydays of saloon car, single-seater and sportscar racing, there’s truly something to excite and delight everyone.

“We had an amazing response with the number and quality of applications received this year, and we were oversubscribed for the maximum of 65 slots available for Classic Car Friday,” says Simola Hillclimb sporting director, Geoff Goddard. “This allows us to choose a line-up that keeps the event fresh and entertaining for the spectators, which is an integral part of the Simola Hillclimb’s growth and success over the past 13 editions.”

Having claimed his first Classic Conqueror title in 2023, to go along with his six consecutive King of the Hill crowns in the single-seater/sports prototypes category, Andre Bezuidenhout is likely to once again be the man to beat. He clocked a winning time of 41.715 seconds to take the win in his immaculately prepared Cosworth-powered 1976 Lola T460.

Bezuidenhout’s closest title rival was multiple champion Franco Scribante in his rapid 1970 Chevron B19 sportscar, with very little separating the two legends of the Simola Hillclimb on the timesheets during the practice sessions. Ultimately the challenge ended abruptly during the qualifying runs when the Chevron suffered engine failure – but Scribante is determined to take the fight to Bezuidenhout this year.

“We opted to rebuild the engine locally instead of sending it overseas again, and we are hoping it will have a bit more power,” Scribante says. “Of course, my goal is always to win, but to get a sportscar to beat a single-seater is a tall order, and Andre seems to have the Lola well sorted. That said, Andre’s winning time last year was slightly slower than our quickest time with this car, so I’m sure it will be very close between us.”

The two titans of Classic Car Friday will compete for overall victory and the prized Classic Conqueror crown in the final all-or-nothing Top 10 Shootout, as well as the class win in H9 for single-seater, sports and GT cars up to 1980. They will be going up against two previous winners in a pair of Formula Atlantic single-seaters, comprising Charles Arton in the 1979 March 79a and Ian Schofield in his 1977 March 77b, along with the Lotus-engined 1973 Chevron B20 Formula 3 car driven by Josh Dovey, and a 1979 Van Diemen Rf Formula Ford with Robert Wolk behind the wheel.

Rui Campos is consistently the fastest tin-top competitor in his powerful 1974 Porsche 911 RSR replica, and he will be fighting for top honours in class H8 for racing saloon cars up to 1995 with six cylinders and above. A new entrant in this class is Stefan Wintershoven who will be competing in an original 1991 Chevrolet Corvette alongside Simola Hillclimb regular Enzo Kuun in a 1994 Ferrari F355.

Class H7 caters for four-cylinder racing saloon cars up to 1995, and this year it will feature Farouk Dangor’s iconic Speedy Car Sales-liveried 1989 BMW E30 M3 touring car which he raced in the South African Touring Car Series in 1993. This M3 forms part of Dangor’s impressive collection, and was completely restored by Evolution 2 Motorsport between 2011 and 2013 – and it will undoubtedly be one of the showstoppers this year.

The class will once again incorporate the two 1981 Porsche 924 entries from the Checkered Flag Museum, driven by Clive Wesson and Michael O’Sullivan.

Big-banger race cars up to 1974 fall into class H6, and the Shelby SA/Lindenberg Racing contingent will be out in full force as usual, with Paige Lindenberg wrestling the mighty 1968 Ford Fairlane up the hill, competing against the likes of James Temple (1965 Shelby Daytona Coupé) and Djurk Venter (1972 Ford Capri Perana). Graeme Nathan will be back in action this year in the stunning 1972 BMW CSi, and he is sure to treat the crowd as usual with his spectacular rolling burnouts.

Four-cylinder racing saloons from the same era compete in the popular class H5, and JP van der Walt – the reigning three-time King of the Hill champion in the Road Car and Supercar category – is joining the classic car action this year with a 1972 Ford Escort. He will be up against the established crowd, including Trevor Tuck in his 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Ian Kilburn in the 1972 Datsun GX Coupe’ and ‘Old Dog’ Peter Kaye-Eddie in the 1965 BMW 2002.

Class H4 for large-capacity road cars up to 1987 will boast some real eye candy, comprising the 1969 Ford GT40 replica driven by Robert Flook, the thunderous eight-litre 1966 Shelby Cobra with Jonathan Needham at the wheel, Gavin Rooke in one of his immaculately turned out Porsche 911s, and Chris Knezovich in a 3.0-litre 1967 Ford 20M, which also comes from the Checkered Flag collection.

In class H3 for four-cylinder cars from this period, spectators can look forward to a diverse range of entries, including a 1979 Citroen GS driven by Robert Clark, Timothy Abbot’s 1958 Porsche 356a and a pair of Fiat 131 Racing and Abarth models driven by Gabriel Diedericks and Simola Hillclimb co-founder Francis Cusens, respectively. Andre Bezuidenhout’s son, Jandre, will have his second outing in his dad’s first race car – a 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo Cup.

Despite the age of the cars and the vastly different engine capacities, class H2 for road cars up to 1970 guarantees plenty of close action too. It features everything from a 1.2-litre 1962 Lotus Elite driven by Richard Clarke and Hedley Whitehead’s equally diminutive 1965 Austin Mini through to two heavy-hitters from Knysna’s Parnell Bruce Collection, comprising Brian Bruce’s sumptuous 1956 Jaguar D-type and the 1964 Ford GT40 driven by Peter MacPherson.

Two Simola Hillclimb regulars from Germany will be joining the Classic Car Friday action once again, both competing in H2. Alexander Krahé is set to take on his 10th Simola Hillclimb this year, having assisted initially with marshalling in 2010 and then competing since 2011. He will be joined as usual by his wife, Andrea who has completed five events so far, with the duo fondly known as ‘Der Stiggie’ and ‘Mrs Stiggie’.

“Andrea is a member of the Hillclimb Ladies Team, and we do some hillclimb racing in Germany, and race our 1937 MG on the Nürburgring,” Alexander says. “Our main focus is on classic car rallying which we also organize.

“Andrea will be driving her 1964 Mini Cooper, which was assembled in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and the engine is slightly upgraded,” he says. “I will take my Jaguar Mk2 up the hill. This car belonged to John Love, the well-known Rhodesian racing driver. He put an E-Type 4.2 triple carburettor engine in it with upgraded brakes, so it is a very fast saloon car.”

Handicap H1 class

Since 2022, class H1 for pre-World War II cars has been contested based on a handicap format. This allows the vastly different golden oldies to compete on an equal footing for the class title.

During the practice and qualifying runs, the drivers establish individual target times that are representative of their car’s performance – with the formula being refined by the organisers each year. The top three competitors with the best times on handicap from the three qualifying rounds contest the class final in a single-run shootout. The driver who comes closest to their target time ultimately claims the top step of the podium.

As one of the leading advocates behind the introduction of the handicap formula, it will be great to see Rodney Green returning to the fray this year in his 1946 MG after he missed the 2023 event. “It’s anyone’s guess when it comes to who wins the handicap race, as it’s all about getting as close as possible to your target time,” Green says.

“However, based on past performance and in terms of outright pace, Patrick Gearing’s 1935 Riley TT Sprite should be the quickest car in H1. Rumour has it that the 65-second mark could be bettered which, for a 1.5-litre pre-war car, would be impressive indeed,” Green adds. “The ‘dark horse’ will be the supercharged 1928 Austin 7 single-seater, driven by Greig Smith. A new cylinder block and blower could see it up near the front.”

The oldest car in the field is the 1926 Austin 7 driven by Lucie Runnalls, with two cars from the Parnell Bruce Collection joining the action – the 1931 Ford Model A with motoring journalist Gero Lilleike at the wheel, along with the 1946 Austin Special driven by Callum Price.

The 14th edition of the Simola Hillclimb takes place from 2 to 5 May 2024.

More information and online ticket sales are available on the Simola Hillclimb website: www.simolahillclimb.com

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