By: Ian Kilburn
The Peaceful sounds of singing birds and pinging golf balls were once again interrupted by the roar of engines in Knysna for the 2017 Jaguar Simola Hill Climb. This event should be on every petrol heads agenda to attend at least one. This being the 8th running of the event has definitely grown in status to becoming one of the Premier Motor Sport Events in South in South Africa.
The 1, 9 km of road had one thing on the agenda to be number one up the Hill at the end of the weekend. We headed down a week before to attend the Knysna Classic Car Show which is also becoming the Premier Classic Car Show in the country with some series machinery on display. The Sun City Concourse can definitely take a cap out of the show for the pure quality, condition, class and variety of the cars on display.
The Hill Climb in May of each year sees teams from all over the country and sometimes from all over the world, come to claim bragging rights for the fastest time up the hill. It's a bit like the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, just scaled down. Around 15000 spectators were on hand to watch a full field of 148 cars and some of the biggest names in motorsport blast their way up the Simola resorts service road.
For the 2017 event the organisers mixed things up by separating the cars into three individual King of the Hill: Single Seaters and Sports Cars, Modified Saloon Cars and Road and Super Cars. Friday was still the original Classic Car Event who after spending the morning qualifying had the top 10 fastest shoot out in the afternoon. Please don’t detract from the value of the machinery racing on the Saturday or Sunday there were some extremely valuable, rare and very expensive machines going hammer and tongs on the Friday a proper sight to watch.
The pit lane was a hive of activity and reminded one of a mini Monaco F1 pit lane with spectators, marshals, drivers, mechanics and media all mixing together. There was none of the normal shenanigans of you can’t go here there or anywhere without a pit ticket/pass. Everybody mixed and got close up on the action.
While majority of teams would celebrate the days' success, others would suffer from mechanical failure, so the evening’s leisure time would soon be a scramble to fix and prepare the car for the next day. As with all motorsport, if you do not fix it in time for the scrutineers, you miss out big time or worse, go home. If you think for one second that teams are not taking this seriously, then think again. Each team comes with an eighteen wheeler truck full of parts accessories to build an identical car should anything go wrong in a matter of hours. With each truck comes mechanics, tuners and all the other important people needed for a serious race weekend.
The Single seaters and Sports Cars were easily the fasted category with Andre Bezuidhout taking the overall win in his 1989 Dallara F1 Car and setting a new lap record in the process. He was closely followed by Franco Scribante in his Chevron and 3rd was Robert Volk in his Formula Renault.
Willem Baard secured the Modified Saloon Class in his extremely fast Nissan GTR R35, he was followed by Dez Gudziet in his R32 GTR with 3rd place going to the very quick Subaru Impreza of Anton Cronje.
The standard saloon car class was won by debut Hill Climber and personal friend Reghard Roets in his road legal Nissan GTR R35 , he was followed over the line by USguest driver Randy Pobst in a Jaguar F-Type SVR WITH 3RD place going to Jaki Sheckter in yet another Nissan GTR R35.
The weekend was an absolute blast and a massive success for South African Motor Sport, there was in fact 5 cars competing over the weekend in the various classes which I had previously sold not to mention that I had about 15 clients competing in the event, it took me about an hour just to walk down the pit lane every day as there so many friends and people I knew who were either competing on just doing the same as us, being part of Motor Racing History in South Africa.