The 2018 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb delivered an enthralling mix of thrills and excitement, with some stunning new records being set on the Simola Hill – both amongst the competitors’ times, as well as the number of spectators attending the three-day event.
When the action drew to a close on Sunday, all-new King of the Hill records had been established in each of the three categories, but the times between many of the top contenders were closer than ever, which kept the fans on their toes right to the end of the nail-biting programme.
3 distinct titles
There are three distinct King of the Hill titles, namely for road-going saloon cars and supercars (class A), modified saloon cars (class B), and single seater and sports cars (class C). Nissan competed in both class A and class B with different versions of the R35 Nissan GT-R and with the NISMO LEAF Racing Car.
Single Seaters and Sportscars
Andre Bezuidenhout was the undisputed King of the Hill at the 2017 edition of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb in his 1989 Dallara F189 Formula 1 car, and his aim for the 2018 event was to go even quicker in the recently acquired Gould GR55 – a specialist Hillclimb single-seater built in the UK with much-improved aerodynamics and a paddle-shift transmission.
Bezuidenhout established a new official Hillclimb record during the one-lap Class Finals with an impressive time of 36.428 seconds. If that wasn’t remarkable enough, he absolutely destroyed the current lap record with an all-new time of 35.528 seconds in the King of the Hill Top 10 Shootout.
“I felt confident throughout the weekend that a 35-second time was possible but was slightly worried when the temperature dropped in the late afternoon for the final run,” Bezuidenhout said. “The Gould is an amazing car, and the team I had supporting me was superb.
Robert Wolk was another prominent presence throughout the two days of racing, competing this time in a Ferrari V8-powered A1 GP car. He put in a solid effort to both learn the new car and give it his all, and finished second with a best time of 37.691 seconds during the Top 10 Shootout.
The final podium slot went to Garth de Villiers, driving a Formula VW, with a time of 42.013 seconds.
Modified Saloon Cars
In Class B for modified saloon cars and supercars, Wilhelm Baard was the fastest man up the hill. He raced his GT-R to a final time of 39.463 seconds, which is the fastest time ever achieved by a saloon car in this prestigious competition. In doing so, he broke his own record of 39.892 seconds, which he set in 2017.
Heading into the Class Final, Dawie Joubert held the qualifying advantage, having dipped under the 40-second barrier with a time of 39.984 seconds, with Baard breathing down his neck a mere hundredth of a second adrift and the next three rivals, comprising Charl Joubert, Di Matteo and Van Zummeren, all under 41 seconds.
In the mid-pack it was Cronje that laid down the gauntlet with a time of 40.973 seconds, which was immediately beaten by Van Zummeren and Di Matteo. Charl Joubert was up next and he notched up an impressive 39.519 second run.
It was a nail-biting affair and Dawie Joubert completed the final run of the three-day Jaguar Simola Hill climb event, eventually ending on 40.025 seconds to claim third behind his brother Charl, with the King of the Hill title ultimately remaining in the hands of an elated Baard who set a new record time of 39.463 seconds.
Road-going Saloon Cars and Supercars
Reghard Roets earned his second King of the Hill title in a row with another exceptional performance in the mighty street-legal Nissan GT-R, having set the pace throughout the weekend. As the lone GT-R in the category, he raised the bar even further after he beat his current Hill climb record for standard road cars by 0.135 sec, bettering last year’s result during the Class Finals with a time of 44.631 seconds.
The Top 10 Shootout for the King of the Hill title became a thrilling three-way tussle at the top, with Olivier blasting his way to his best time of the weekend of 44.967 seconds, a time that Izak Spies wasn’t able to beat in his McLaren after recording a run of 45.784 seconds.
This gave the Jaguar driver second place on the final podium with Spies taking the third-placed slot ahead.
Spirit of Dave Charlton Award
Few names are better known in South African motorsport circles than Willie Hepburn – a man that has become synonymous with racing thundering V8 machines over the years in the WesBank V8 series.
He has been a regular and popular competitor at the Jaguar Simola Hill climb in his iconic 7.0- litre Chevrolet V8-powered Opel Record – a car that he still drives and maintains at an age of 76.
For his dedication to the sport and professionalism, Hepburn earned the Spirit of Dave Charlton floating trophy for the 2018 King of the Hill, which recognizes the person that reflects South African race legend Dave Charlton’s spirit of impeccable attention to detail, meticulous preparation and commendable performance.