It wouldn’t be the Simola Hillclimb without a little bit of rain. At the 13th edition, the heavens opened on the final day, providing a few near misses for the drivers tackling the tarmac.
The Simola Hillclimb has been around for over a decade and in this time, ominous-looking clouds have almost always been present throughout the race weekend. 2023 was no different, with clouds looming over the Knysna locale making conditions a little bit tricky for drivers of the course.
From the onset in the morning, the mist appeared over the hill and began peppering the 1,9km surface with water. This, combined with the bit of rain during the night, meant the cool and wet conditions would not be conducive for blistering times.
— Suzuki SA (@Suzuki_ZA) May 7, 2023
The stopwatch from the first few qualifying sessions on Saturday was the fastest from each driver. Now time to leave it all out there, with less-than-ideal conditions and a slippery track. Throughout the day, there were near misses. Spins, pirouettes and brushes with tyre walls were heart-sinking moments for the thousands of spectators that attended live.
It was Andre Bezuidenhout who retained the King of the Hill title, although his blitz time of 34,161 from 2022 would unflinchingly remain – rain, remember. This means the best time of the day was a 37,580 in his monstrously loud Gould GR55. Franco Scribnante managed to snatch the modified saloon cars trophy out of the clutches of Reghard Roets in his “Sheriff” Nissan R35 GT-R. The heavily modified model only two seconds off the single-seater time in the damp with a 39,877. Models hailing from showroom floors had Jean-Pierre vd Walt claim road-going saloon cars & supercars in his Porsche 911 Turbo S with a blisteringly fast time of 44,991.
While the qualifying runs determined the Top 10 Shootout contenders for all three King of the Hill categories, they also decided which drivers would contest the penultimate Class Finals which were conducted in rainy conditions.
Andrew Rackstraw took the class C2 victory for four-cylinder single-seaters (44,946 sec) after an intense battle with Formula VW compatriot Byron Mitchell, with C3 (unlimited single-seaters) going to Andre Bezuidenhout on 41,872 seconds in the 2007 Gould GR55. Tom Barrett earned the C4 win for four-cylinder naturally aspirated sports prototypes with his 2006 Lotus 7 Replica (58,730 sec), and the unlimited four-cylinder C5 title went to Devin Robertson in the 1992 Radical 1300 Pro Sport (43,842 sec). Rui Campos powered his way to the class C6 title for the large-capacity sports prototypes, recording 48,896 seconds in the V8-powered Shelby CanAm.
In the Modified Saloon Cars, it was a racing debut and class B1 (naturally aspirated, four-cylinder) win for MasterDrive/Castrol driver search winner Bevin Harris in the 2007 Ford Fiesta ST (1:17,478), with Graeme Nathan taking B2 (four-cylinder, 2WD unlimited) in the VW Polo SupaCup on 50,664 seconds.
B3 for unlimited four-cylinder 4WD cars went to Petter Solberg (43,383 seconds) in the 2018 VW Polo R WRX Supercar, while Pieter Zeelie earned the B4 crown (five-cylinder and above, 2WD) on 44,656 seconds in his 2002 Toyota MR2 Super GT.
Although he missed out on the overall King of the Hill title, Reghard Roets was able to take the trophy for class B5 (five-cylinder and above 4WD) home in the 2014 Nissan R35 GT-R (40,565 sec), completing this session 1,649 seconds faster than second-placed Franco Scribante.
Geoff Goddard Jnr took the B6 honours for six-cylinder naturally aspirated cars in the iconic 1989 Stannic Group N BMW 325i Shadowline, with B7 (eight cylinders and above, naturally aspirated) claimed by Pieter Joubert in the bright yellow Mercedes-AMG V8-powered Lotus Exige (48,947 sec).
Renowned circuit and rally-raid driver Anthony Taylor took the B9 win for unlimited SUVs and bakkies (pick-ups) in the new twin-turbo V6-powered Ford Ranger Raptor with a wet time of 1:02,064, after having gone as low as 54,747 seconds in the dry qualifying sessions.
In the Road-going Saloon Car and Supercar category, Deon Joubert led the charge in class A1 (2WD, four-cylinders) in the latest Honda Civic Type R on 55,368 seconds. Clint Weston settled the tight squabble with Mika Salo in the pair of Mercedes-AMG A45S entries by winning the A2 title for 4WD cars on 49,134 seconds.
Farhaad Ebrahim took A3 (five-cylinders and above, 2WD) with a time of 50,223 seconds in his 2020 Toyota Supra, while JP van der Walt was untouchable in A4 for the 4WD cars (48,449 sec). Sean Mackay earned the A5 win (five cylinders and above, naturally aspirated) in the 2000 Porsche 911 GT3 (1:03,799), with the A6 trophy (eight cylinders and above, naturally aspirated) handed to Gordon Nicholson in the 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus (50,462 sec).
Garth Mackintosh powered the 2017 McLaren 720s to the A7 win for force-fed cars (eight cylinders and up) on 52.800 seconds, while Ashley Oldfield scored the victory in A8 for hybrid and electric cars with the BMW XM that made its South African debut at the Simola Hillclimb, achieving a time of 49,134 seconds.