New King of the Hill records were set in each of the three categories at the 2018 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb in Knysna.
Andre Bezuidenhout, who was King of the Hill at the 2017 event in his 1989 Dallara F189 Formula 1 car, tackled this year’s challenge in a Gould GR55 single-seater. He wrapped up the qualifying sessions with a best time of 36,006 seconds – more than 1,1 seconds quicker than his best time last year in the Dallara.
Bezuidenhout established a new official Hillclimb record during the one-lap Class Finals with an impressive time of 36,428 seconds, before destroying the lap record with a 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.
“It has been an amazing weekend, and this is an exceptional event. I can’t think of another motorsport event where so many people stay right to the end and are so enthusiastic. I have to say well done to the organisers and sponsors.”
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.
Another talking point throughout the contest was Stuart White, at just 16 years old, who became a strong contender for a podium slot too, but his hopes were dashed when his Formula Renault V6 failed on his Top 10 run, and he had to take solace in a Class Final time of 40,497 seconds. So, the final podium slot went to Garth de Villiers, driving a Formula VW, with a time of 42,013 seconds.
Modified saloon cars
In the Modified Saloon Car category, reigning champion Wilhelm Baard, in the leading Nissan GT-R, had his sights set on a third Hillclimb title, going head-to-head against fellow GT-R rivals Edrich Zwiers, Quinsley Sale, Martin van Zummeren, Darron Gudmanz and Kyle Mitchell.
Anton Cronje also featured in his wild Subaru Impreza WRX STi, while Franco di Matteo brought sheer muscle to the gunfight, courtesy of his Jaguar V8 Supercar racer.
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.
However, Baard was having a torrid weekend, struggling with the braking balance of the car, already having destroyed the GT-R’s radical front splitter, and had a wild spin at the top of the hill. Later, he had to contend with a fire breaking out in the GT-R, leading to more emergency repairs.
Nevertheless, he managed to pull a blinder of a run out the hat in the Class Final, blasting through the timing beam in 39,533 seconds to set a new record for the class. In the Top 10 Shootout, run from slowest to fastest, it was anyone’s guess who would take the all-or-nothing single shot at glory.
In the mid-pack, it was Cronje who 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.
Baard gave it everything on his final attempt, sliding the GT-R through the Esses at the top of the course, and ripping off his front splitter for the second time in two days when he drifted slightly wide and clipped a tyre. It only emerged later, at the podium, that the boost pipe was pulled off at the same time, and he completed the run with no turbocharger!
It was a nail-biting affair as the track was cleared of debris, and Dawie Joubert completed the final run of the three-day Jaguar Simola Hillclimb event, eventually ending on 40,025 seconds to claim third behind his brother, 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 Hillclimb record for standard road cars by 0,135 seconds, bettering last year’s result during the Class Finals with a time of 44,631 seconds.
The former Production Car racer had actually gone even quicker in the qualifying sessions, with a time of 44,588 seconds, in an effort to stave off the challenge from a trio of McLaren 570S entries, and the ever-present threat of Dawie Olivier in the roaring Jaguar F-Type SVR.
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.
Roets was the last of the contenders and cemented his 2018 King of the Hill title with a winning time of 44,892 seconds. This gave the Jaguar driver second place on the final podium with Spies taking the third-placed slot ahead of Ernst du Preez (McLaren), Barry Ingle (Roush Ford Mustang) and Jacques Wheeler in the third McLaren.
More than 17 000 people attended the ninth edition of the Hillclimb, around 2 000 more than last year’s record-breaking attendance.