Thrilling action at the 2023 Simola Hillclimb

The 2023 Simola Hillclimb saw a total of 84 entries across all categories, anything from normal road going vehicles to single seater formula cars. As in 2022, the weather also played a major role, but this time, the rain covered the 1.9km track on the last day, rather than during the qualifying runs on Saturday.

The 2023 event, with Suzuki as one of the main sponsors, saw a star-studded line up. Three-time FIA World Champion Petter Solberg spearheaded proceedings in his Polo R WRX, along with his brother Henning Solberg, and former Formula 1 racer Mika Salo for Mercedes.

As is customary to the event by now, Franco Scribante turned up with his Nissan GTR R35, also known as “Godzilla”, while the 2023 Classic Car Friday and overall winner for the past five years, Andre Bezuidenhout, once again turned up with his Gould GR55 (McLaren V8) single seater. Both, however, had to set their record ambitions aside amidst the rain during the final runs on Sunday.

With a soaking wet track during the class finals, Reghard Roets (Nissan GTR R35) took the quickest time of 40.5 seconds, ahead of Bezuidenhout, more than a second adrift. Scribante took third with a 42.2. Petter Solberg meanwhile managed to claim fourth place with a time of 43.3.

Suzuki entered the 2023 event with the aim of proving that anyone could participate, not necessarily costing an arm and a leg. With three Suzuki Swift Sports entered in the A1 class, Sudhir Matai, Kumbi Mtshakazi, and Wesley Greybe tackled the hill.

All three drivers constantly kept between 54 and 56 seconds throughout the two days. Mtshakazi, as a rookie to motorsport immediately impressed, setting a time below the 1-minute mark from the first practice run. The youngster did well throughout the weekend to constantly improve his times to a 56.4 on day 2.

Matai, in the sole manual Swift Sport entry, also did well to make the class final, posting a very respectable time of 1:02.6 in very wet conditions.

Greybe, in his second consecutive Simola Hillclimb with Suzuki, climbed into the 53 second barrier on Saturday, but ultimately claimed the second position in the A1 class with a class final time of 1:00.8, in the wet. The class was won by Deon Joubert, racing in a new Honda Civic Type R. The ex-South-African champion, and 7-time Simola competitor, claimed a time of 55.3 seconds.

King of the Hill

With the clouds once again making way for the sun, the track started drying up just in time for the King of the Hill runs. Competitors had to make the difficult choice of either running on slick tyres, or wets.
Spectators were kept on their feet as the top competitors in the Road Going Saloons, Modified Saloons, and single seater categories tackled the tricky course.

Jean-Pierre van der Walt in his A4-class Porsche 911 Turbo S clocked a time of 44.991 seconds to win the Road Going saloon class ahead of Garth Mackintosh in a McLaren 720s coupe (47.621 seconds) and Mika Salo in a Mercedes AMG 45S (47.876 seconds).

Everyone held their breaths as Solberg charged up the hill to post a spectacular time of 41.281 seconds, thinking that this would be the winning time in these tricky conditions. Yet, both Scribante and Roets had other ideas as both Nissan GTR R35’s obliterated the damp track. Roets managed to finish in second place with a time of 40.539, whilst Scribante sent the crowd roaring, with a winning time of 39.877 seconds. Whilst being two seconds off his record time, set in 2022, Scribante managed a miraculous time in very tricky conditions.

With the majority of the single seater competitors running into mechanical difficulties, Bezuidenhout seemed highly likely to add a seventh title to his five King of the Hill and one Classic Car Friday titles. The Team Perfect Circle driver did just that, posting an incredible time of 37.580 seconds. The driver was hoping to break his previous record and break into the 33 seconds mark, but in these conditions, this was an even better achievement.

Devin Robertson, racing with a Suzuki Hyabusa 1300 pro Sport engine, managed to claim second position with a time of 40.794 seconds, whilst Andrew Rackstraw (in a Formula Volkswagen) claimed third with a 41.589 seconds.

Mentioned after the event, Bezuidenhout highlighted the growth of this event during the past years, stating that it has now become much more international. The Simola Hillclimb has truly grown to be an International sensation.

However, as fellow “rookie” attendees mentioned this year, Social Media videos does not do this event justice. One has to personally feel the vibrations of these roaring machines, racing up the hill.

The 2024 event promises to deliver even more exhilarating action.

Leave a Comment