Andre Bezuidenhout and Franco Scribante lead the charge on opening day of King of the Hill

  • Three-time Single Seater and Sportscar champion Andre Bezuidenhout set a new unofficial record of 35.449 seconds in the Gould GR55
  • Reigning Modified Saloon Car champion Franco Scribante managed the best class time of 39.581 seconds in his wild Nissan R35 GT-R
  • JP van der Walt topped the Road Car and Supercar category in a 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS with a time of 45.336 seconds

KNYSNA, South Africa, 4 September 2021 – Judging by the first day of the 2021 Simola Hillclimb’s King of the Hill challenge, Andre Bezuidenhout and Franco Scribante look well placed to add to their respective titles this year.

Three-time winner Single Seater and Sportscar category winner Bezuidenhout led all of the practice and qualifying sessions that he completed today, in the process setting a new unofficial Simola Hillclimb record. In the first qualifying run, he rocketed the 2007 Gould GR55 up the 1.9 km Simola Hill in a scorching 35.449 sec at an average speed of 193 km/h, an astonishing feat from a standing start. His time was eight-hundredths of a second quicker than his current official record from 2018.

Only times set in the Class Finals or Top 10 Shootout count for the official records, but Bezuidenhout is confident that there’s still more to come. “I’ve had a couple of difficult starts getting off the line,” he said. “This event is all about the start, and if you lose time here you never pick it up. I’m half a second away from the 34-second mark, so I’m going to go for it.”

While Bezuidenhout was slashing his times, class rival Robert Wolk spent most of the day trying various setup changes on the Ferrari-powered 2007 A1 GP car in an attempt to improve the car’s traction off the line. With this year being the first time using proper super-soft hillclimb tyres, his best run of the day was 38.294 seconds.

“It has been two and a half years since we’ve raced this car, so today is all about getting back up to speed and checking the car is working properly so we can at least have a decent run at it,” Wolk said.

“The hillclimb tyres have a lot more initial grip, but I haven’t really pushed them yet. As we go, I’ll start understanding the tyres better and fine-tuning the car. There’s a lot to be done on the live racing system we’ve now fitted to the A1 GP so we’re busy ticking all those boxes. I’ve done a 36.5 seconds before, so hopefully I can get into the 35-second mark when we get the car fully sorted and I’ve got some confidence in the setup.”

In the Modified Saloon Car category, reigning champion Franco Scribante worked through a couple of technical niggles to set the fastest time of 39.581 seconds – a scant 0.239 sec off his 2019 Modified Saloon Car-winning time of 39.342 seconds. “We’re sorting out a lot of issues with the car, as every time we boost the power something breaks,” Scribante said.

One of his strongest challengers, three-time winner Wilhelm Baard, also had a frustrating day and wasn’t able to participate in any of the practice sessions due to fuel pump issues with his powerful 2014 Nissan R35 GT-R. Nevertheless, he came out charging on his opening runs during qualifying, setting the third-quickest time at 41.100 seconds, although he had to be content with a 0.6-second gap to Wade van Zummeren, who ended second for the day on 40.507 seconds.

Van Zummeren was undoubtedly one of the star performers, stepping into the mighty 2002 Nissan R34 GT-R normally driven by father Martin. His final time was 0.2 seconds faster than Martin’s best qualifying run in 2019, even though he normally drives the rear-wheel drive 1992 R32 GT-R – which is now being campaigned by brother Jody van Zummeren.

Cole Powelson, from Salt Lake City in Utah, is taking on the Simola Hillclimb for the first time this year, and is the only US-based competitor in the 2021 edition. He is driving a privately-owned Citroën Xsara at the Simola Hillclimb, originally built by Citroën Motorsport and campaigned as a works car in the 2001/2002 World Rally Championship (WRC), and later in the European Rallycross series.

As the CEO and founder of LYFE Motorsport, he has an exceptional motorsport pedigree – most notably finishing fourth overall and third in class at the 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, widely regarded as one of the world’s most extreme motorsport events.

“The vibe is great at this event,” he said. “I just can’t explain what a good, relaxed and positive atmosphere it is here, and the quality of cars has really exceeded my expectations. It’s top-level equipment with very nice builds to go along with the great people driving them.

“The Simola Hillclimb is very different from an event such as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The biggest challenge for these cars is the punishing standing start,” he commented. “It’s remarkable to see heavy cars such as the high-powered Nissan GT-Rs, which are essentially straight-line drag cars, having to sort out a whole bunch of corners too.

“The extreme loads off the line are not something that we have to deal with back home, as even at Pikes Peak we have a good long run into the start line. So the cars here are a totally different kind of build from how we would approach it,” he added. “It just goes to show the quality of the cars here, and how far the local guys are taking the builds. It’s a short hillclimb but asks a lot of the cars.”

In the Road Car and Supercar category, JP van der Walt topped the log in his 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS with a time of 45.336 seconds, ahead of Gordon Nicholson in the 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus (46.674 sec). A last-minute switch of cars saw Reghard Roets land up in a 2020 MINI John Cooper Works, and he thrust the little car up the 1.9 km Simola Hill with vigour to set the third-fastest time of 48.622 seconds.

Castrol Motorpress
Release compiled by Colin Mileman (082-897-6145
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