KNYSNA, South Africa, 5 May 2023 – The Simola Hillclimb crowned Andre Bezuidenhout as its 2023 Classic Conqueror today following an intense battle for the title – making it three different winners from the past three events.
As the outright Simola Hillclimb record holder and five-time King of the Hill winner, Bezuidenhout mounted his most serious challenge yet for Classic Car Friday with the Cosworth-engined 1976 Lola T460, and he was rewarded with his first win in the classic event after setting the fastest time of the day in the all-or-nothing Top 10 Shootout.
“I always say, leave the best for last,” Bezuidenhout said. “It was a difficult day for us, as we just weren’t dialled in for the first couple of runs, then we broke the sump plug just before the final practice session. It was very close in qualifying, and in the Class Finals I thought we had it in the bag, but it was a big disappointment as the car bogged down and I was slow off the start.
“But that’s motorsport, and fortunately in the last run for the Top 10 Shootout I recorded my best time of the day, and it’s fantastic to win my first Classic Car Friday title,” he said.
The 13th edition of the Simola Hillclimb was certainly primed for an epic Classic Conqueror showdown, as six-time winner Franco Scribante was determined to claim back the winner’s trophy after a technical issue prevented him from competing last year in the 1970 Chevron B19.
However, Scribante and Bezuidenhout also had to contend with outgoing champion Ian Schofield in the 1977 March 77B Formula Atlantic, along with 2015 winner Charles Arton in a similar 1979 March 79B – a car that was extensively damaged in a transporter fire following the 2017 edition, but was fully restored for this year’s event.
As expected, from the moment the flag dropped to signal the start of the first practice session it was an all-out tussle among the major contenders, with Scribante posting the fastest times on all three practice runs.
Heading into the all-important qualifying, he powered the Chevron to his fastest run of the day at 42.017 seconds, but lost a bit of time on the second qualifier to slot in behind Bezuidenhout’s 42.152 seconds.
Unfortunately, it all came to nothing for Scribante as his challenge ended with engine failure on the final qualifying run. “I’m very disappointed, as it was all set to go down to the wire with the top three extremely close. What makes it even more disappointing for me is that we’ve been able to keep the fight going with the Chevron B19 which is a sports car going up against some seriously competitive single-seaters.”
The qualifying results determine the top three competitors that participate in each of the Class Finals, as well as the 10 drivers that make it through to the all-or-nothing Top 10 Shootout.
With Scribante out of contention, the class finals for H9 (pre-1981 single-seaters and sports cars) went to Schofield with an impressive time of 41.674 seconds for the 1.9 km standing start sprint – earning the class trophy and the bragging rights for the fastest official time for this year’s Classic Car Friday.
Bezuidenhout’s less-than-perfect start saw him cross the finish line with a time of 43.021 sec to slot into second place, with Arton finishing third on 45.936 sec.
Class H8 (pre-1990 racing saloon cars, six cylinders and above) went to Rui Campos in the 1976 Porsche 911 RSR, while Trevor Tuck took the honours in H7 for the four-cylinder cars in his 1974 Alfa Romeo Giulia 2000 Rally. In H6 (pre-1970 racing saloons, six cylinders and above), James Temple claimed the win in the roaring 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe, with Kyle Brink victorious in H5 for four-cylinder machines in his 1959 Austin Mini Cooper S.
Clayton Kimber won H4 (pre-1985 road cars, five cylinders and above) in the road-going version of the 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe, while Ashley Baud secured H3 for the four-cylinder road cars in a 1967 Alfa Romeo GT Junior. The H2 win for pre-1965 road cars went to Peter MacPherson in the spectacular 1964 Ford GT40.
Class H1 for the pre-war cars is based on a handicap format, allowing the vastly different vintage cars to compete on equal terms. The driver who comes closest to their calculated target time takes the win, and this year it went to Margie White in her 1937 Austin 7 Special, ahead of Roger Lewis (1934 MG Special Hedgehog) and Gino Noli (1935 Austin 7 Ulster).
Classic Conqueror Top 10 Shootout
All of the day’s action and excitement through the practice and qualifying sessions culminate in the 10 fastest competitors lining up for the final Top 10 Shootout, which decides the event’s overall winner, and the honour of being crowned Classic Conqueror for 2023.
With Scribante out of action and Bezuidenhout posting his best run of the day to ultimately take the title with a time of 41.715 sec, Schofield’s exceptional run in the Class Finals was followed by a disappointing 44.024 seconds in the final dash, relegating him to runner-up position.
Arton completed the podium with a time of 44.763 seconds – and he was deservedly also handed the coveted Spirit of Dave Chartlon award for the exceptional effort and dedication he and his team put into the complete restoration of his March 79B Formula Atlantic race car, which he drove to victory in the 2015 event. The car was extensively damaged in a fire while being transported back to Cape Town following the 2017 Simola Hillclimb. The Spirit of Dave Charlton award at the Simola Hillclimb recognises the person that reflects South African race legend Dave Charlton’s spirit of impeccable attention to detail, meticulous preparation and commendable performance.
Josh Dovey made it four single-seaters in the top four positions in the shootout, behind the wheel of his 1972 Chevron B20 F3 car. Rui Campos crossed the line at the top of the Simola Hill with the fifth-fastest time as the quickest tin-top car, ahead of James Temple, Clive Corder (1969 Lola Mk3), Robert Wolk (1979 Van Diemen Ford RF) and Craig Wessels (1983 Porsche 911 RSR Iroc).
The King of the Hill challenge at the Simola Hillclimb takes place on Saturday and Sunday, 6 and 7 May 2023.
More information on the Simola Hillclimb is available on the website: www.simolahillclimb.com
Release compiled by Colin Mileman (082-897-6145 firstname.lastname@example.org)