“It was a fantastic weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Des said at the winner’s podium. “We set out to win this event after coming so close last year, and I’m really glad we achieved our goal. My crew did an amazing job with the car, and I have to thank the organisers for putting a splendid event together.
Despite convincingly taking the 2015 King of the Hill trophy, the Gutzeits are already looking ahead to the 2016 event. “I’m not sure if I can go any faster, but next year we’ll definitely try break the 40 sec barrier,” he confidently stated.
Gutzeit Senior had set the tone throughout the two days of intense competition in his explosive 1400 hp (over 1 000kW) Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R, tussling back and forth during the practice and qualifying sessions with son Jade in the newly built Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7.
The Port Shepstone-based duo dominated the six qualifying rounds spread over Saturday and Sunday, with Des leading the charge on 40.210 sec, blitzing Franco Scribante’s existing 2014 record of 41.159 sec by almost a full second.
Jade was second overall in the qualifying with a time of 41.366 sec. Interestingly, both fastest qualifying times were set during Saturday afternoon.
More than 12 000 spectators – a record total – attended the three days of adrenaline-fuelled racing, including Classic Car Friday. Those that made it to the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb on Sunday in particular were treated to plenty of thrills and even a couple of spills.
Des continued to set scintillating times, but unfortunately Jade only completed one Sunday qualifier at full tilt before the clutch packed up on his second run in the 800 hp (600kW) Evo 7. He and the rest of the Dezzi crew worked feverishly to remove the engine and gearbox in order to replace the clutch, finishing just in time for the Class Finals after a truly exceptional team effort.
Toby Venter had his best run of the weekend to cross the line on 42.098 sec to qualify third in his Porsche 911 GT2RS Le Mans – a time that was matched by Darron Gudmanz in the Nissan R35 GT-R, indicating just how close and intense the competition was.
Reigning champion Franco Scribante (Chevron B19) had to be content with fifth on 42.215 sec, ahead of Sav Gualtieri (BMW 335i) a tenth slower and Jacki Scheckter (Nissan R35 GT-R) on 42.699 sec.
Duane Galloway (R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R) qualified eighth on 44.181 sec, just ahead of Craig Czank (Nissan R35 GT-R) on 44.237 sec, while yet another Gutzeit, Jade’s younger brother Shane, rounded out the top 10 in his R32 GT-R with a time of 44.244 sec.
Graeme Nathan, one of the top runners in his class, saw his hillclimb challenge come to an abrupt end in Qualifying 5 when a lower control arm broke mid-corner on his 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL, sending the car straight into a tyre barrier. He emerged unhurt, but with a hefty repair bill for his classic Beemer.
With the sun blazing down on the Simola hill the scene was set for the action-packed Class Finals. The top three qualifiers in each class had a one-dash opportunity to settle the scores once and for all, and there was plenty of excitement around – both in the bustling pit lane and at the many spectator points located along the challenging 1.9 km course.
After the punishing series of practice and qualifying runs, several cars either couldn’t make it for the top-three single-lap shootout due to a variety of mechanical issues, or faltered on their final attempts.
Class A caters for road cars, and it was a case of giving it absolutely everything for Wynand Vlok, who set off as the leader in Class A3 and scored a convincing win by almost two seconds in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 with a time of 45.849 sec. But he was pushing so hard that he lost control of the car just after the finish line and suffered a hefty impact against the embankment. The driver was shaken but unhurt, yet the car was decidedly worse for wear – but he still picked up the class trophy for his efforts!
As the oldest driver in the paddock and a former rally and circuit racing champion, 79-year-old Geoff Mortimer remains as sharp and committed as ever, and he won Class A4 with a time of 47.178 sec in his distinctive Nissan 350Z.
It was an all-Nissan GT-R affair in A5, as Quinsley Sale dominated the class in his R34 Skyline GT-R on 44.711 sec. Jacques du Plessis (Toyota Conquest) took the honours in A6 (50.768 sec), with Johann Zulch (BMW 325i) the top finisher in A7 (56.324 sec).
Greg Parton has competed in every one of the Knysna hillclimbs to date, and his screaming Lamborghini Aventador topped Class A8 at 45.676 sec, with Ernst du Preez powering his new McLaren 650i to the lead of A9 on 45.713 sec.
In Class B, which hosts saloon-type race cars, Jade Gutzeit blitzed the opposition on 41.962 sec, although this was just over half a second slower than his qualifying performance. However, it was a remarkable effort for the multiple off-road and enduro motorcycle champion. He just finished putting his Mitsubishi back together after replacing the clutch, then donned his overalls and charged straight into the time attack with mere seconds to spare. If there was an award for effort, Jade would have won it hands-down.
Predictably, Des Gutzeit was untouchable in B2 with a time of 40.266 sec – which established an official new Jaguar Simola Hillclimb lap record.
Thouca Mechanicos led B3 in his dazzling one-of-a-kind modified Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG (45.066 sec), while Nico van Rensburg took the laurels in B4 in the compact VW Scirocco Mk1 on 54.923 sec.
In B5, Peter Zeelie set the fastest time of 45.698 sec in the Toyota 3.5 V6-powered Lotus Exige. The ground trembled as ever-popular Willie Hepburn roared across the finish line in 44.070 sec in the iconic 8-litre Opel Rekord to claim the win in B6.
Single seater and sports racing cars made up Class C, with Donny Lamola claiming C1 in the amazing 1.0-litre EcoBoost-powered Formula Ford (50.237 sec). Reigning champion Franco Scribante topped C2 in his rapid Chevron B19 (41.891 sec), while Arnold Klimke (Lotus 7 replica) took C3 (47.975 sec), with Mike Verrier powering the Reynard to victory in C4 with a time of 45.797 sec.
KING OF THE HILL
Two intense days of intense ear-piercing racing, fuelled by plenty of tyre smoke and high-octane exhaust fumes ultimately led to the highlight of the entire weekend – the King of the Hill Shootout.
The running order was determined by the 10 fastest overall qualifying times throughout the six sessions, and it was down to a final, no-holds-barred dash for the line. Unfortunately there were two casualties that failed to make the line-up due to mechanical problems.
Fifth-placed Toby Venter blew the clutch on his Porsche on the start line in the Class Final, while seventh-fastest Jaki Scheckter didn’t even make this round as the four-wheel drive system was faulty on his Nissan R35 GT-R.
The revised top 10, run in reverse, saw Hepburn set off first. He thundered to a final time of 44.790 sec to place tenth, while Craig Czank was up next but launched his R35 GT-R into an impressive sixth place overall on 42.983 sec.
Duane Galloway (Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R) was up next but dropped back to ninth on 44.325 sec. Despite a dramatic off-track excursion on Saturday, Mohamed Dangor managed a time of 44.320 sec in the rapidly repaired R34 GT-R to end eighth fastest. Shane Gutzeit was able to move up a place to end fifth overall on 42.983 sec.
The excitement and tension rocketed as the last five competitors took to the starting line in succession. Sav Gualtieri was undoubtedly one of the surprises of the 2015 Hillclimb, as he blasted the radical BMW 335i race car to his fastest time yet of 41.659 sec, which was ultimately sufficient to claim an impressive second place on King of the Hill.
Darron Gudmanz followed suit and notched up his best time of 41.763 sec, which secured third position. Franco Scribante had endured a difficult weekend, and after he faltered with a missed gearshift once off the line, he eventually had to concede defeat, finishing fourth on 42.015 sec.
Finally it was down to the two Gutzeits, father and son. Des enjoyed a perfect start and an impeccable final run, rocketing across the beams in a new record time of 40.148 sec – an astonishing 1.011 sec faster than Scribante’s 2014 record.
Under the pressure of the frantic repairs to his Mitsubishi, Jade was the last of the challengers. But he bogged down at the start, and only managed a 44.173 sec, which dropped him down to seventh overall.
Des was indeed a deserving winner after going all-out with his crowd-pleasing GT-R, and his remarkable new lap record rounded off yet another exceptional Jaguar Simola Hillclimb.
Only one question remains – will the 40 sec barrier be broken next year?
Release compiled by Colin Mileman