- Reigning double champion JP van der Walt aiming to make it a hat-trick of victories with a 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S
- Shelby South Africa lined up six competitors, comprising two standard Ford Mustangs and four powerful supercharged models
- Impressive range of manufacturer-backed entries from BMW, Suzuki, Volkswagen, Honda and Toyota
The King of the Hill challenge in the Road Car and Supercar category at the 2023 Simola Hillclimb will deliver all the expected speed and adrenaline that car enthusiasts dream about – albeit in a variety of forms.
Automotive hedonism certainly comes in an endless variety of shapes and sizes, from light and agile hot hatchbacks to sleek supercars that seem to defy the laws of physics with their outrageous performance. And, of course, we have to now recalibrate our minds for a new type of silent speed, courtesy of the rapid rise of electric vehicles.
Leading the charge for this year’s Road Car and Supercar King of the Hill challenge is the reigning double champion JP van der Walt, who has one thing in mind – and that’s to make the class his own for a third consecutive year, in a trio of different Porsches. This year Van der Walt will be driving a 992-generation 2021 911 Turbo S after taking the title in a 2016 version last year, and claiming his first win in 2021 with a 2016 911 GT3 RS.
“The 992 Turbo S will probably only really gain time up the hill after Turn 2 with its additional power compared to the old generation I drove last year, but launching off the line is always the biggest challenge for a road car on standard tyres,” Van der Walt says. “The road tyres don’t grip on the rubber laid down on the start line like slicks do. They tend to wheelspin which makes the launch difficult, but I certainly hope to go quicker than last year.
“The Simola Hillclimb is a very special motorsport weekend with the best atmosphere you’ll find in the country,” he adds. “It’s also a real challenge for the driver as you can’t go and practice, and there’s no room for mistakes. You need to progressively build up your speed, and leave a bit in the tank.”
Along with the overall title, Van der Walt will be vying for class A4 honours for four-wheel drive cars with turbocharged/supercharged five or six-cylinder engines. The only other competitor in the class is Wilhelm Kuun in a 2021 Audi TT RS.
There will be numerous rivals from other classes going head-to-head in the Top 10 Shootout for the King of the Hill crown, including last year’s runner-up, Farhaad Ebrahim in a 2020 Toyota Supra that slots into class A3 for two-wheel drive force-fed five/six-cylinder cars. He will have Piet Potgieter (2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia QV) for company in A3, along with the official BMW South Africa entry of Rob Gearing in the all-new 2023 BMW M2, and the privately entered 2019 BMW M240i driven by Martin Wiid.
Simola Hillclimb regular Gordon Nicholson finished third last year and took the class A6 win (naturally aspirated eight-cylinders and above), and he will be back in action in his screaming 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus. Garth Mackintosh is sure to be hot on his heels again in the rapid 2017 McLaren 720s that he powered to the fourth-fastest time overall and the class A7 win for force-fed eight-cylinder cars and above.
Shelby South Africa is bringing an impressive contingent of customers and their Ford Mustangs to the 2023 Simola Hillclimb, with two naturally-aspirated V8 Mustangs entered in class A6, along with three supercharged Shelby Super Snakes and the rare Shelby Terlingua competing in A7 – the latter driven by Paige Lindenberg.
They will be joined by MasterDrive’s Eugene Herbert in another Ford Mustang, with the driver training company supplying the event’s safety cars for the third year in a row. MasterDrive is also conducting an exciting driver search programme for a young driver who will compete in class A1 for four-cylinder two-wheel drive cars. This class will also feature two Suzuki Swift Sport entries, along with an official Honda entry that will be announced closer to the event.
Class A2 for four-cylinder four-wheel drive cars will present an intriguing battle between the official Volkswagen South Africa entries, comprising a pair of Golf Rs driven by the company’s top racing drivers – Jonathan Mogotsi and Daniel Rowe. Toyota has also joined the party with an exciting new challenger – the highly anticipated turbocharged four-wheel drive GR Corolla, which will be seen for the first time in South Africa at the Simola Hillclimb, driven by Toyota Gazoo Racing’s young GTC driver, Nathi Msimanga.
The new BMW M2 isn’t the only interesting car that the German manufacturer is bringing to this year’s Simola Hillclimb. Following the impressive performance of BMW’s all-electric i4 M50 last year, driven by motoring journalist Ciro de Siena to an impressive ninth place overall in King of the Hill, the company is throwing its weight behind a brace of high-tech 2023 models that will compete in class A8 for hybrid and electric vehicles.
Cars.co.za motoring journalist and regular racer Ashley Oldfield will be driving the 480 kW plug-in hybrid BMW XM on its South African debut – the first bespoke M performance car since the iconic M1 that debuted in 1978. He will be up against two all-electric vehicles – a 400 kW i4 M50 driven by fellow motoring scribe Thomas Falkiner from the Sunday Times, and the new 210 kW iX3 piloted by BMW SA test engineer and dynamics driver Bradleigh Boshoff.
Purchase your tickets online
Tickets can be purchased on the event website (www.simolahillclimb.com), with the prices for General Entry remaining unchanged from last year. Upgrades are available for Pit Access, Turn 2 Grandstand seating and VIP Parking.
For the ultimate VIP experience, the Le Mans Hospitality Lounge provides mouth-watering catering, an unbeatable viewing point overlooking the start line, as well as General Entry and Pit Access.
The 13th edition of the Simola Hillclimb takes place from 4 to 7 May 2023.
More information on the Simola Hillclimb is available on the website: www.simolahillclimb.com