Is a new Simola Hillclimb record on the cards for 2021?

  • All eyes will be on current Simola Hillclimb record-holder Andre Bezuidenhout to see if his 2018 record time of 35.528 seconds will be beaten
  • Various Formula Ford, Formula VW and Formula GTi competitors take on the 1.9 km Simola Hill, along with sports prototype endurance racers
  • Two intriguing new SpeedCarZA ‘cross kart’ entries, comprising rally driver Megan Verlaque, and disabled driver Terry Smith who has Pikes Peak in his sights

KNYSNA, South Africa, 26 August 2021
Motorsport enthusiasts are eager to see if the outright King of the Hill record for the Simola Hillclimb will tumble this year at the 11th edition of South Africa’s premier motoring and motorsport lifestyle event, which takes place on 4 and 5 September 2021. It will be preceded by Classic Car Friday on 3 September.

The Single Seater and Sports Prototypes category, not surprisingly, currently holds the overall record for the event, with Andre Bezuidenhout having set the quickest time to date in 2018. Despite it being his first outing in the 2007 Gould GR55 V8 – a lightweight single-seater race car purpose-built for hillclimb events – Bezuidenhout set an astonishing time of just 35.528 seconds for the steep, serpentine 1.9 km course, which he completed at a remarkable average speed of 186.052 km/h from a standing start.

Bezuidenhout powered his way to his third consecutive King of the Hill title in 2019 with the same car, having taken the 2017 win in the 1989 Dallara F189 Formula 1 car with a time of 37.807 seconds. Although he had a comfortable winning margin of more than 2 seconds in 2019 with a time of 36.764 seconds, Bezuidenhout’s hope of setting a new Simola record was thwarted by much cooler conditions compared to the previous year.

Accordingly, all eyes will be on the timesheets when Bezuidenhout launches the Gould up the Simola Hill during Sunday’s Class Finals, followed by the all-or-nothing Top 10 Shootout for King of the Hill glory.

His closest natural challenger for overall honours and the Class C3 title for naturally aspirated single-seaters (five cylinders and above) could once again be Robert Wolk, albeit in an older and much less sophisticated car. The multiple Formula Ford champion has switched from the Ferrari-powered A1 GP car used in the previous two events to a 1989 Pillbeam Ford MP58, powered by a 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V8 – the car driven by Investchem team owner Ian Schofield in the 2019 Classic Car Friday event.

Stepping out of this year’s Classic Car Friday challenge in his newly acquired 1989 Minardi M189 F1 car, Schofield will take on Class C2 for four-cylinder single-seaters in the 2.0-litre 2018 Mygale Formula Ford he raced last year. He will be joined by son Andrew in a 1.6-litre 2015 version of this car.

The Schofields will be going head-to-head against three 2.0-litre Reynard Formula VW cars driven by Wayne Jardine, Byron Mitchell and Andrew Rackstraw, while Louis van der Merwe will be competing with a Swift Formula GTi from a decade earlier.


Dynamite in small packages

There are two intriguing newcomers to the class this year, in the form of the SpeedcarZA Extreme ‘cross karts’ produced by Industrias Lahoz in Spain, and prepared in Cape Town by rally driver Ashley Haigh-Smith. Although the cars are diminutive in size, they are thoroughbred machines specially designed for autocross and hillclimbs. Powered by Suzuki 600 cc motorcycle engines, they are exceptionally light and agile and will certainly mix things up in the class.

Megan Verlaque, a former SA championship rally driver who now competes in the East African Safari Classic rally in Kenya, is driving one of the SpeedCarZA machines. “I love my SpeedCarZA cross kart. It is amazing to drive but we’ve had to make a few changes to make it more suitable for the Hillclimb,” she says. “This is my first Simola Hillclimb, and I’m very excited to be taking part.”

Getting behind the wheel of the second car will be former motorcycle and clubmans racer Terry Smith. Having been paralysed from the chest down in a motorcycle road accident in 2019, Smith isn’t letting his physical disabilities get in the way of living his passion for all things motoring. He has been granted a racing licence by Motorsport South Africa with permission to compete at the Simola Hillclimb.

“I had planned to drive a converted Aston Martin at the Hillclimb last year, as I was inspired by Rob Parsons who is also in a wheelchair and is the co-founder of Chairslayer, a foundation dedicated to get people with disabilities behind the wheel again,” Smith says. “When I approached the Simola Hillclimb organisers last year I had such positive feedback, so that prompted me to enter as I will be the first disabled driver to compete at this event.

“The deal with the Aston Martin unfortunately went horribly south, and eventually I came across the SpeedCarZA cross kart, which would allow me to go on outings with my son on his off-road bike, and also to compete at the Hillclimb,” he adds.

Smith was very excited to hear that Cole Powelson is coming to South Africa for the Simola Hillclimb to compete in the Modified Saloon Car category, as the American driver worked closely with Rob Parsons in developing the cross kart he raced at the 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Powelson achieved an impressive top-four result with a sub-10 minute time at Pikes Peak in his car, which was powered by a turbocharged 1.3-litre Suzuki motorcycle engine.

“I’ve been wanting to get hold of Cole for some time and was going to do so after the Hillclimb, as I hoped this event would open some doors for me,” he says. “After Simola I plan to do the Kyalami 9-Hour endurance race, then hopefully that will get me into a test overseas with a disabled racing team from the UK that uses Aston Martins. My big dream is to do Pikes Peak next year, and as far as I know I’ll be the only disabled driver to complete this legendary hillclimb.”


Sports prototypes

Along with the interesting and varied line-up of single-seaters and the two cross karts, there will also be several sports prototype-style race cars taking on the 1.9 km Simola Hill this year. Local Knysna resident and event regular Mike Verrier will be back in action in his 1989 Shelby CanAm powered by a Nissan 3.5-litre V6 engine. He will be joined in Class C6 (for five cylinders and above) by Rui Campos in a similar 1990 version, albeit using a Ford 5.0-litre V8.

Lotus Challenge and SA Endurance Series racer James Forbes will return to the Simola Hillclimb for the first time in a decade. “My car is an ADR MCE3 built in 2006 in the UK by ADR Engineering,” Forbes says. It is powered by a 1 298 cc Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engine to which he fitted a low-pressure turbocharger, and he is the single entrant in Class C5 for unlimited four-cylinder cars. “I’ve owned the car for around eight years, and use it occasionally in sports car races in Gauteng.”

In Class C4 for naturally-aspirated four-cylinder sports prototypes, it’s a repeat of the 2019 class battle. Devin Robertson, in the 1.4-litre Suzuki motorcycle-engined 1992 Radical SR1 Clubsport, was the quickest of the bunch, finishing fourth overall in the King of the Hill Top 10 Shootout with a time of 42.345 seconds. Once again, he will be battling former VW Polo Cup champion Jeffrey Kruger and Tom Barrett in their duo of Toyota-powered Lotus 7s.

The 2021 Simola Hillclimb takes place from 3 to 5 September 2021, starting with Classic Car Friday, followed by King of the Hill on the Saturday and Sunday. Due to COVID-19 regulations, no spectators are allowed, but the entire event will be livestreamed.

For more information on the event visit: #SimolaHillclimb

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