Sparks set to fly in Modified Saloon Car category at 2024 Simola Hillclimb

  • Five-time King of the Hill winner and reigning champion Franco Scribante to face intense onslaught once again from rivals, including 2023 runner-up Reghard Roets
  • Addition of new class for street-legal tuned or modified cars further broadens the appeal and interest in this thrilling event
  • 14th edition of the Simola Hillclimb takes place in Knysna from 2 to 5 May 2024


It has to rank among the fiercest and mightiest automotive battles of them all, where millimetre precision and as little as hundredths of a second decide the fate between winners and losers. We are, of course, talking about the epic Modified Saloon Car fight for King of the Hill glory at the Simola Hillclimb, which features the wildest, most powerful and fastest tin-top racing cars in South Africa.

There’s arguably no more intense and engaging tussle than the ongoing needle match between Franco Scribante in his time attack-inspired and carbon-fibre bodied 2018 Nissan R35 GT-R, known as ‘The Sheriff’, and the menacing BB Motorsport ‘Armageddon’ 2014 R35 GT-R driven by Reghard Roets.

There was little to separate the two leading protagonists at the 2023 Simola Hillclimb as they continued to push the envelope of performance. Roets held the advantage during qualifying, completing the 1.9 km standing-start sprint eight-hundredths of a second faster than Scribante’s record time of 38.129 seconds from 2022 – although only times set in the Class Finals and the Top 10 Shootout count as official results.

When rain interrupted play during Sunday’s Class Finals, Roets retained the leading spot from Scribante who had been sorting out a series of technical issues with his car. But then the tables were turned in the all-or-nothing Top 10 Shootout, as the unpredictable damp conditions saw Roets braking a moment too late leading to Turn 3 and losing a bit of time, which handed Scribante his fifth Modified Saloon Car title.

Accordingly, to say that fans can look forward to an epic battle between these two leading protagonists in 2024 would be a huge understatement.

“Last year I made the mistake and lost the Simola Hillclimb. Franco won it by putting in a good time with a clean run when it mattered and he deserved it, but I’m keen to see what we can do this year,” Roets says.

“We have a couple of improvements on the car, and did a lot of suspension work last year which helped a lot, but at the level everyone is competing now we’re fighting for fractions of a second. I predict if it’s dry the winning time will be around 37 seconds, which we almost certainly would have done last year, but unfortunately the mixed wet and dry conditions threw a huge curveball at everybody,” he says.

“Hopefully the weather will play along. Ideally it should be either dry or wet, as that in-between is extremely difficult, especially in this format when cars go off at different times and one person may have a dry run and the next has to deal with wet or mixed conditions. The Simola Hillclimb is without a doubt my favourite event of the year, and I can feel the hype building everywhere. I think it’s going to be a good one,” Roets says.

With five victories already under his belt, Scribante is determined to give it everything again this year. “Naturally we want to win. I think Reghard and I are pretty maxed out with getting everything out of our cars, and it will be down to who is better on the day,” Scribante says.

“Reghard did a lot of testing last year and we nearly fell short in this department, so our intention is to get much more seat time prior to the hillclimb,” he adds. “We have rebuilt the engine as it got hurt a little in its early life due to low oil pressure, so this may give us a little more power.”

The Dark Horses

While the top two contenders are guaranteed to be leading the charge again this year, there’s a formidable armada of serious title challengers. Class B5 for unlimited four-wheel drive cars (five cylinders and above), which Scribante and Roets compete in, includes Martin van Zummeren in his ballistic 2002 Nissan R34 GT-R and son Jody in a rapid 1994 R32 GT-R. There’s also the Gqeberha-based Scribante brothers in a pair of extreme Audis – Aldo in a 2011 S4 and Silvio switching from a similar car to a 2017 RS3.

They will have the large class B4 contingent of two-wheel drive monsters hot on their heels too, comprising 2021 winner and international hillclimb competitor Pieter Zeelie (2002 Toyota MR2 Super GT) and Wade van Zummeren in the wild 2002 Nissan R34 GT-R silhouette machine. There’s also a trio of highly modified turbocharged Lotus-based cars in the class, including Dawie Joubert’s spectacular Ferrari 488-powered 2001 Exige, his brother Charl in the Honda V6-powered 2005 Elise, and Devin Robertson who is making the switch from the sports prototype category to compete in Czank Racing’s Nissan GT-R powered 2001 Exige.

Class B3 is for unlimited four-wheel drive four-cylinder beasts. Anton Cronje is likely to be a front runner again for the class title and the Top 10 Shootout in his hot 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX STi, along with Lee Thompson (Honda-powered 2022 VW Polo R) and Pierre Bester (2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG).

The two Volkswagen factory drivers of Jonothan Mogotsi and Daniel Rowe will be wrestling for the class B2 trophy (unlimited four-cylinder 2WD cars) in a pair of Polo SupaCup entries, accompanied by Hyundai SA’s Joshua Lowe in the 2022 Hyundai i30N and Clare Vale in her 2013 Subaru BRZ.

Some of the other entries that are sure to be fan favourites compete in class B7 for naturally aspirated cars with eight cylinders and above. This includes Pieter Joubert’s roaring Mercedes-AMG V8-powered 2006 Lotus Exige, a BMW Z4 with a monstrous 7.0-litre Chevrolet LS7 engine entered by Knysna resident Mike Verrier, Jimmy Giannoccaro’s 2012 BMW Z4 GT3 which uses a thunderous NASCAR-derived V8, and his son Ricky who has exchanged his Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo for a 2020 Audi R8 V10 GT4 LMS.

After a troubled outing last year with gearbox issues, BB Motorsport’s Arnold du Plessis will return with the mean Nissan Patrol Black Hawk, which features a 396kW supercharged 5.6-litre V8 engine – competing in B9 for unlimited SUVs and bakkies.

Modified Street Car division

An exciting new addition to the line-up this year is class B10 for modified street cars. It is open to a wide range of production-based two and four-wheel drive cars, irrespective of engine size. However, they have to be street-legal and maintain the original vehicle manufacturer’s configuration with regards to body dimensions, drivetrain, engine type, number of cylinders and aspiration (normally aspirated, turbocharged or supercharged). Open-tread semi-slick competition tyres can be used, but full slicks and tyre warmers are not permitted.

Speedy Car Sales owner and renowned Group N and Touring Car driver Farouk Dangor was one of the driving forces behind the introduction of this class. “We decided to make the switch to the new class after speaking to Simola Hillclimb sporting director Geoff Goddard, and suggesting that something be done to level the playing field between the full race cars and the road-registered modified vehicles,” Dangor says.

“We are delighted that the organisers have taken our suggestion and created the new class. It stands testament to their dedication to us, the competitors. This is what makes the Simola Hillclimb the premier event in South Africa,” he adds.

Dangor will be competing in his third Simola Hillclimb this year, driving a 2013 Nissan R35 GT-R, which has a road-going Track Pack with engine modifications that take the power to around 700hp (522 kW). “I acquired the vehicle to add to our collection of special race cars at the Speedy Car Sales motorsport museum where we have the other cars that I raced over the years on display along with lots of South African motorsport memorabilia.” This amazing collection includes the BMW E30 M3 that Dangor raced in the SA Touring Car (SATCAR) series in 1993, which he will be driving in Classic Car Friday this year.

Joining him in B10 will be two other tuned R35 GT-Rs, driven by Craig Czank and Johan van den Berg, along with Steve Clark in a R34 GT-R, Owen Bridger in his 2016 Honda Civic Type-R and Giovanni Fantin in a 2018 Audi RS3.


The 14th edition of the Simola Hillclimb takes place from 2 to 5 May 2024.


More information and online ticket sales are available on the Simola Hillclimb website: