The Jaguar Simola Hillclimb taking place in Knysna from 16-18 May is fast becoming one of the ‘must do’ events on the South African motorsport calendar.
The art of hillclimbing is like nothing else in motorsport. As opposed to circuit racing there are no laps and unlike special stage rallying there isn’t a navigator, however the driver does get practice runs up the hill.
It is one short, sharp adrenaline filled rush up a hill on a surface that, while relatively smooth in a road car, is bumpy and in places, almost devoid of grip in a pukka race car.
Des Gutzeit, who lost the win by a little over one hundredth of a second in 2012, simply says it is the most challenging event he’s competed it. Willie de Beer who will be competing in a Porsche GT2 adds that, “It’s a different experience, very exciting.”
Competing on a closed public road is a unique experience as film producer Anton Rollino explains. “Hill climbs are a singular discipline – you against the clock, solo on the track and totally focussed on a course which was never meant to be a race track, thus each run is going to be a singular challenge.”
Past Jaguar SimolaHillclimb winner Geoff Mortimer, a multi-talented South African motorsport legend who has won championships on both dirt and tar, won’t be on the start line this year. “I am sorry I won’t be there this year, the Mitsubishi Evo with which I won, and in which I last competed, has been sold, but I have some plans for 2015,” he says.
We were fortunate to catch up with him and ask what it takes to ‘get it up’. “Because the track is so short, the start, or launch as I call it, is at the top of the list. Getting off the line quickest could mean the difference between winning or not.”
The Nissan Skyline Jade Gutzeit used to win in 2012 was ultra-fast off the line, while the EVO Mortimer drove in 2010/11/12 was not equipped with launch control or sequential transmission, and thus slightly slower off the mark. “I estimate it was capable of 0-100 in four seconds, but the Gutzeit’s Nissans are equipped with both launch control and sequential transmission features, so I estimate their 0-100 time at under three seconds.
“Launch systems allow the engine to develop immediate big torque without load (with throttle and clutch depressed). All the driver has to do is pop the clutch on the go signal and four-wheel-drive and warmed slick tyres take care of the rest,” explains Mortimer.
However, the hill is ultra fast and certainly not for the faint hearted. “I recall speeds of about 230km/h before the tricky 100km/h turn two, thereafter there are lots of high speed sweeps to the finish and the average speed up the hill is around 160km/h.”
Tyres are absolutely critical at this level and not only do pressures have to be spot on, but the tyres also need to be up to temperature right from the start. “Not all the top teams had tyre warmers in the past, but I suspect that will change this year. Warmers, together with soft compound slick tyres, are a must if you want to win. Tyre pressures are adjusted on pre-warmed tyres to just below the ideal hot operating temp for the specific tyre and car as there will be a lot more heat generated in the next 40 seconds taking them to the ideal pressure,” he concludes.
Forty seconds or less – that’s all it will take to earn the ‘King of the Hill’crown.