Regardless of the era, there’s arguably nothing more satisfying for automotive enthusiasts than seeing cars being used as intended – and that’s simply to be driven.
While there’s a case for preserving priceless pieces of motoring history in museums and prestigious private collections, nothing beats witnessing these machines unleashing their full potential on a twisty hillside road in front of adoring fans.
The performance of the diverse range of cars making up the Simola Hillclimb’s Classic Car Friday is all relative of course. A 1926 Ford Model T – which will be the oldest car competing in this year’s event – seems light-years away from a 1969 Ford GT40 which pays tribute to the illustrious Le Mans-winning cars that dominated the French race from 1966 to 1969. The Model T could hardly nudge 70 km/h while, just 40 years later, the GT40 was capable of over 340 km/h on the La Sarthe circuit’s six kilometre long Mulsanne Straight.
The line-up features the giant-killing original Mini, which defied all odds by winning the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, along with a stunning replica of the infamous Porsche 550 Spider, known as ‘Little Bastard’, that will forever be associated with film star James Dean. The Italians are represented by charming and agile cars such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia 2000 Rally and the boxy Fiat 131 Racing, while memories from the heydays of WesBank Modifieds and Group N will be relived, as some of these iconic cars, and many more, will be seen in action at this year’s Classic Car Friday on 5 May 2023.
A total of 65 cars are scheduled to take on the challenging 1.9 km Simola Hillclimb course, with 20 vehicle manufacturers represented.
Single-seaters and sports cars
The 2023 Simola Hillclimb sees the return of six-time Classic Conqueror, Franco Scribante, in his rapid 1970 Chevron B19 sportscar for class H9. While the rules have been relaxed slightly to align with local historic racing, sequential gearboxes are strictly not permitted for Classic Car Friday. Accordingly, Scribante’s car will use the standard manual gearbox, and will also have to make do without the rear diffuser, but he is likely to once again be the man to beat.
“I think the prospect for another win is still there simply because I’m so comfortable with this car, even though on paper there are a couple of faster single-seaters,” Scribante says. His 2016 winning time of 41.432 seconds is the fastest yet achieved with the B19 – 0.9 sec quicker than Ian Schofield’s 42.302 seconds that earned him the win last year with the 1977 March 77B Formula Atlantic racer.
As the reigning champions from the last two years, Scribante and Schofield will have to contend with a formidable onslaught from a bevy of other Formula Atlantic challengers, including the 1976 Lola T460 driven by five-time King of the Hill winner Andre Bezuidenhout.
Winner of the Classic Conqueror title in 2015, Charles Arton, returns to the class for the first time since 2017 after his 1979 March 79B was extensively damaged in a fire after the event. “We were able to salvage the engine, gearbox and three of the four corners of the car,” Arton says. “I bought another tub in Santa Ana, California, and a huge package of spares and rims from the UK. The car is currently being rebuilt by Steve Humble at Harp Motorsport who restored it originally, and we’re calling it the Phoenix.”
Josh Dovey had his first outing in the newly acquired 1972 Chevron B20 F3 single-seater last year, and he will certainly be quicker this time round with more experience in the car.
Racing saloon cars
Tin-top racing cars start in class H5 for pre-1970 four-cylinder machines, with two Austin Mini Cooper S models driven by Kyle Brink (1959) and Chris van der Walt (1962) going head-to-head against the 1962 Fiat Abarth of Kurt Wesson, Richard Wiederhold’s 1969 Fiat 124 Sport Coupé and racing stalwart Peter Kaye-Eddie, now 75 years old, in his 1965 BMW 2002.
The big-bangers occupy class H6, headlined by the ever-spectacular tyre-smoking Graeme Nathan in the Peter Kaye-Eddie-owned 1970 BMW 3.0 CSi, the two familiar 1967 Porsche 911R’s of Johan de Bruyn and Kobus Brits, along with Richard Evans in the iconic 1969 Chevrolet C3 Corvette.
Shelby South Africa is fielding two entries in this class, comprising James Temple in the race version of the stunning 1965 Daytona Coupé, and Paige Lindenberg in the massive 1968 Ford Fairlane – the latter a recreation of the famous car raced by Bob Olthoff in the late Sixties.
“Driving the Fairlane is a challenge for sure,” Lindenberg says. “That beast is not light, and with the constant turns up the Simola Hill you can only imagine the weight distribution. It’s also difficult to see the edges in such a big car when you’re strapped in, and hitting any dirt on the edge of the road can be very unforgiving, but it is a thrilling car to drive. I absolutely love the Simola Hillclimb, as you are constantly on edge and pushing to the limit on a legal road, up a hill with very little room for error.
“We love that we can take our race cars and road cars to the event and race what we drive on the road and sell as Shelby South Africa,” she adds. “It’s a fantastic event that gives us the opportunity to bring our clients into the Lindenberg Racing team, giving them a race experience in their road going Shelby models, and now even a Ford Model T for the first time. It is a weekend they will never forget.”
Class H6 boasts the largest number of entries with 12 competitors vying for glory for the pre-1990 four-cylinder class, including Simola Hillclimb regular Trevor Tuck in his immaculately prepared 1974 Alfa Romeo Giulia Rally, and Ian Kilburn in the 1972 Datsun GX Coupé. The two 1981 Porsche 924 entries from the Checkered Flag Museum will be back in action, driven by multiple rally and circuit racing champion Geoff Mortimer who, at the sprightly age of 86 is the oldest competitor in the starting line-up, along with George Fouché, a renowned local and international circuit racer during the 1980s and 1990s. Jandre Bezuidenhout will be driving a 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo Cup – the exact car in which his father, Andre, started his racing career.
There are some mighty cars in class H8 for the larger-engined pre-1990 race-bred machines, including last year’s runner-up, Rui Campos, in the 1976 Porsche 911 RSR, along with the later 1983 version driven by Craig Wessels. Former rally ace Enzo Kuun returns in his 1989 Ferrari 348, while the Chevrolet-powered 1969 Lola T70 that he drove in the 2021 event is once again in the hands of owner Clive Corder.
Farouk Dangor is bringing his iconic STANNIC Group N BMW 325iS to the party and will compete in Classic Car Friday for the first time, while BMW South Africa is planning to have a couple of nice surprises in this class too.
Classic road cars
Pre-1965 road cars occupy class H2, featuring a David versus Goliath battle between Hedley Whitehead’s nippy 1964 Mini Cooper S and Jacques Pickard’s 1.6-litre 1961 Porsche 356B on the one hand, against three very quick replica cars: Barry Ingle’s 1955 Porsche 550 Spider, Brian Bruce’s 1956 Jaguar D-type and Peter MacPherson’s 1964 Ford GT40.
H3 is for pre-1985 four-cylinder road cars, and the line-up includes a 1967 Alfa Romeo GT Junior driven by Ashley Baud, Dave van der Merwe’s 1965 Ford Anglia, Simola Hillclimb co-founder Francis Cusens in his 1981 Fiat 131 Rally and Nadia Viljoen in a 1967 Mini.
The line-up gets a whole lot more muscular in class H4 for the larger-capacity pre-1985 road cars, featuring modern recreations of the mean supercharged 1967 Ford Mustang 500 CR driven by Ivan Marx, and a pair of Shelby SA entries comprising Clayton Kimber in the 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupé and Jonathan Needham in the wild eight-litre V8 1965 Cobra. They are joined by Robert Flooks in another 1969 Ford GT40, and the two 1970 Porsche 911 entries of Gavin Rooke and Jennifer Abbot.
As a Tier 1 sponsor of the 2023 Simola Hillclimb, BMW South Africa has lined up some of the very significant locally developed cars from its museum fleet for class H4, the details of which will be revealed closer to the event.
H1 handicap class
In class H1 for the pre-World War I cars, several of the brands represented have long since been relegated to the history books, so it’s particularly inspiring to see them out and about and being driven with gusto.
Unlike the rest of the Classic Car Friday field that aims to set the fastest times up the Simola Hill, the drivers of the golden oldies establish individual target times that are representative of their car’s performance. The top three competitors with the best times on handicap from the three qualifying rounds will contest the class final in a single-run shootout. The driver who comes closest to their target time gets the honour of claiming the top step of the podium.
De Wet Roodt will be piloting the Ford Model T on his Simola Hillclimb debut, and his entry forms part of the Shelby South Africa contingent. He will be joined in H1 by nine other competitors, including last year’s runners-up Callum Price (1946 Austin Special) and Patrick Gearing (1935 Riley TT Sprite).
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
Published by: https://www.speedfestival.co.za/
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