The Simola Hillclimb is renowned as South Africa’s premier motoring and motorsport lifestyle event, and its growing stature internationally has attracted three star drivers from the world of Formula 1, the World Rally Championship (WRC) and World Rallycross (WRX).
Former Formula 1 driver Mika Salo is the latest high-profile addition to the starting line-up for the 13th Simola Hillclimb, which takes place from 4 to 7 May 2023 in Knysna, a popular tourist destination along the Garden Route in South Africa. The famous Finnish driver’s participation is backed by Mercedes-Benz South Africa and ATK Esports. He will be joined by the Solberg brothers, Petter and Henning, thanks to Volkswagen South Africa, with the two Norwegian drivers both having achieved successful careers in WRC and WRX.
“The local line-up of cars and drivers for the Simola Hillclimb has always been exceptional, and it is widely considered to be on par with some of the best hillclimb events around the world,” says Ian Shrosbree, MD of the Knysna Speed Festival which owns the Simola Hillclimb. “The global interest in our Hillclimb has grown significantly thanks to the vast international exposure we’ve received in recent years, culminating in drivers of international stature now being keen to participate in the event.”
The Simola Hillclimb was given a huge boost when Pieter Zeelie, the 2021 Modified Saloon Cars King of the Hill, competed in the FIA International Hill Climb Cup in Germany last year and finished on the podium first time out – proving just how competitive the South African event is.
“We’ve been hard at work with our event partners and other interested parties to create opportunities for more international drivers to participate in the Simola Hillclimb, and this year really ups the ante with Mika Salo, Petter Solberg and Henning Solberg joining the action,” Shrosbree says. “We are extremely grateful for the support and confidence shown in our event by Volkswagen SA, Mercedes-Benz SA and ATK, and appreciate the immense effort that has gone into securing these top-level drivers. We are confident that it further enhances the international stature of the Simola Hillclimb while adding great value to their participation in this year’s event, to those attending the event, and to viewers watching on the international broadcast feed.”
Salo forms part of a two-car entry from Mercedes-Benz South Africa, with the Finnish driver competing in the Road Car and Supercar category in a showroom-spec 310 kW AMG A45S. His participation is supported by ATK Esports, and was facilitated by Patrick Walton from the Garden Route Film Commission who has worked with Salo on several occasions, and sees this as a great boost for the local film tourism industry.
“I’ve seen the Simola Hillclimb on social media and always really wanted to go there,” Salo says. “It will be a great challenge and looks like an incredible event. I’m happy to be driving the AMG A45S provided by Mercedes-Benz South Africa.”
Salo competed in 109 F1 races between 1994 and 2002, driving for Lotus, Tyrrell, Arrows, BAR, Ferrari, Sauber and Toyota. His most notable performances were the two podiums he scored for Ferrari in 1999 while standing in for the injured Michael Schumacher, which contributed to the team’s constructor’s championship win. The versatile Finn also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and claimed the GT2 class victory in 2008 and 2009, was part of the development program for the Maserati MC12 GT, raced in a number of the FIA GT events, dipped into the Australian V8 Supercars series, and won the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour in a Ferrari 458 GT3.
The second Mercedes-AMG A45S will be driven by local racing driver Clint Weston, who also heads up the AMG Driving Academy in South Africa. The two AMG cars will compete in class A2 for standard production turbocharged four-cylinder four-wheel drive cars. This is the first time Mercedes-Benz will be involved in the Simola Hillclimb, making it a total of eight vehicle manufacturers that have signed up as event partners or entrants for this year’s edition, including Suzuki, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai, Ford and Toyota.
As a partner to the Mercedes-Benz campaign, ATK Esports is spicing up the Gasoline Alley activities by providing Esports Racing Simulators for spectators to test out their driving skills in the virtual world.
Volkswagen South Africa recently announced that it is bringing Petter Solberg, the 2003 WRC champion and winner of the WRX titles in 2014 and 2015, to the Simola Hillclimb this year. He will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers with the mighty 2018 championship-winning Volkswagen Polo R WRX Supercar which will compete in the no-holds-barred Modified Saloon Car category.
Not content to let his younger brother have all the fun, Henning Solberg will be getting in on the action too. The Norwegian driver has more than 30 years of motorsport experience under his belt, having competed in 133 WRC events between 1998 and 2019. He has also been a regular rallycross competitor throughout his career, finishing second in the European series in 2014, and contesting two WRX seasons in 2014 and 2015.
Volkswagen SA is taking care of Henning’s entry, and he will compete in class A2 of the Road Car and Supercar category in the latest 235 kW Golf R, along with VW Motorsport’s local racing drivers, Jonathan Mogotsi and Daniel Rowe, in identical cars.
This has certainly added great interest in the class, with six of the hottest four-wheel drive hatchbacks currently on the market proving their mettle on the tight and twisty 1.9 km Simola Hill course. The class win and ultimate bragging rights are up for grabs amongst the two international stars, Salo and Henning Solberg, and the local racers comprising Weston, Mogotsi, Rowe and Nathi Msimanga in the exciting new Toyota GR Corolla.
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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