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Suzuki is firmly in control of class A1 for turbocharged production vehicles at the 2024 Simola Hillclimb.

The brand finished the day with the fastest time ever set by a Swift Sport at the Simola Hill, while the racing during the four practice runs and the three qualifying runs saw the racing drivers fight hard to best each other and set faster times with almost every run.

Suzuki Auto South Africa entered three cars in this year’s Hillclimb, and to their surprise they were joined by a fourth Swift Sport, entered by a privateer who wanted to be in on the action. The three official Suzuki entries were piloted by journalists Thomas Falkiner and Brendon Staniforth and precision driver, Wesley Greybe.

At the end of the day, it was Thomas Falkiner who set the best time. Falkiner is no stranger to the Simola Hillclimb or racing in general. He set an all-time fastest Swift Sport time of 54.143s during the first qualifying run.

He raced in his first Simola Hillclimb in 2010 and has since competed in several front-, rear- and all-wheel drive cars at Simola. In 2023, he made the Top 10 in the Road and Supercar Shootout in an all-electric sedan.

“The Swift Sport is perfect for a track like this. It is extremely light and well balanced, so you can focus on getting the best racing line through the corners,” says Falkiner.

Falkiner’s experience on the Simola Hill was clear from the first run. He opened his account with a time of 56.107s, pipping Wesley Greybe (56.306s) and Brendon Staniforth (56.494s) to top Class A1.

Greybe and Falkiner swopped the top spot a few times in the subsequent practice runs, with Staniforth improving on every run and staying within half a second of the two front-runners.

“As this is my first time, I focused on getting to know the track and the car’s capabilities. The fact that a newbie to Simola can run within 0.5 seconds of seasoned veterans is testament to the quality of the engineering on the Swift Sport,” says Staniforth.
The racing became serious after lunch, when the three drivers lined up for their first qualifying round. Staniforth set his first sub-56 second time with 55.395s. Greybe dropped to 54.471s , quicker than his best time in 2022, and Falkiner set his record-breaking time.

In the pits, the three racing drivers in their Swift Sport models were cheered on by racers from previous years. Among them were journalists Sudhir Matai (55.237s in 2023) and Reuben van Niekerk (54.901s in 2022).

In the short break before the third and final qualifying round of the day, the racers sat down in the pits, swopped notes and even welcomed a fourth competitor, a privateer who entered his Swift Sport for the 2024 race.

Giles Missing is a regular contender at Simola. He previously competed in an Audi RS6 and a Mitsubishi Evo VII, but he decided to enter his daily runabout “for the fun of it”.

“I saw the Suzuki guys having so much fun, so I swopped my bigger cars for the Swift Sport this year. It has 98 000 km on the clock, and I drive it almost every day,” says Missing.

Greybe shared some tips with Missing and Staniforth, while he and Falkiner discussed when to leave the automatic transmission to self-shift and when to hook the gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel to drop a gear for that extra bit of acceleration.

“Now is the time to start listening to your gut. The Swift Sport is perfectly set up to allow for seat-of-your-pants driving. After the first few runs up the Hill, you can start trusting your instincts and push past your perceived boundaries,” says Greybe.

“I agree,” says Falkiner. “The car is perfect for a short and tight course like this. It is very neutral, and the steering is responsive so you can trust the car to go exactly where you want it to on the track.”

With the notes in hand, Greybe finished with a best qualifying time of 54.471s, just shy of his best time in 2023 and half-a-second faster than his best time in 2022.

Staniforth maintained his steady improvement with each run, and he set a best time of 55.395s, more than a second faster than his very first run up the Hill.

Lastly, the privateer, Missing, set a qualifying time of 57.682s, which is significantly faster than the 1:00:008 that he started with.
While the Swift Sport was the star of the show, Suzuki also demonstrated the speed and capabilities of two of its newest motorcycles.

The first motorcycle was the Suzuki Hayabusa, the brand’s domineering super sports bike, which was first shown at Simola two years ago.

Following close behind was the Suzuki GSX-S1000GX, its brand-new Sport Crossover bike. This was the first public viewing of the new GSX-S, which has caused quite a stir in international markets for its tractable power delivery and brand-new Suzuki Advanced Electronic Suspension (SAES). This fully adjustable suspension allows riders to adjust the suspension to their driving intentions, from fast and furious to long distance touring with a pillion rider.

Says Brendon Carpenter, Brand Marketing Manager of Suzuki Auto South Africa: “Today offered a perfect example of our Brand Ethos of accessible excitement.

“On the one hand, we entertained the crowd with a light and nimble sports car that is not only accessible to most vehicle buyers, but which awakened the most primal competitive spirit in our racing drivers. At the same time, our demonstration riders showed the crowd how they could get supercar performance from two of the most advanced and price competitive motorcycles on the market.
“And to top it all, the speedboat rides from the Knysna lagoon to the open ocean, which were offered to media guests were powered by Suzuki outboard motors, officially the most popular outboard motor range in South Africa.”

Suzuki will return to the Simola Hill tomorrow for the last qualifying rounds, before fighting for the silverware in the class finals on Sunday afternoon.

For more information and to follow the action, follow @Suzuki_ZA on social media.

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