The Suzuki Swift Sport is heading back to Johannesburg from Knysna with Simola Hillclimb silverware on board.
On Sunday, two of the three Suzuki Swift Sport models that competed in the 2023 Simola Hillclimb fought their way into the class final and onto the class podium. The cars competed in class A1 for standard production sports cars with forced induction and two-wheel drive.
Wesley Greybe led the Suzuki pack for most of Saturday’s practice and qualifying rounds and during Sunday’s qualifying rounds and class finals. He set a class final time of 1:00.809 on a wet track and earned his place on the podium.
Prior to this last run in the rain, Greybe had set a best time of 54.395 during one of the qualifying rounds on a dry track. This is better than his time of 54.580 that he set in 2022 during the class final. He finished in second place last year.
“I knew that we could do faster times than last year. While the car remained unchanged, we had a better understanding of the ideal tyre pressures and racing lines. This meant that we could start competing for the class final from the very first run,” says Greybe.
It is worth noting that Greybe set his best time in 2022 behind the wheel of a manual Swift Sport and this year he swapped it for a Swift Sport auto.
“With the automatic transmission, you can flick between gears using the paddles behind the steering wheel, or you can leave the transmission to change gears automatically. This helps when you are pushing all out at the upper end of the Hillclimb and you would rather keep your focus on the road and your racing line,” says Greybe.
Last year Greybe set a top time of 55.709 in a manual Swift Sport. Reuben van Niekerk, who drove the Swift Sport auto, set a final time of 55.901.
“This just goes to show how sorted the Swift Sport is. You can comfortably choose between the manual and the auto without fear that you will compromise the vehicle’s sporty nature. It comes down to personal preference,” says Greybe.
Further proof of Greybe’s statement came from Sudhir Matai. Matai opted for the manual Swift Sport for his campaign at the 2023 Simola Hillclimb, and he promptly borrowed the Suzuki Auto Managing Director’s company car for the weekend.
“I took some time to get settled behind the wheel and perfect my start sequence. If you are too eager on the throttle your wheels spin all the way to second gear. That can cost you valuable seconds in this form of racing,” says Matai.
Matai definitely perfected his start because by the end of the qualifying laps, he had a best time of 55.237 seconds, less than 1 second off the pace of the more experienced Greybe in the auto Swift Sport.
In the class finals, Matai had to race first. It meant that he was the very first person on the track just after a short cloudburst left pools of water on the track and sent spectators scampering for cover.
The combination of rain and the layer of rubber laid down by all the competitors over the last two and a half days created very slippery conditions for Matai, Greybe and the other competitors to navigate.
“The last run was quite challenging! Our last run of the Hillclimb was also the first one in the rain and you had to try and push as hard as possible, while negotiating the new conditions,” says Matai.
Matai completed his run in 1:02.667 for a third place in Class A1. Greybe earned the second place with a time of 1:00.809. The class was won by Deon Joubert in the new 2023 Honda Civic Type-R.
Earlier in the day, Kumbi Mtshakazi completed his campaign with a top qualifying time of 56.091 seconds. This is less than a second behind Matai and a true accomplishment for the young Mtshakazi in his first ever racing event.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better sports car in which to start my racing career. It is so easy to go fast in this hot hatch because the direct steering and well-tuned chassis is so communicative and gives you the confidence to push harder with every run,” says Mtshakazi.
Chelsy Pinto, Product Planning and Sales Development Coordinator at Suzuki Auto and Team Manager for the 2023 Suzuki Swift Sport Team at Simola, says: “This is exactly what we wanted to achieve with our three-car team at the 2023 Simola Hillclimb. We mixed manual and automatic transmissions and chose drivers with different levels of experience and they all finished the weekend within a whisker of each other.
“The Swift Sport is designed to nurture the novice and reward the experienced driver. And at an entry price of R419 900 it still offers the best performance-per-rand in the industry and certainly at the Hillclimb.
While all eyes were on Greybe, Matai and Mtshakazi, there were other Suzuki-powered vehicles in action during the weekend.
In the King of the Hill competition for single-seater racing cars, two cars raced with Suzuki power.
Devin Robertson competed in class C5 with his Radical SR1. This custom-built sports car is fitted with a Suzuki Hayabusa engine and at the 2023 Simola Hillclimb Robertson set a best new time of 40.794 seconds. This earned him the second place in the Single Seater and Sports Prototype Shootout for the King of the Hill title.
Megan Verlaque returned to Simola with her Speedcar Extreme. Her compact racing car is fitted with a 1 000 cc Suzuki motorcycle engine. Verlaque set a final best time in qualifying of 44.710 seconds.
Suzuki also continued its tradition of introducing a new motorcycle to the fans at Simola. This year, the company unveiled its brand-new Suzuki V-Strom 1050 DE dual-purpose motorcycle.
The new V-Strom will be the flagship in the group’s on/off road range and it was raced up and down the Simola Hill during lunchbreaks. It was accompanied by Suzuki’s very popular GSX-R1000 R superbike.
Suzuki commits to the Simola Hillclimb
Suzuki Auto South Africa has completed its third Simola Hillclimb and the second one where it competed in Class A1 with the Suzuki Swift Sport.
“We joined the Simola Hillclimb in 2021 amid restrictions on fans and the movement of people. From that very first event, we committed to supporting the Hillclimb and its ethos of providing an exciting and accessible motor-racing event,” says Brendon Carpenter, Brand Marketing Manager of Suzuki Auto South Africa.
“This is the first year that crowds were allowed back with no restrictions, and it is fantastic to see the event return to its former glory. As Suzuki, we are also heartened by the additional support that the Hillclimb has received from other vehicle manufacturers and sponsors.”
Suzuki Auto has publicly announced that it will continue its support of the Simola Hillclimb. It will return in 2024.
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