Franco Scribante again stamped his authority on the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb’s Classic Car Friday event winning his fifth Classic Conqueror title and fourth in a row, in thrilling fashion.
The 10th edition of the legendary Knysna event dawned wet and cold, but that did not dampen the spirits of the 61 competitors who lined up for the start, nor for the thousands of fans that turned up for the first day of action.
With the rain fortunately subsiding by the time the first of the practice sessions commenced, the 1,9 km road was wet and slippery for the opening runs, but it soon dried and allowed the drivers to push their classic and iconic machines to the limit.
Scribante appeared to be in a class of his own through most of the day in the impeccable 1970 Chevron B19. His closest challenge, as expected, came from Andre Bezuidenhout in a 1976 Lola Cosworth Formula Atlantic single-seater, who steadily narrowed the gap to his long-standing rival – but remained almost one second adrift of the reigning champion’s final qualifying run of 42,512 seconds.
During the crucial Class Finals, Scribante set his fastest time of the day of 42,056 seconds, which was 0,14 seconds faster than his best time from 2018 – despite the much cooler conditions – and a mere half a second off his unbeaten Classic Car Friday record of 41,554 seconds in the 2017 event. He achieved an average speed of over 162 km/h from a standing start for the 1,9 km course. This gave him the Class H5 title ahead of Bezuidenhout and Peter Jenkins (1971 Chevron B19).
However, in the quest for ultimate glory, it came down to the Classic Conqueror Top 10 Shootout, with the fastest drivers from the three qualifying sessions setting off in reverse order in an attempt to claim the overall title.
Josh Dovey was 10th quickest in his diminutive 1965 Ginetta G4 R (49,549 sec), finishing just behind Johan de Bruyn in his Porsche 911 R replica from the same year (49.189 sec).
Renowned Johannesburg-based racer Graeme Nathan was as spectacular as ever in the Peter Kaye-Eddie owned 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL to finish eighth (48,149 sec), with Rui Campos claiming seventh place with an impressive 47,664 seconds in his 1969 Porsche 911 RSR. Robert Wolk used his extensive single-seater experience to secure sixth place in his 1987 Reynard Formula Ford (47,638 sec).
As the first of the drivers to drop into the 45-second bracket, Peter Jenkins slotted his bright yellow Chevron into fifth place with his best run of the day at 45,904 seconds – more than 1,5 seconds quicker than his earlier attempts. Peter van der Spuy powered his mighty 1972 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR Turbo into fourth place with a time of 45,575 seconds.
Having made the switch from King of the Hill to Classic Car Friday, V8 racing legend Willie Hepburn caused a stir in the thunderous 7,0-litre 1981 Opel Rekord that hails from the WesBank Modifieds era. After setting an astonishing time of 43,140 seconds in the Class Finals in the hairy tin-top machine, the 77-year-old rounded off the shootout with a final run of 44,050 seconds which gave him a well-deserved third place overall.
This left it to the final duo to battle it out for the crown – with Bezuidenhout traditionally keeping something in reserve for the final run, thus setting the scene for an epic duel. He gave it all in the historic Formula Atlantic Lola, completing his last run in 42,651 seconds, an outstanding 0,755 sec faster than his previous best.
Then it was all up to Scribante. After a somewhat flustered start with a missed shift into second gear on the initial straight, he was on maximum attack for the remainder of the climb. The iconic orange Chevron crossed the timing beam at the top of the Simola Hill on the ragged edge, finishing a scant eight-hundredths of a second ahead of the Lola with a time of 42,574 seconds, conceding Scribante his fifth title by the narrowest of margins.
“My start wasn’t great as there was a bit of a miscommunication between the officials on the start line, so I lost my concentration a bit which caused me to miss second gear after pulling off,” Scribante said. “After that I knew that I had to go for it, and from there on I had an absolutely perfect run. It doesn’t get closer than that, which made for a great race.”
Bezuidenhout was gracious in defeat: “I tried as hard as I could and went almost a full second faster in the final run, but Franco was just that little bit quicker and deserves the win. It was great racing and amazing camaraderie as always on this event – and I had lots of fun.”
Besides Scribante taking the class win in H5 and Hepburn in H7, well-earned class titles went to Roger Lewis in H1 (1934 MG Special Hedgehog), Malcolm Uytenbogaardt in H2 (1965 Sunbeam Tiger), Gavin Rooke in H3 (1970 Porsche 911) and Johan de Bruyn in H4 (1964 Porsche 911 R replica).
In Class H6, Trevor Tuck took the laurels in the beautifully prepared Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm, with Peter van der Spuy claiming H8 in the 911 RSR.
Spirit of Dave Charlton Award
The special ‘Spirit of Dave Charlton’ Award recognises the person that reflects South African race legend Dave Charlton’s spirit of impeccable attention to detail, meticulous preparation and commendable performance.
For the 2019 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, the Award for Classic Car Friday went to Ron Hollis. He heads up the local Bodge Engineering works, which is a specialist classic car service centre that focuses on 1950s and 1960s British sports cars, including MG and Jaguar.
Hollis has played an important role in the development of the classic car cottage industry that Knysna has become renowned for in recent years. In the context of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, he is a regular feature of Classic Car Friday in his immaculately prepared Jaguar E-type which he drives with real vigour – much to the delight of the spectators! He scored a well-deserved second place in Class H2 with a very respectable time of 56,922 seconds.