The tin-top cars may be the most powerful and wildest machines at the annual Simola Hillclimb, but it’s the purpose-built single-seaters that rule the roost as the fastest cars up the steep 1,9 km Simola Hill thanks to their superior power-to-weight ratio and sleek, ground-hugging aerodynamics.
Andre Bezuidenhout holds the Simola Hillclimb’s outright record of 34,965 seconds, achieved in 2021 when he completed his final Top 10 Shootout run at an astonishing average speed of 195,6 km/h in the 2007 Gould GR55 – a specialised race car designed for hillclimb events.
Immediately after claiming his fourth King of the Hill title last year in the Single Seater and Sports Prototypes category, Bezuidenhout vowed to return in 2022 with the Gould even more competitive. The car had remained completely unchanged since Bezuidenhout acquired it from the UK in 2018, but it powered him to victory that year, as well as in 2019 and 2021. His 2017 win came in the 1989 Dallara F189 F1 car.
“We have improved the car substantially from a suspension point of view, and the early signs are promising that the car is far nimbler over bumpy surfaces,” Bezuidenhout says. “The suspension system and shocks have been completely rebuilt, and we don’t expect the bump-through that we suffered last year.”
Does this mean a new record is on the cards? “It all depends on the day with track conditions, possible rain and, lastly, the performance of the team and the driver,” Bezuidenhout says. “We are looking forward to the 12th running of the Simola Hillclimb with respectful confidence for the hill, and going up against Robert Wolk in a dedicated hillclimb single-seater as well.”
Having competed in an A1 GP car for the past three years, Wolk makes the switch this year to the 1989 Pillbeam MP58 – a car the team had planned on running in 2021, but a blown engine during pre-event testing resulted in the A1 GP being hastily dusted off as a replacement.
Built by Pillbeam Racing in the UK as a specialised hillclimb machine, the MP58 is powered by a naturally aspirated Ford 3.5-litre V8, and was previously driven by Ian Schofield in the 2019 Classic Car Friday event.
Andrew Schofield is stepping up from a Formula Ford to compete this year in the 2003 Formula Renault 3.5 V6, driven by Wolk in 2017, to join the two leading protagonists in Class C3.
Class C2 for four-cylinder single-seaters will see an eclectic mix of seven four-cylinder single-seater racing cars vying for glory, including Simola Hillclimb regular Ian Schofield in a 2018 Mygale Formula Ford. He will be up against the two Formula VW entries of Byron Mitchell and Andrew Rackstraw, who finished an impressive third and fourth respectively in the 2021 Top 10 Shootout for King of the Hill.
They will have to contend with the Toyota-engined Lotus 7 Replica driven by Tom Barrett, along with the 1992 Swift S92f entered by Haydn Ellwood.
The tiny 600 cc Suzuki-powered Speedcar Xtreme cross kart will be screaming up the Simola Hill again this year, with classic rally driver Megan Verlaque making her second appearance at this event.
Among the sports prototype racers competing this year is Devin Robertson in a turbocharged version of the Suzuki-powered 1992 Radical SR1 that he powered to the class win last year. Craig Harper, founder of Cape Town-based Harper Sports Cars, joins him in Class C5 driving his 2006 Harper Type 5, featuring a turbocharged 1.6-litre Toyota engine.
The big-bangers of the sports prototypes Class C6 comprise Rui Campos in a roaring Ford 5.0-litre V8-engined 1990 Shelby CanAm, and Matthew Campbell who will be going up against the veteran racer in a new 2022 Harper Type 6, powered by a naturally aspirated Audi 4,2-litre V8 engine.
Words: Colin Mileman Images: Rob Till