Since inception, the size, status and relevance of the annual Simola Hilclimb has grown exponentially along with the speed, ferocity and technical innovation of the vehicles that clamour for inclusion – with all available slots taken up well before the event itself.
This motoring and motor sport lifestyle event has been given a further boost for this year’s 13th edition, as a record number of vehicle manufacturers are set to join the action. The 2023 Simola Hillclimb, which takes place from 4 to 7 May, will see six manufacturers supporting the event with official entries, with four of the brands also signing up as event partners.
“For the past three years we have been working exceptionally hard to expand the manufacturer support and participation in the Simola Hillclimb to broaden its appeal for spectators and competitors, and give the vehicle brands an unrivalled platform to highlight their latest products, performance and heritage,” says Ian Shrosbree, managing director of the Knysna Speed Festival which runs the Simola Hillclimb.
“Moving away from having a manufacturer as a title sponsor from the 2021 event onwards allowed us to engage with other brands, and we have been encouraged by a steady growth in involvement each year,” Shrosbree says. “We are delighted to have six manufacturers lined up for this year, which elevates the profile and status of the Simola Hillclimb to even greater heights.”
Suzuki Auto South Africa is a Tier 1 partner for 2023, marking its third consecutive year of sponsoring the event.
“The Simola Hillclimb provides a platform to showcase Suzuki’s fun, exciting and passionate personality that stretches beyond our repertoire of providing affordable, fun and sporty compact cars and motorcycles,” says Brendon Carpenter, Brand Marketing Manager at Suzuki Auto SA.
“Globally, the Suzuki brand has a very strong heritage and enviable reputation of building crazy, and often record-breaking, high-powered hillclimb monsters such as Monster Tajima’s Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak and the Suzuki SX4 Pikes Peak Special,” Carpenter says. “The Simola Hillclimb gives us an opportunity to dabble in the South African motor sport scene, and has become a highlight on our annual event calendar.”
Along with its Tier 1 sponsorship, for the second year in a row Suzuki will feature two standard Swift Sport entries competing in the standard production class. The company will also display the latest addition to its SUV line-up, and fans can look forward to demonstration runs with its newest motorcycle offerings.
Following its participation as an entrant last year, BMW South Africa has stepped up its involvement to become a Tier 1 partner for the 2023 Simola Hillclimb.
“We had a very enthusiastic response from the BMW team last year, and we are delighted to welcome the company on board as a Tier 1 partner for 2023,” Shrosbree says.
While the vehicle and driver line-up is still being finalised, fans can be assured there will be lots to look forward to.
“BMW’s presence at this year’s Simola Hillclimb will be a celebration of our heritage in South Africa on Classic Car Friday, as well as a look towards our future and our expanding electromobility portfolio in the King of the Hill Shootout,” says Thilosh Moodally, General Manager: Group Communications and External Affairs, BMW Group South Africa.
Volkswagen has progressively stepped up its participation in the Simola Hillclimb over the past couple of years, and has signed up as a Tier 2 partner for 2023.
“This event is the most fun one can have in Knysna! It is a showcase of both driver capability and the incredible engineering in our Volkswagen products,” says Mike Rowe, Volkswagen Driving Experience Manager. “We use it as an opportunity to entertain important guests as well as to demonstrate new Volkswagen products and motorsport drivers to the elite motoring fanatics.”
The Volkswagen line-up will include the powerful Polo SupaCup race car that featured in the 2022 event, along with two Golf R entries in the production vehicle class.
“There will be a fourth very exciting car, but we can’t reveal the details yet,” Rowe says.
Joining the fray for the first time as a Tier 2 partner is Honda Motor Southern Africa.
“This is the first time that Honda will be participating in the Simola Hillclimb, and we are delighted to be a Tier 2 partner for this prestigious event,” says Letitia Herold, Marketing and PR Manager, Honda Motor Southern Africa.
“For King of the Hill, we are entering a highly anticipated new performance car that will be launched just before the Simola Hillclimb. It will be driven by one of South Africa’s best-known racing drivers, so we expect that there will be lots of interest from the enthusiastic spectators. Fans can look forward to demo runs up Simola Hill as well, and we will be involved in the Fan Fest activities too, so there will be lots to look forward to.”
Hyundai South Africa returns as the media shuttle partner for the second consecutive year, supplying the Staria buses to transport the press contingent to designated photographic locations along the Simola Hill course.
More noteworthy for hot hatch fans, though, is the official entry of the Hyundai i30N, which will be driven by Joshua Lowe, Hyundai’s Regional Sales and N-sport Manager.
“Hyundai N products such as the i30N and Kona N closely align themselves to motorsport and were developed to be track stars for the road,” Lowe says.
“We have entered our i30N which we raced in the Johannesburg-based Vilaca Racing time attack series in 2022, where it finished second in the FWD modified class in stock form,” Lowe says. “For this year the vehicle has a few basic modifications for the track, but is essentially what you can expect from the factory vehicle. We look forward to showing the South African public what the i30N is capable of.”
Fresh from its South African launch, the new V6-powered Ford Ranger Raptor will provide an unusual twist on the performance vehicle theme with the backing of Ford South Africa, and will compete in the unlimited class for sports utility/activity vehicles and bakkies.
“We are excited about participating in the 2023 Simola Hillclimb for the first time with a media partner,” says Minesh Bhagaloo, General Manager, Communications at Ford South Africa. “The Simola Hillclimb is a fantastic event, and fans will get to see the exhilarating Next-Generation Ranger Raptor in action. It is powered by a 292 kW 3,0-litre V6 EcoBoost engine which makes it our most powerful Ranger yet. We are confident that the Next-Gen Ranger Raptor will be a great attraction at this year’s event, and on our media partner’s social platforms.”