Drivers from across the country descend into the small, quiet town of Knysna to compete in a time trial. The objective is simple… drive up the short - yet challenging - ribbon of tarmac on the Simola Hill. Like knights battling for the crown, they push the limits of their race-ready steeds and themselves.
Motorsport enthusiasts were treated to a thrilling spectacle on the first day of the King of the Hill challenge, which produced a multitude of leading contenders, along with some spectacular action and drama. The first of the day’s five practice sessions commenced in wet, cold conditions, with constant overnight rain and early morning drizzle, making the 1.9-km Hillclimb very treacherous.
In his 2004 Formula Renault V6, Robert Wolk, a Simola Hillclimb newcomer and multiple single-seater champion, was the leading driver for the day, setting the fastest times in three of the five practice sessions, dominating the two qualifying sessions.
A man on a mission was Franco Scribante, who emerged second-fastest in qualifying, using the lightweight and astonishing performance of his 1972 Chevron B26 to great effect. As the 2014 King of the Hill champion, he was more determined than ever to reclaim the title won last year by Des Gutzeit in the highly modified 1 500hp 1993 Nissan GT-R. He certainly raised the bar by becoming the first driver to break the 40-second barrier in this event’s seven-year history. However, King of the Hill wasn’t without its fair share of drama, as Scribante’s charge nearly ended in disaster when the suspension failed on the Chevron during the fourth-qualifying session on Sunday morning, sending the car off the course at high speed at the end of the main straight. The Scribante racing team put immense effort into getting the Chevron repaired and back onto the start-line for the sixth and final qualifying run.
Two thrilling days of unprecedented motor racing action concluded in the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb crowning is first-ever, two-time King of the Hill winner, Franco Scribante,who produced a dominant victory and set an all-new record of 38.646 seconds.
The dramatic finale took place in front of a record Sunday crowd for the event, which in seven runnings has soared its way up to being arguably South Africa’s largest single annual motorsport event. According to main organiser, Ian Shrosbree, last year’s record attendance of 12 200 spectators over the three days of the Hillclimb has been broken. They don’t have the final numbers yet but theyare confident that the event passed the 13 000-mark this year, making it one of the most popular events in South African Motorsport.
Jaki Scheckter was at the top of the all-new Supercar Shootout field for showroom-specification sports and supercars in the factory-backed Nissan GT-R. He set an exceptional Top 10 Supercar Shootout time of 43.591 seconds.
Dawie Olivier brought some home glory for the Hillclimb’s title sponsor, Jaguar, by powering the stunning F-Type R coupé AWD to second overall on 45.183 seconds. Ernst du Preez was third in his McLaren 650s with a time of 45.826 seconds.
The turnout for the event was huge and cars of all shapes and sizes took up the challenge. Even some media attended, behind the wheel of the all-new Jaguar XE and racing-honed, Ashley Oldfield, of cars.co.za won the media challenge. It’s great to see that motorsport is alive and well in our country; we do hope to see more events like this.