MOTORING NEWS - The battle for the King of the Hill title has been stepped up several notches in the Single Seater and Sports Car category for the 2018 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, which takes place in Knysna from 3 to 6 May.
Although there are just two classes this year, the competition is more intense than ever. Class C1 caters for turbocharged or supercharged four-cylinder cars, as well as those naturally aspirated with five cylinders or more.
Reigning King of the Hill André Bezuidenhout will be back to defend his title. However, there's a bit of a twist as he won't be behind the wheel of his spectacular Dallara F189 Formula One car with which he set the outright hillclimb record last year, completing the 1,9km run in 37,695 seconds at an average speed of 181,5km.
He has something potentially even faster lined up for the ninth edition of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb.
"The Dallara is out of service as the engine needs a bit of a refresh, but I have been very fortunate to obtain a Gould GR55 for the Hillclimb," Bezuidenhout says. "This is a purpose-built single seater designed specifically for hillclimb events."
As a specialist race car manufacturing and engineering company based in England, Gould has been a dominant force in hillclimb competitions for many years, with no less than 19 titles notched up in the prestigious British Hillclimb Championship between 1998 and 2016.
Bezuidenhout's GR55 is powered by a Nicholson-McLaren 3,8-litre V8 engine and competed with great success in the British Hillclimb Championship since it was built in 2004, having scored numerous victories in this highly competitive series.
Wayne Plit in action in a Lotus 2 Eleven.
"I expect that the Gould will be faster than the 1989 Dallara F1 car as it is a fit-for-purpose race car with modern attributes, including much more downforce and more advanced technologies such as paddle shift and traction control. I'm confident that we will be able to set a new Jaguar Simola Hillclimb record with this car," Bezuidenhout says.
While his fiercest challenger, previous Jaguar Simola Hillclimb winner Franco Scribante, has elected to take his fight to the Modified Saloon Car category this year, Bezuidenhout will still face a stern challenge for the title – most notably from Robert Wolk.
As a multiple champion in Formula Ford and Formula Volkswagen, Wolk is undoubtedly one of the fastest and most experienced single-seater drivers in the field. After two years trying his hand with a Formula Renault V6 entry, this year Wolk is also stepping up his game by fielding a more modern machine in the form of an A1 GP car.
The ill-fated A1 GP series was branded as the "World Cup of Motorsport" and featured nations competing against each other in identical cars based on the 2004-era Ferrari F1 car. Power is derived from a 4,5-litre Ferrari V8 engine, delivering around 450kW, which has been fitted to an A1 GP chassis that has never been raced before.
"On paper, I should be quite a bit faster in the A1 GP," Wolk says.
"This car has 50% more power than the Renault V6, much better aerodynamics and the benefit of launch control, which will help optimise the start. A quick pull-off is critical to set a fast time on this short course."
Two Formula Renault V6 entries will remain in the mix, driven by Mark Lauth and Stuart White.
Robert Wolk takes on the Simola Hill.
Knysna resident Michael Verrier will also be in the class C1 fray with a 3,5-litre V6-powered Shelby CanAm sports car, along with two rapid lightweight machines comprising Antony Ashley's turbocharged Honda-engined Ariel Atom and Wayne Plit's force-fed Lotus 2 Eleven.
Class C2 features the naturally-aspirated four-cylinder single-seaters, comprising the two Formula Vee entries of Shane Helberg and Siyabonga Mankonkwana, along with the Formula VW car of Garth de Villiers. Ian Schofield will be lining up in a 2018 Formula Ford entry, along with Francis Cusens in a Toyota-powered Lotus 7.
For more information on the event, visit www.jaguarsimolahillclimb.com.
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