Brian Joss – Every automotive enthusiast has a special car they have dreamed about from a young age, and usually aspire to drive or own.
Whether it was the fleeting sight of an evocative Jaguar E-Type speeding past, hearing the thundering roar of the Le Mans-winning Ford GT40, or growing up with an iconic Porsche 911 in the family, legendary cars such as these, fuel our passion for all things motoring.
Now imagine all these fabulous cars, along with many more, not only being gathered at a single event but also been driven to the absolute limit by some of the country’s top drivers. This is the peerless formula that has made the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb South Africa’s must-attend motoring event of the year!
As South Africa’s premier motoring and motorsport lifestyle event, the Knysna-based Hillclimb – which takes place this year from 3 to 5 May – is truly unrivalled for the show it produces, both for the competitors and the spectators that descend on the beautiful Garden Route town each year.
Nowhere is the exceptional diversity of the entries more evident than in the line-up for Classic Car Friday. For the 2019 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, 28 marques will be taking to the starting line with drivers competing in eight categories for individual class honours, as well as for overall glory.
The very successful format adopted for Friday’s action remains unchanged from previous years, with drivers given three practice runs and three qualifying runs up the 1.9 km Simola Hill course. From the qualifying result, the three fastest competitors in each class proceed to the Class Finals – a single-run shootout that determines the final podium positions.
The intensity and excitement build throughout the day, culminating in the Top 10 final shootout. The 10 drivers that posted the fastest times during qualifying go head-to-head in a single-run dash that ultimately determines the overall winner, who earns the Classic Conqueror title.
Franco Scribante is the undisputed king of Classic Car Friday, having won this event four times in his immaculately prepared and exceptionally quick 1970 Chevron B19, powered by a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated Ford Cosworth BDG engine. It is entered in Class H5 for pre-1990 race cars, which encompasses sports cars, single seaters and GT cars. Scribante’s first win came in 2014, and he has taken the honours for the past three years in succession. His winning time in 2018 was 42.196 seconds, achieving an average speed from a standing start of over 162 km/h!
“This is the same Chevron that I have raced previously, and we don’t have any new tricks on the car. It is an original B19 so there’s not much we can do with it, but it is very well sorted,” Scribante says. “The B19 can be beaten, as there were cars from the era that were faster, such as the Formula Atlantic single-seaters, but none of these have been in the right hands to be in contention for the win at the Hillclimb in recent years.”
Prophetic words indeed, as Scribante will be facing a new but highly experienced rival this year in the form of Andre Bezuidenhout, who happens to be the overall record-holder with the fastest-ever time of 35.528 seconds at last year’s Jaguar Simola Hillclimb – albeit in the King of the Hill challenge.
Bezuidenhout is entering the fray with a 1976 Lola T460 single-seater, which is powered by a similar Ford Cosworth BDG engine to that used in Scribante’s Chevron sports racing car – thus setting the scene for an almighty battle for overall Classic Car Friday glory.
According to Lola heritage records, this T460 was one of 20 cars built in 1976 for Formula Atlantic racing in the UK, as well as the Formula B category in the US. The car was originally supplied to US agent Carl Haas who sold it to Tim Coconis for racing in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Pro and Club events up to 1979.
While Coconis ultimately became Operations Director of the famous Skip Barber Racing School in the US, the Lola was sold into the UK and then imported to South Africa where it was fully restored by Steve Humble of Harp Motorsport. The Lola was part of the collection of Fred Phillips from whom Andre acquired the car earlier this year.
“Formula Atlantic cars made a huge contribution to the South African single-seater racing scene in the 1970s and I am privileged to drive the Lola at the Hillclimb this year,” Bezuidenhout says. “Early testing indicates that the car will be competitive, and I cannot wait to mix it up with Franco Scribante and the other competitors. It is going to be a tough affair.”
Peter Jenkins will also be amongst the challengers once again in his 1971 Chevron B19 on his third outing at the Hillclimb.
Aside from these specialised racing machines, there will be plenty of other thrilling and intriguing other cars to keep fans enthralled. The ‘golden oldies’ in Class H1 for pre-war cars includes the oldest vehicle in the field in the shape of Greig Smith’s 1928 750cc Austin Seven, along with a 1931 Ford Model A from the esteemed Parnell Bruce Collection in Knysna, which will be driven by Callum Price.
Rodney Green is one of a select group of drivers that have completed in every Simola Hillclimb held to date, and this year he will be driving a 1934 Riley Ulster Imp. He will be joined by German driver Alexander Krahe who is importing a rare 1937 MG TA Q-Type Special specifically for the Hillclimb.
A regular favourite in H2 for pre-1965 road cars is the 1966 Jaguar E-Type 4.2, enthusiastically driven by Ron Hollis. Hannes Pickard will be taking to the start line in a sleek 1964 Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale and Jan Vosloo in a Porsche 356 SC from the same year.
Class H3 caters for pre-1985 road cars, and features Brian Bruce in his stunning 1964 Ford GT40, along with Ivan Marx in the ever-spectacular 1967 Shelby Mustang. Chris Champion will be flying the British flag in the 1968 MGB GT Sebring that he recently bought from Norman Frost, while American racing driver Steve Kimpton will be making his second Classic Car Friday outing in the same Parnell Bruce Collection-owned Lotus Europa campaigned last year – but now with extensive engine upgrades.
Three of the entrants in Class H4 for pre-1970 race cars will be contesting their 10th Simola Hillclimb this year. Di Dugmore returns with her 1968 Mazda-powered Barson Special, competing against fellow stalwarts Dave Alexander in his 1957 Lotus Elan and Fred Phillips in a 1962 Morgan 4/4 Supersport.
Several other H4 entries are also particularly noteworthy, including an ex-Jody Scheckter Lola T200 Formula Ford from 1969 entered by Peter Gillespie, along with Dion Valentine’s 1964 Austin Mini Cooper S. Anton Rollino will be making a return in a replica of his 1972 MGB GT V8 that was extensively damaged in the vehicle transporter fire that destroyed several cars following the 2017 Hillclimb.
Class H6 for pre-1990 four-cylinder saloon racing cars includes the likes of the 1975 Ford Escort RS2000 driven by Johan Pretorius, Trevor Tuck’s 1969 Alfa Romeo Guilia GT Am, the two Fiat 500 Abarth entries of Anita Cusens and Chris Knez, and a 1990 Porsche 944 Turbo driven by Michelle Hambly-Grobler.
The large-capacity saloon racing cars are grouped in Class H7, which this year includes Willie Hepburn who has elected to compete in Classic Car Friday with his thunderous 7.0-litre V8 Opel Rekord from the WesBank Modifieds era. Charles Arton is back behind the wheel of his 1972 Datsun 240z, along with burn-out ace Graeme Nathan in the 1972 BMW CSI, Richard Evans in the eye-catching 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster and the bevy of Porsche 911 machines of Neels Vosloo, Peter van der Spuy and Rui Campos.
The first opportunity for fans to see the cars close-up will be on Thursday’s scrutineering and parade lap at the Fan Fest zone in central Knysna. The Fan Fest activity will include the Coca-Cola Gig rig, and other entertainment, while Monster’s Le Riche Racing brothers will thrill the crowd with their extreme motorcycle show on Friday.
Tickets for Pit Access, Turn 2 Grandstand Seating, as well as Pit Priority Parking tickets, are selling briskly. Online ticket sales are available on www.jaguarsimolahillclimb.com.
Demand for the limited number of exclusive VIP Hospitality packages, which include event and pit entry, as well as access to the Le Mans VIP Lounge, Piston Club or a Corporate Box in the VIP Village has also exceeded previous records – so book your tickets now to secure the best motoring and motorsport showcase South Africa has to offer!
For more information on the event visit: www.jaguarsimolahillclimb.com #JaguarSHC
*Information from Colin Mileman