All had come to witness the country’s top names in motorsport like Des Gutzeit, Franco Scribante and Willie Hebburn tackle the hill once again and unleash thousands of horsepower, while first timers Porsche man, Toby Venter and the man who builds and pilots the fastest BMW’s in SA, Sav Gualtieri, were adamant to spoil their party and also compete for the coveted King of the Hill title.
“Seeing the passion of these competitors, and the enthusiasm from the local crowds, is what the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb is all about,” said Lisa Mallett, Marketing and Communications Director at Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa. “An annual platform to attract the best cars from around the country in an idyllic setting makes the event a social must-do, not only for enthusiasts, but for everyone who appreciates the finer things in life.”
Unfortunately there was also a quite a bit of controversy as long time supporters and winners of the event in previous years, Team NxGen with one of their potent Nissan GT-Rs were disqualified from running at the event because they allegedly failed to notify the organisers that the driver entered on their entry form would not be the driver actually driving the car.
The organisers denied all knowledge of this request and pointed to one of their internal regulations to uphold the decision to not let the preferred driver to run. This was not a technical or safety breach of the rules and even though this attempt to sort out this simple clerical error was made before the event started along with the other competing drivers going so far as to sign a petition to get the car and driver back on the grid, the organisers were having none of it and point blank refused.
Now I am the first to respect that the rules are the rules, but when it is a silly rule that could have been fixed with a few strokes on a keyboard before the event started, I have to say that the best interests of motorsport, the spectators and even more so the sponsors were not served as there was a lot of negative publicity around this decision and the crowd was deprived of seeing what could have been a winning car in action.
Ironically Toby Venter was allowed to run the whole weekend in his Porsche Cup car when his entry form and the results clearly state that he was running a Porsche 991 911 Turbo S. Hardly the same car yet the organisers deemed this clerical slip up to be acceptable but not the one from the NxGen team. Petty politics and personal issues once again got in the way of the right decision here in my humble opinion.
But enough of that. What happened on the hill is what you want to know about. Saturday and Sunday provided a playground for around 80 competitors vying to see who could conquer the Simola
Hill in the shortest possible time and be crowned King of the Hill. The pits hosted cars of every kind, ranging from stock standard and lightly-modified road cars, all the way to extremely fast race cars and purpose-built hillclimb specials. The biggest surprise of the weekend was when Sav Gualtieri in his BMW F30 335i posted the fastest time by a two wheel drive car up the hill ever at a blistering 41.659 second in the final run. The gauntlet had been laid down, and the drama started with last year’s winner, Franco Scribante missing a gear and blowing his chance along with Jade Gutzeit who bogged down on the start and blew his chance too. It was only Des Gutzeit that could unseat Gualtieri and he did so with new record time of 40.148 in his 1400hp all-wheel drive Skyline.
Also running again this year were some of South Africa’s fastest media, including Citizen’s own Road Test Editor, Mark Jones. Rather than just being measured on outright pace this time due to all of us running different cars, the winner would be the driver who posted the most consistent runs during the qualifying rounds.
At the end of Sunday’s qualifying runs the results were in. Behind the wheel of his turbocharged 2.0 litre Jaguar XF, Ashley Oldfield had proven to be not only fast, but very consistent. Over the course of six runs his fastest and slowest times differed by only 0.71s – enough to earn him the 2015 Alucat Cup.
I went slightly quicker on my last run and recorded my fastest time of the weekend at 53.780 in my 3.0 Turbodiesel Jaguar XF and Oldfield was unable to better his previous runs and thus on performance index beat me by a mere two tenths of a second, proving just how competitive the media can be. Dieter Losskarn, Stuart Grant, last year’s winner and Jesse Adams rounded at the media challenge in their respective XF 2.2D, F-TYPE V6 S, and XF 3.0 Supercharged models.
After a weekend of serious racing, horsepower, fine dining and fun, the sun set on the second iteration of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb. While the grandstands, hospitality tents, and race cars were packed away, the fans have it all to look forward to again next year when the event returns to the Simola hill with even greater experiences to be enjoyed.