Classic Car Friday always features a dazzling array of some of the most iconic motoring brands and cars, driven by enthusiasts and some of the most esteemed names in local motorsport. The 12th edition of the annual Simola Hillclimb, which runs from May 6-8, is no different, with 24 brands represented on Friday’s opening schedule.
The entry list spans 63 years of automotive history, with the oldest car on the field being a 1926 Austin Seven entered by Lucie Runnalls. The youngest car is expected to be a 1989 Ferrari 348, with none other than multiple South African rally champion and regular Simola Hillclimb competitor Enzo Kuun at the wheel.
“We received an impressive number of high-quality applications for Classic Car Friday, and we were heavily oversubscribed for the maximum 65 places available in the starting line-up,” said Sporting Director Geoff Goddard. “Our goal is to provide a fresh and interesting roster of competitors every year, and we have certainly achieved that for the 2022 edition.”
The most significant change for this year is the introduction of a handicap rating system for the H1 class for pre-war cars. Instead of simply competing for the fastest time on the steep and challenging 1.9km Simola hill, H1 class competitors will race against pre-set target times that are representative of their car’s performance. The top three cars with the fastest handicap times across the three qualifying rounds will contest the class final in a single-round shootout, which will also be scored on handicap to determine podium results.
“Some of our older Classic Car Friday competitors have argued for the introduction of a handicap scoring system due to the large performance and speed differences of pre-war entries, which range from 750cc Austin cars Seven based on were cheap, cheerful machines that cruised around the world in the 1920s and 1930s, to the big, powerful cars of Bentley and Alfa Romeo of the time,” Goddard said. “As a result, the handicap system will level the playing field and allow all participants to compete for class victory.”
The handicap rules have been enthusiastically received by competitors, with the H1 class welcoming a record 14 entries, doubling turnout in recent years – the most fervent being Rodney Green, one of the founders of the Piri Piri team Racing, who have competed in every Simola Hillclimb to date.
“I have been promoting the switch to handicap format for some time, as posted times in Class H1 vary widely for pre-war cars, and I am very pleased that the organizers have agreed to implement it from of this year.” said Green. “I helped develop the handicap formula based on what I experienced at the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb in England.” This legendary event is said to be the oldest motorsport venue in the world to hold events on the original course.
“I promised the organizers of Simola Hillclimb that I would bring in a lot of competitors if the handicap formula was introduced, and I am delighted that we have 14 really interesting cars in Class H1 this year,” said Green. “It now gives everyone a chance to win the class, regardless of the car they drive, and creates a lot more excitement in the peloton as everyone aims to be closest to their target time.”
This year, Green will race the 1946 1.5-litre MG TC Spider previously entered by Heyns Stead. “The car has been completely rebuilt and has a bit more power, so I’m looking forward to racing it at the Simola Hillclimb this year and competing with the new format.”
Margie White will be a newcomer this year at the wheel of one of the tiny Austin Seven Special single-seaters in the H1 class. This 1937 model has a particularly poignant and interesting history. “My later father, Peter White, acquired this car in the 1950s and raced it with some success until 1960 when he became a works driver for British Motor Corporation with the launch of the Mini, but it remained in his possession until he passed away,” White explained.
The Austin was then sold to Milligan’s vintage rally enthusiast and competitor Bob Acton in 1980, who owned it until his death five years ago, and White recently bought it back from Bob’s son, Bruce. “During the period Bob had the car, Norman Hickel used it for the 1999 David Piper International at Killarney, and it was borrowed for the 2016 Simola Hillclimb by Greig and Rod Smith who know the car well,” said White. .
“I named the Ernest car after Sir Ernest Shackleton, one of the world’s greatest explorers and survivors, as I believe this little car with a 70 year racing history and patina is also a survivor. I am super excited to have this opportunity to participate in the Simola Hillclimb with this very special car,” she added.
Another first-time entrant to Classic Car Friday is enduro motorcycle racer Stuart Blackbeard, who entered a 1935 Bentley Derby, powered by a 3.5-litre straight-six engine. “It will be my first racing event with the car after buying it in the UK and bringing it to South Africa,” he said. “I drove it to Lake Malawi and back to the Put Foot Rally without any mechanical issues, and it’s a great car to drive.
“The handicap format makes the most sense for this class because the cars are so different in terms of age and performance,” said Blackbeard. “I’ve been to Simola Hillclimb several times as a spectator, and as one of the biggest and best motoring events in the country, it’s just great to come and compete.”
A fascinating car with a great story is Brian Esterhuysen’s 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C Monza replica. The car was built entirely by hand by Brian and his father, David, who worked as a production manager for Alfa Romeo when the company was assembling cars in South Africa. The family therefore has a deep-rooted love for the famous Italian brand.
“We built the car just over 10 years ago based on original factory drawings, so it’s a faithful replica of the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza that Tazio Nuvolari raced in the Mille Miglia of 1931 and won the Targa Florio in 1931 and 1932”, says Esterhuysen. “The only difference is that I’m using a newer Alfa 2.6-litre straight-six engine, where the original car had a straight-eight.”
Alongside the factory drawings, Esterhuysen measured and checked his build against a stock 8C 2300 Monza driven by Nuvolari that was owned by local Alfa Romeo enthusiast Hugh Gearing before it was sold and shipped to Europe. in 1986. depth measurements on the original car, and my car is accurate to the millimeter,” he adds. “When the car was sold, Hugh’s son Patrick kept the original radiator, and I had the opportunity to fit it briefly on my car and use it as a point of reference, under close supervision and with the help of Patrick and Hugh during construction.The radiator fitted perfectly, showing just how accurate this replica is.
This won’t be Esterhuysen’s first Simola Hillclimb with this car, as he competed with it in 2012, winning its class. “I don’t take this event too seriously, it’s more about enjoying the atmosphere and sharing the experience with like-minded friends.”
Continuing the association with the Gearing family, Patrick is an experienced classic car racer who will be competing in his second Simola Hillclimb this year. He will drive his recently acquired 1935 Riley TT Sprite, previously owned and entered in the event by Roy Jones.
“I think the handicap format is the perfect way to race the H1 class because we have such a wide range of cars this year that it levels the playing field,” says Gearing. “It gives everyone a chance, regardless of the car underneath. The format also ensures that there are no sandbags during the qualifying races or you won’t qualify for the final of class and have a chance to claim the silverware.
“Handicap is also true to the pre-war spirit, as much of the racing in this period was done on a handicap basis anyway. Even the first races of the South African Grand Prix were held with a handicap,” Gearing pointed out.
Other important cars in the H1 class include Hannes Pickard’s extremely rare and valuable 1934 Aston Martin Ulster, which he last raced in the 2017 Simola Hillclimb, and two cars from the Parnell Bruce collection at Knysna – a 1946 Austin Special driven by Callum Price, and a 1931 Ford Model A with automotive journalist Gero Lilleike at the wheel.
For more information on the Simola Hillclimb visit: www.simolahillclimb.com.
Source: Motor Press