Simola Hillclimb: Thrilling opening day of King of the Hill at 2024 Simola Hillclimb

Thrilling opening day of King of the Hill at 2024 Simola Hillclimb
  • Robert Wolk topped the timesheets in Single Seater and Sports Prototypes category with Infinity Indycar V8-powered 1989 Pillbeam MP58
  • Exceptionally close battle between the Modified Saloon Car contenders, with Dawie Joubert holding the overnight advantage in Ferrari-powered Lotus Exige
  • Three-time Road Car and Supercar champion JP van der Walt once again set the benchmark in Porsche 911 Turbo S

KNYSNA, South Africa, 4 May 2024 – The opening day of King of the Hill at the 2024 Simola Hillclimb delivered all the excitement and action expected of a thrilling duel between the fastest drivers and cars in South Africa.

Having completed four practice runs up the tight and twisty 1.9 km Simola Hill during the morning session, the competitors faced off in a trio of qualifying runs that set the tone for Sunday’s epic battle for ultimate glory.

In the Single Seater and Sports Prototypes category (class C), Robert Wolk set the benchmark in his 1989 Pillbeam MP58 which is powered by a mighty Infinity Indycar V8 engine. With reigning champion Andre Bezuidenhout out of the fray after being sidelined with a damaged engine in pre-event testing, Wolk ended the opening day with the fastest qualifying time of 37.296 seconds, achieving an average speed from the standing start of 183.398 km/h.

Wolk steadily improved his pace throughout the day as the team tried out various set-ups, including fitting the 35-year-old hillclimb machine with a wing from an A1 GP car in an attempt to create more downforce and reduce oversteer. Wolk’s final attempt of the day in Q3 was cut short when the car went into limp mode, but he remained more than five seconds quicker than his closest rival.

“We’re trying different things with the car, and the new wing made the car feel quite different to the earlier runs, plus we’ve been running on reduced power throughout the day so there’s definitely more time to come,” Wolk said. “If we can get below 36 seconds with this car tomorrow it will be a good time.”

Ian Schofield was second-fastest in the category in his 2018 Mygale SJ Formula Ford on 42.591 seconds, a mere eleven-thousands of a second ahead of Rui Campos in the Ford-powered 1990 Shelby CanAm – the latter contending with a frustrating afternoon as his first two qualifying runs were halted on the start line as corner markers had to be replaced on both occasions after being clipped by other competitors.

In class B for Modified Saloon Cars, Dawie Joubert ended the day at the top of the early qualifying results in his Ferrari 488-powered 2001 Lotus Exige. Despite being a two-wheel machine, he notched up the best time of 38.801 seconds.

Hot on his heels was one of the title favourites, Reghard Roets, who had led several of the practice runs in his all-wheel drive 2014 Nissan R35 GT-R, known as Armageddon. However, as the ambient and track temperatures cooled dramatically after the lunchtime break, the BB Motorsport Nissan struggled to put its immense power down, resulting in some wayward moments on the Simola Hill course that cost Roets precious time.

He adopted a less ambitious approach and added more rear wing for the final session, and was rewarded with the second-best run of 38.828 seconds to secure a time on the board – a mere 27-thousands of a second adrift of Joubert. Meanwhile, Charl Joubert was within a mere 0.009 seconds of Roets in the Honda-powered 2005 Lotus Elise (38.837 sec), with reigning champion Franco Scribante steadily refining the setup of his radical 2018 Nissan R35 GT-R (known as The Sherriff) throughout the day to end less than a tenth behind in fourth place on 38.932 seconds.

“It’s unbelievably close with a lot of cars within fractions of a second of each other, and this year’s King of the Hill shootout is probably going to be the closest one yet,” Roets said.

It’s a somewhat different story in the Road Car and Supercar category (class A), as three-time champion JP van der Walt was in a class of his own in the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S as he romped to a clear overnight advantage with the fastest time of 42.706 seconds. This is 1.388 seconds quicker than the current class record of 44.094 seconds currently held by Reghard Roets – achieved in 2019 in a standard Nissan R35 GT-R.

Van der Walt wrapped up day one with a 1.153-second advantage over Clint Weston who wrestled the outrageously powerful but heavy Mercedes-AMG GT63 E-Performance hybrid to a second-best time of 43.859 seconds. Cristiano Verolini made it an all-German manufacturer top three in class A by posting a time of 44.802 seconds in the all-wheel drive 2023 BMW M4 Competition.

“The day went very well, but with the times I did it has taken the toll on the tyres, so I’m worried we won’t have much rubber left for tomorrow,” Van der Walt said. “I’ll probably limit my runs to just one qualifying session in the morning then go into the class finals. I think there’s still a bit more time in the car, and we are ready for tomorrow.”

Along with the exciting tussles at the top of the three categories, fans can look forward to the intense rivalry within the multitude of individual classes too.

It’s certainly all still to play for amongst the almost 80 competitors who will resume battle in the hunt for the various class trophies, as well as the exhilarating all-or-nothing Top 10 Shootouts that will determine the category winners of the King of the Hill for 2024.


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