Classic Car Friday at the annual Simola Hillclimb always delivers an exceptional variety of cars unlike anything that you will find at a vintage car show or classic racing festival. From some of the most iconic and historic automobiles in South Africa to finely tuned racing cars that redefined motorsport over several decades, the mix is simply extraordinary.
It is also extremely rare, and equally satisfying, to see each of the cars driven up the 1.9 km Simola Hill with unbridled vigour, regardless of whether they are merely tinkered with on weekends by enthusiast owners, or are pristine and extremely valuable showpieces that could easily take pride of place in any museum collection.
What makes it even more appealing is that the drivers are equally varied – from devoted classic car enthusiasts to some of the country’s most esteemed circuit racers and rally drivers. That all of this takes place in one of the most scenic parts of South Africa, with a relaxed and thoroughly welcoming atmosphere amongst competitors and spectators alike makes the Simola Hillclimb, which takes place this year from 6 to 8 May, a motoring and motorsport festival like no other, and the must-attend event of the year.
Once again headlining the entry list is Franco Scribante, six-time winner of the event and reigning Classic Conqueror. He returns this year with his impeccably prepared 1970 Chevron B19 sports racer, after winning last year’s event with the rapid Chevron B26. This follows a rule change that has tightened up the regulations to ensure that the cars use period-correct engines and running gear.
“We had to run the B26 last year to be competitive against the Minardi F1 car, but I am glad that the class has returned to the original spirit of Classic Car Friday and I’m looking forward to driving the B19 at the Simola Hillclimb again,” Scribante says.
“We’ve gone back to the original specification for the car, and it has the period-correct Ford BDG 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with Lucas mechanical fuel injection, pared to the Hewland FT200 transmission as used when this car raced in the early 1970s,” he says. Scribante powered the B19 to victory in 2019 with a time of 42.574 seconds up the Simola Hill, but his best time yet of 41.432 seconds was achieved in 2016. “There’s no reason why we can’t get back into the 41-second mark with the car this year and maybe go even quicker.”
As always, it will be fascinating to see whether Scribante can beat that time and, more pertinently, whether anyone will be able to challenge him for the 2022 Classic Conqueror crown this year.
Competing in Class H8 for pre-1977 single-seater, sports and GT cars, he will once again be up against the similar 1971 Chevron B19 of Peter Jenkins, with a third Chevron entering the fray. However, in this case, it’s in the form of a 1972 Chevron B20 F3 single-seater entered by Josh Dovey, which is powered by a 1.6-litre Lotus TC engine compared to the 2.0-litre Cosworth Ford BDG engines in the two Chevron B19 sports cars, and also found in the 1977 March 77B Formula Atlantic single-seater that will be driven by Ian Schofield.
Other big-hitters in the class will be Robert Wolk in an ex-Jody Scheckter 1969 Lola Formula Ford T200, and Chris Knezovich in the thundering 1970 McLaren M10B F5000 powered by a 5.0-litre Chevrolet V8 engine.
On the sports car front, Clive Corder returns in the elegant 1969 Lola T70 that was raced last year by rally ace Enzo Kuun, and he will be going up against the iconic 1970 Porsche 917, driven by Robert Flooks, which is powered by a Porsche 930 Turbo engine.
Class H7 hosts the pre-1990 racing saloon cars (six cylinders and above), and will again feature the Simola Hillclimb’s unofficial burnout king, Graeme Nathan, at the wheel of the screaming 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL, along with Rui Campos in a 1974 Porsche 911 RSR, Andre Bezuidenhout in his mighty turbocharged Martini-livered Porsche 911 RSR and Riaan Barnard in a Ford Capri of the same year. Some of the more modern contenders in the class include a 1989 Ferrari 348 driven by Enzo Kuun and a 1983 Porsche 911 RSR Iroc piloted by Craig Wessels.
Four-cylinder saloon racing cars are grouped into Class H6, which is set to be extremely competitive. Daniel Zeelie has the lone Ford entry with a 1982 Escort, lining up against Ian Kilburn in a 1972 Datsun GX Coupé and Trevor Tuck in his immaculate 1974 Alfa Romeo Giulia 2000 Rally. Then there’s a brace of Porsches, including Andre Bezuidenhout’s son, Jandre, who will be driving a 1985 944 Turbo Cup – the exact car that kicked off his father’s racing career decades ago. He will be joined by the Checkered Flag entries of Geoff Mortimer and George Fouche, both driving 1981 924s, along with Michelle Hambly Grobler in a 1989 944.
The Lindenberg Racing contingent is well represented again this year in Class H5 for pre-1970 racing cars (six cylinders and above), with Paige Lindenberg behind the wheel of the huge 1968 Ford Fairlane V8. Justin Needham takes over the mighty 8.8-litre V8 1965 Shelby Cobra Mk3 replica from his father, Charles, and is joined by younger brother Jonathan in a 1967 Ford Cortina Perana, along with James Temple in the stunning 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupé.
Class H4 for four-cylinder pre-1970 racing saloons sees Peter Kaye-Eddie back in action in his 1965 BMW 2002, competing against Ron Hollis who switches from his regular Jaguar E-type to race a 1964 MG Midget this year, along with Kurt Behm (1969 Fiat Abarth), Francis Cusens (1969 Fiat 124 Sport Coupé) and Dave van der Merwe in a 1968 Renault Gordini.
There will be a fierce battle for Class H3 honours for pre-1985 road cars, with the V8-powered big guns including the supercharged Shelby Ford Mustang 500CR of Simola Hillclimb regular Ivan Marx, Chis Champion in a 1973 MGB GT V8, the AC Cobras of Clayton Kimber and Richard Hutton, and a Ford GT40 MkII driven by Charles Needham. Don’t discount the six-cylinder cars, featuring Alexander Krahe’s 1965 Jaguar Mk2, or the venerable Porsches, including Jennifer Abbot’s 1970 914/6 or Gavin Rooke’s 911 of the same year – the latter driver returning to his much-loved Porsches after competing with a Ferrari 308 GT4 last year.
Ashley Baud heads up the four-cylinder contingent in H3 in a 1967 Alfa Romeo GT Junior, along with Bill Annetts’ 1968 MGB GT, a 1981 Ford Escort driven by Liam Watts (son of Hillclimb regular Brent Watts) and Andre de Lange in a 1979 Opel Kadett.
The pre-1965 road car line-up in Class H2 is no less interesting, and arguably even more varied. Hedley Whitehead and Andrea Krahé will be competing with a pair of 1964 Austin Minis, while Barry Ingle tackles the Simola Hill again in his iconic, 2021 class-winning 1955 Porsche 550 Spider along with Richard Clarke in a 1962 Lotus Coventry Climax Mk14 Elite. Warren Lombard will shake things up with his 1965 AC Cobra against two entries from the Parnell Bruce Collection – the sumptuous 1956 Jaguar D-type driven by Brian Bruce, and a road-going 1965 Ford GT40 with Peter McPherson behind the wheel.
Class H1 was covered extensively in our previous Classic Car Friday preview, and introduces a new handicap format to provide a level playing field for the wide range of pre-war cars competing, which range from 1926 to 1946.