Growing manufacturer participation at SA’s premier motoring and motorsport lifestyle event
Simola Hillclimb - photo Rob Till
  • Suzuki enters second year as Simola Hillclimb partner, two Swift Sport models competing as official Suzuki entries
  • Volkswagen joins the action with two all-electric e-Golfs and Polo SupaCup race car. BMW set to debut first all-electric i4 M50 in SA specially flown in for the Simola Hillclimb, along with current BMW M4 Competition
  • Shelby South Africa features impressive line-up of nine cars: six in Classic Car Friday and three in King of the Hill
  • Hyundai joins event as official media shuttle partner. MasterDrive’s second year as safety car provider with TrackMaster Ford Mustangs

The annual Simola Hillclimb is widely regarded as South Africa’s premier motoring and motorsport lifestyle event – and with good reason, as it provides an unparalleled showcase of the very best cars and drivers in the country, matched to a thrilling spectator experience. Accordingly, it’s no surprise that the event attracts significant interest from leading car manufacturers.

The 12th edition, which takes place from 6 to 8 May 2022, features official participation from Suzuki, Volkswagen, BMW and Shelby South Africa. Hyundai has signed up as the official media shuttle sponsor this year, while MasterDrive takes care of the safety vehicles for the event.

Suzuki Auto South Africa joined the Simola Hillclimb last year as a branding partner and supported several leading competitors. The company is back again in 2022 as an official partner. “The Simola Hillclimb in 2021 was not only a first for Suzuki Auto South Africa as a branding partner, but also a first for us as staff attending the event,” says Brendon Carpenter, the company’s Brand Marketing manager. “We jumped at the opportunity to get involved and received really good exposure for our brand.”

According to Carpenter, the decision to continue sponsoring the Simola Hillclimb in 2022 was an easy one. “As a First Tier sponsor, we believe that our brand will receive great exposure. With the high-profile ‘burnout zone’ proudly featuring Suzuki branding again this year, we are excited to see all kinds of high-powered machinery on the start line,” Carpenter adds.

Suzuki has entered two 1.4-litre turbocharged Swift Sport models in this year’s event, competing in Class A1 for standard road-going four-cylinder two-wheel drive cars. Seasoned motoring journalist Reuben van Niekerk will be behind the wheel of a six-speed automatic model: “I am really looking forward to tackling the Simola Hillclimb in Suzuki’s Swift Sport. I feel that the combination of front-wheel drive, low weight and a turbocharged engine will work extremely well at this event. It is the perfect opportunity to showcase what this hot hatch can really do.”

He will be joined by professional driving instructor Wesley Greybe, driving a manual version. “I have had the opportunity to drive up Simola with some special cars, but not in the competitive aspect of the event. However, I did get a chance to take some of the Springbok players up the hill and got them to scream. I am excited to drive the Suzuki Swift Sport in this year’s event, and I’m sure it will surprise quite a few people.”

Interestingly, Suzuki has a strong heritage and enviable reputation of building crazy, and often record-breaking, high-powered hillclimb beasts such as Monster Tajima’s Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak and Suzuki SX4 Pikes Peak Special. “Locally, we are very proud of the private hillclimb teams that are powered by Suzuki engines and agree that the Simola Hillclimb is one of the best, if not the best, event on the South African motorsport calendar,” Carpenter says. “We believe our involvement is a great fit for Suzuki as a platform to showcase the spirit, passion and performance of Suzuki as a lifestyle brand.”

Volkswagen

Volkswagen South Africa has been eager to get involved in the Simola Hillclimb for several years, and is making this a reality in 2022. “The Simola Hillclimb is one of the most prestigious events to participate in. It attracts some exciting cars and is located in one of the most beautiful places in South Africa,” explains Mike Rowe, manager of Volkswagen Motorsport and Volkswagen Driving Experience. “This event has been on Volkswagen Motorsport’s bucket list for a couple of years, but our commitments to the National Championship Tour have made it difficult to fit it in.”

Three accomplished VW Motorsport racing drivers will be competing this year, but in two diametrically opposed classes. Daniel Rowe and Jonathan Mogotsi, the team’s factory drivers in SA’s premier GTC racing category, will be piloting a pair of all-electric 100 kW e-Golfs in Class A8 for hybrid and electric vehicles.

“Electric vehicles will become a very important part of our business in the near future, and although e-Golf will never go to market, it gives us an opportunity to showcase electric vehicles,” Rowe says. “Competing at the Simola Hillclimb will also allow our young drivers to experience electric vehicles in a competitive environment, as it may be what they will be racing in the future.”

At the opposite end of the automotive powertrain spectrum is the highly tuned VW Polo SupaCup race car, which will be driven by renowned Production Car racing driver Graeme Nathan in Class B2 of the Modified Saloon Car category. “The Polo SupaCup concept car was originally built for events like the Simola Hillclimb,” Rowe says. “After showing it at the 2019 Festival of Motoring we ended up selling 26 cars to date that compete in the local GTC series, so it has been an amazing success story. We are finally bringing Chassis 01 to the Simola Hill. Graeme Nathan is an integral part of our motorsport program and has a lot of experience at the Simola Hillclimb, so it was only fitting that he drive the car.”

BMW

BMW South Africa has elected to use the Simola Hillclimb as the high-profile platform to reveal its all-new BMW i4 M50 well ahead of the launch for the local market. The i4 M50 was flown to South Africa specifically for this event, and it will be in the hands of popular motoring journalist Ciro de Siena from Cars.co.za, competing in Class A8 for hybrid and electric vehicles. It will be fascinating to see what this car is capable of on the short but steep and challenging 1.9 km Simola Hill – and whether it will ruffle a few of the traditional feathers.

According to Deena Govender, who heads up BMW Group Communications and External Affairs, the premium German manufacturer showcased an all-electric BMW 1602 as far back as the 1972 Olympic Games, and the i3 was the first all-electric BMW to enter series production in 2013. “All-electric mobility reaches into the very heart of the BMW brand,” Govender says.

“The i4 is BMW’s first electric vehicle focused squarely on driving dynamics. In M50 guise, the vehicle is sportiness personified. With 400 kW, 795 Nm of torque, electric all-wheel drive and a 0-100 km/h time of 3.9 seconds, the performance from the BMW i4 M50 is in the true BMW M mould,” Govender adds. “It fits well to showcase the vehicle for the first time at a dynamic event such as the Simola Hillclimb.”

Former touring car champion Deon Joubert is sticking to his petrol-fuelled roots this year, and will be driving a BMW M4 Competition. With 375 kW to play with, delivering a claimed 0-100 km/h sprint of 3.9 seconds, the M4 in Joubert’s hands is sure to be among the front-running contenders for the King of the Hill title in the Road-going Saloon Car and Supercar category.

“Deon Joubert has a long association with the brand, being a large part of BMW’s South African touring and saloon car success in the 1980s and 1990s and, of course, being national touring car champion with BMW in 1992,” Govender says. “Deon is also an experienced hand at the Simola Hillclimb and an old breed of racer. Having him in the spiritual successor to the 3-Series BMW cars he raced on national circuits around the country is a fitting tribute and a nostalgic wave back to the heyday of circuit racing with BMW in South Africa.”

Shelby SA

The team from Shelby South Africa is certainly among the Simola Hillclimb’s most fervent supporters. This year nine vehicles are competing under the Shelby banner. “The Simola Hillclimb is probably the highest-profile motorsport event currently in SA and Shelby has the opportunity to showcase its exciting array of Ford-powered, high-performance cars, both modern and classic,” says Peter Lindenberg, who officially retired from racing at the end of last year. “With this, we get to bring some of our special Lindenberg Racing historic cars for some fun up the hill, and most of all we get the opportunity to showcase what we sell and how they perform, which is hugely important to us as a brand.

“Our Shelby / Lindenberg Racing team has grown so much since we started bringing some of our clients along to the event. It’s a fantastic week and event for us as a team, brand and a great way to enhance our legacy,” Lindenberg adds.

The team’s Classic Car Friday line-up this year features Paige Lindenberg in the roaring 1968 Ford Fairlane, along with two 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupés, driven by James Temple and Clayton Kimber. They will be joined by the two Needham brothers – Justin in the mighty 8.8-litre 1965 Shelby Cobra Mk III that his father, Charles, drove last year, along with Jonathan in a 1967 Ford Cortina Perana. Warren Lombaard will be lining up in a 1965 Shelby Cobra.

The team has a trio of supercharged 2017 Mustangs competing in King of the Hill. Paige Lindenberg is set to drive a 50th Anniversary Shelby Super Snake Convertible, with Charles Needham tackling the hill in a Super Snake Coupé, along with James Temple in the exclusive Shelby Terlingua driven by Peter Lindenberg last year.

Hyundai

Hyundai South Africa has joined the Simola Hillclimb as the official media shuttle partner. It will supply two Staria 11-seater MPVs and drivers to ferry members of the media up and down the track during the course of the event.

MasterDrive

MasterDrive will again be supporting the Simola Hillclimb this by year by providing the safety vehicles that will assist where needed in ensuring fast response to driver emergencies. “We look forward to leading the cause of safety for the second year in a row at the 2022 Simola Hillclimb. This will be done in our TrackMaster cars, the Ford Mustangs,” says Eugene Herbert, CEO of MasterDrive.

“Last year was full of new experiences, not just because it was MasterDrive’s first year leading the safety response, but because it was also the return of the hillclimb after a brief hiatus during lockdown,” Herbert says. “The Simola Hillclimb gives us an opportunity to brandish a safety message within a dynamic and exciting environment that allows drivers to have fun while doing this, and enjoy performance cars in one of the ways for which they were made.”

Online ticket sales for the Simola Hillclimb, along with more information on the event, are available on the website: www.simolahillclimb.com       

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