The Knysna Simola Hillclimb has, arguably, become one of the best and most highly anticipated motorsport events on the South African calendar.
By: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
During the course of the past 11 years the enthusiastic contenders, committed organisers, sponsors and visitors have forged it into an event that can be attended by all (pandemics permitting), and which also allows one to get close to the action.
It didn’t take long before some of the South Africa’s most prominent amateur racers started bringing their cars to this event every year to fight for the coveted King of the Hill trophy.
Well-known racer, André Bezuidenhout, with around three decades of racing experience, originally brought his 1989 Dallara F189 F1 race car to the event and claimed victory in 2017. However, following that he brought his Gould GR55 hillclimb single seater to the event – and that car changed everything.
In addition to the driving talent André brings to the mix, the Gould is a car that is designed from the outset to conquer hills. The car's tiny footprint and the fact that it weighs less than 500 kg prove it was developed with one thing in mind...
This past Saturday Bezuidenhout unofficially broke the 2019 record during his qualification run. However, qualifying times don’t count towards official records. It is only on Sunday, during the actual event, that records are taken into account. But, never mind... he repeated his astonishing performance on Sunday with a new record time of 35,164 seconds, before smashing it again later in the day with a 34,968!
We talked to André following this year's event about his preparation and how they did it as a team – for the fourth successful time!
“This year we could at least prepare on Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town for the four weeks leading up to the event. We used half of the circuit. Leaving the pits and before you get to turn 1 you are already in third gear. Between turn 1 and turn 2 we achieved 242 km/h. These runs help you to get used to the acceleration.
“Through Malmesbury, for example, we achieved 4,2 g lateral acceleration. As you can’t practice on the hill before the Hillclimb, at least this year we could practice at Killarney. The result is that my first run up the hill was in a respectable 38 seconds. We’ve learned from previous years where we started off too slow on the weekend.
“As there wasn’t a Hillclimb in 2020, it is basically two-and-a-half years since we last took the car out. It was tremendously important for me to get in the car before the event, get accustomed and comfortable with the car again – that was the big difference.
“If you analyse our individual runs over the weekend, it was 38 seconds, then 37, 36 and then we broke the record twice with 35 seconds. And, of course, the last one at 34 seconds. It is focus and getting acquainted with the car that helped.”
With André being one of only a handful of people in South Africa to have owned a classic F1 car, and in his case, who have raced it, I wondered how these two single-seater race cars compared in his view?
“The most notable difference is the fact that the Gould has a paddle-shift transmission and the Dallara has a conventional H-pattern gearbox. That means that apart from the quicker shifting, in the Gould you also always have you’re your hands on the steering wheel. The result is that you can focus on keeping the car on the road and on the perfect racing line.
“Moving to next year. We have no launch control system. The cars we raced against, they have launch control. I think that is where we can find a notable amount of time, as that is where we are losing the most time at this stage. We started with a 0-100 km/h time of around 3.5 seconds during the pull away, and we ended with 2.8 seconds.” Launch control should enable us to lower this time even more.
Here's to next year’s event – hopefully with thousands of spectators!
Model: Gould GR55 (pre-2004)
Engine: Nicholson-McLaren, naturally-aspirated, 2.8 Litre V8
Rev limit: 13 000rpm
0-100 km/h: 2.8 seconds
Transmission: 6-speed sequential
Chassis: carbon-fibre tub
Tyre sizes: 245/60 R13(f); 315/60 R13 (r)
Fuel tank: 10 litres
Weight: 480 kg (without driver)