Last run wins King of the Mountain

motoring96456 PURPOSE BUILT: The Ultima GTR has phenomenal brakes and roadholding - and a 3.4-litre, twin-turbo Alfa Romeo V6. Pictures: DAVE ABRAHAMS

Gydo Pass, just outside the little Karoo town of Prince Alfred's Hamlet, is a 6.5km stretch of tar with 27 mean, nasty corners, some of which change camber halfway through. It has sheer drops on one side and unyielding rock face on the other, as do all mountain passes.

It's also a public road but once a year, with the help of local traffic officials, Gydo is closed for a weekend so that some of the fastest street and racing machines in South Africa can battle it out for the title of King of the Mountain.

Among the more than 40 entrants (I didn't know there were that many certified lunatics in this country with fast cars) were rally driver Enzo Kuun in a Porsche Carrera S, Ian George's Noble M400, Rob Beaumont in a Ferrari 360 Modena (it wasn't competitive but the rasping howl as it went past the commentary position flat out in third was worth the price of admission by itself), gymkhana specialist Herman Mahnke's shatteringly noisy BMW M3, Nick Vernon's 300kW, supercharged 1972 Chev Camaro SS (lovely noises, insane acceleration, no brakes) and Natalian Des Gutzeit, father of motocrosser Jade, in a Chevy Lumina Ute with a supercharged 7.5-litre engine churning out in excess of 550kW, entitled simply "The Hammer".

There were also half a dozen motorcyclists, including Danie Maritz on the Seesa GSX-R1000 with which he recently won the Western Province Regional title, Wynand Basson (Yamaha R1), Jacques Geldenhuys (Suzuki GSX-R1000), Gerhard Gerber's Aprilia RSV Factory and Coert Steynberg on a Honda VTX1800 cruiser, who never broke three minutes all weekend but enjoyed the hell out of himself running the big V-twin hard on the short straights.

Charl van Sittert ran his 140kW, turbocharged Kawasaki ZX-12R drag racing bike on Saturday but switched to a standard ZX-10R road bike on Sunday and went a lot faster.

Dawie Olivier from Gauteng, driving Mike Beseling's brand new Subaru Impreza RA, won Saturday's King of the Hill contest for cars of less than 2500cc capacity with a run of 2min34 - that's an average speed of 152km/h on a twisty mountain road where the longest straight is less than 500m.

motoring96454 A SPECIAL KIND OF LUNACY: Gerhard Gerber lifts the front wheel of his Aprilia RSV as he starts his run.

It was the car's first outing, its only previous run comprising 1.5 shakedown laps of the Gosforth Park circuit in Johannesburg, and both driver and crew were on a steep learning curve.

Olivier entered the heavily turbocharged Scooby (it runs up to 1.6 bar of boost) in Sunday's contest for unlimited cars and immediately found himself among the leaders, second only to 2003 winner Stuart Kidgell's Ultima GTR.

Phenomenal road-holding

This purpose-built racing car was the fifth chassis built by Lee Noble at Ultima in Hinckley, Leicestershire, before he left to found Noble Cars. It's powered by a 3.4-litre, twin turbo, Alfa Romeo V6 engine and blessed with phenomenal brakes and road-holding.

Kidgell set the mark with a first run of 2min31, admittedly way off his own course record of 2min14, with Olivier hard on his heels at 2min33, while Gutzeit thundered up the hill in 2min38.

Olivier's car then blew a radiator hose on the start line for its second run. Anton Cronje immediately offered a replacement off his similar Subaru which had run its bearings on his first run, and the crew frantically got busy in an attempt to get the RA running in time for the third and final round.

motoring96455 INSANE ACCELERATION: Nick Vernon's 300kW Chev Camaro SS visibly twists its chassis as it pulls away.

Kidgell was on his way to a seriously quick second run, going through the speed trap at 187km/h, when the Ultima's left steering arm broke going onto the tight left-hander just after the commentary position, very nearly launching the car into the Armco.

Kidgell fought the car to the finish, with steering only on the right front wheel and the left wobbling along like a shopping trolley; he still managed a creditable 2min42, but the car would need major surgery and he was out of the third round.

Real drama

The final round began with real drama when Maritz, first on the road, blitzed the speed trap at an astonishing 215km/h only to be spat off three corners after the commentary position, the bike cartwheeling over the Armco and plunging down the mountainside.

Expecting the worst, the ambulance got there in a hurry, to find Maritz sitting on the Armco taking off his helmet, shaken and bruised but more annoyed with himself than anything else.

Gutzeit took a second off his previous best with a final run of 2min37, while Olivier and his crew got the Subaru ready just in time to make the final run of the day, scorching up Gydo to equal Kidgell's best of 2min31.

The contest was then decided by the second best run of each competitor, giving the title of King of the Mountain to Olivier and his giant-killing Subaru, with Gutzeit finishing a worthy third.


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