Knysna - Museums and classic cars shows are one thing, but when it comes to iconic cars and the drivers that made them famous, the legends come alive at the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, on this year from 4-7 May in Knysna.
From the early days of Grand Prix racing with the Bugatti Type 35b to the Bentley Boys and what Ettore Bugatti described as “the world’s fastest lorries”, the timeless Ford GT40 that snatched Le Mans victory from the all-conquering Ferraris, the giant-killing original Mini that won the Monte Carlo Rally against all odds and the Porsche 911, one of the most successful racing cars of all time, each has defined an era.
And on the road, the elegant Jaguar E-type led a cavalry charge of British sports cars MG, Triumph and Austin Healey, while the Americans produced rolling sledgehammers such as the Shelby Mustang, Pontiac GTO, the Dodge Charger and the Chev Corvette.
The first day of South Africa’s premier hillclimb, Classic Car Friday, has become a world-class motoring revival (that’s not a marketing slogan - Simola was nominated in the Motorsport event of the Year category for the 2016 International Historic Motoring Awards) with competitors, guests and spectators encouraged to dress in period clothing from the 1940s to the 1970s, in keeping with the spirit of the day.
This year 64 competitors will line up to compete in eight classes, with cars bearing 32 classic badges - including road cars such as Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Bugatti, Jaguar Lancia, Lotus, Mercedes-Benz, MG and Porsche and classic racing cars from Chevron, Lola, March and Van Diemen.
Some of these cars are so rare they’re almost priceless - but that won’t stop their owners from running them flat out up the hill, even those in Class H1 for cars made before the Second World War - all of which are now more than 80 years old.
Rodney Green’s stunning 1929 Bugatti Type 35b is once again the oldest car in the field, and is joined by a 1935 Bentley Derby owned and driven by Graham Blackbeard.
Another notable entry is Hannes Pickard’s 1934 Aston Martin Ulster. Only 31 genuine Ulsters were made, including 10 ‘works’ cars, to celebrate Aston Martin’s 1-2-3 class victory in the RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards in Ulster, Ireland - and this one will be reviving the great 1.5-litre rivalry of the period, when it comes up against Roy Jones’ 1935 Riley TT Sprite replica.
Combined, classes H2 and H3 account for the largest number of entries, covering pre-1966 and pre-1975 road cars, respectively. British sports cars dominate, along with formidable regular entries such as Norman Frost’s rapid 1968 Mercedes-Benz 280SE, a brace of Porsches and, from Ford, a 1965 Lotus Cortina and a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500.
Classes H4 and H5 are for pre-1966 and pre-1980 race cars, including single-seaters, sports cars and GTs. Reigning double champion Franco Scribante's 1970 Chevron B19 will be joined this year by Peter Jenkins in a similar 1971 model.
Two March Formula Atlantic single-seaters will take on the Simola Hill, with 2015 winner Charles Arton returning in his 1979 model, and Ian Schofield in the 1977 model that made its debut in 2016.
Pre-1985 racing saloon cars also fall into two categories - H6 for four-cylinder engines and H7 for the big banger - which include Peter Lindenberg’s thunderous 1968 Bob Olthoff replica Ford Fairlane V8, his daughter Paige in a 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350, multiple production car champion Graeme Nathan in a glorious-sounding 1972 BMW 3.0 CSI and rally champion Enzo Kuun’s sleek 1972 Datsun 240z. Also new this year John Gibbs’ original Ford Sierra XR8, which he raced in the 1985 Group 1 series alongside team-mate Serge Damseaux, prepared for the Hillclimb by veteran Willie Hepburn.
The final category, Class H8, is for replicas and recreations of classic cars with modern running gear, including Richard Evans in a 1959-based Chevrolet Corvette roadster, three Ford GT40 replicas and a 1972 Porsche 911 RSR.
Day, Weekend and Pit Access tickets sales for the 2017 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb are already open at www.itickets.co.za.