The aero kit on Wilhelm Baard's Nissan R35 GT-R was designed for Pikes Peak. Picture: Rob Till

Knysna - The 2018 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb over the first weekend in May will be quicker, slicker and louder than ever, especially in Class B for modified road cars.

This is where you’ll find the real beasts of Simola, 49 entries in nine classes, led by double former champion Wilhelm Baard in his radical Nissan R35 GT-R, its outlandish aerodynamic package specially developed for the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado. In 2017 this 820kW, 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6-powered monster became the first road-based car to offically break the 40-second barrier.

“Our target this year is to go under 39 seconds,” said Baard. “We’ve done quite a bit of work on the car, introducing the upgrades that we didn’t have time to finish before the 2017 Hillclimb, mainly to the chassis - the GT-R is now slightly wider than before - and we’ve also improved the efficiency of the aerodynamics.”

Baard rated Franco Scribante, the most successful driver to date at the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb with three Classic Car Friday victories and two King of the Hill titles to his name, as his biggest threat. Scribante will make his Class B debut this year in a turbocharged Porsche 911 GT3R, developed by his Scuderia Scribante team.

Franco Scribante's turbocharged Porsche 911 GT3R testing at Kyalami. Picture: Scuderia Scribante

There will be more Nissan GT-Rs as well, in the hands of established challengers Darron Gudmanz, Edrich Zwiers and Quinsley Sale, but hillclimbing is as much about agility as outright power.

Dawie Joubert set an unofficial outright course record of 39.055 seconds in practice last year, before his 560kW turbocharged 2.4-litre Lotus Exige was sidelined by a blown engine. He’ll be joined this year by his brother Charl in another Exige, this one with a modified 3.5-litre Honda V6.

Dawie Joubert set an unofficial outright course record of 39.055 seconds in 2017. Picture: Rob Till

They’ll take on Anton Cronje’s mighty Subaru Impreza WRX STi and Stuart Kidgell in the spectacular Alfa-powered Ultima GTR, as well as fast ladies Tanya Watts in a Subaru Impreza WRX STi and Clare Vale in her distinctive Subaru BRZ.

Fast lady Tanya Watts in her Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Picture: Rob Till

Then there are the thundering V8’s - Willie Hepburn’s seven-litre Opel Rekord, Craig Czank’s Lexus-engined Corvette, the one-of-a-kind Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG DTM of Thouca Mechanicos and a Ferrari 488 GTB driven by former Production Car driver Shaun Duminy.

There will be AP347 V8 Masters entries for rally star Enzo Kuun and two US-based drivers, Kai Goddard and Steve Kimpton, back for their second Jaguar Simola Hillclimb.

Thouca Mechanicos' one-of-a-kind Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG DTM. Picture: Rob Till

In Class B8, for the first time in South Africa, a pure electric vehicle will challenge its combustion-powered counterparts.Nissan has entered its astonishing little Leaf Nismo RC, brought in from Japan specially for the Hillclimb. Custom-built in the Nismo race shop, it has a standard 80kW electric motor - but driving the rear wheels rather than the front - and a carbon-fibre monocoque body, bringing its all-up weight down to just 930kg.

Just as the Leaf Nismo RC could only have been built in Japan, Class B9 - for bakkies and SUVs - could only have happened in South Africa. In this category Peter Lindenberg, his Ford Ranger Shelby Savage 660 now running a supercharged five-litre V8, will take on Jason Evans in a Lumma-modified, supercharged five-litre V8 Range Rover Sport.

Standard, street-legal and very, very quick

Dawie Olivier in the ‘works’ five-litre supercharged Jaguar F-Type SVR. Picture: Jaguar Simola Hillclimb

The line-up of classes for standard production road-legal cars has been also revised; Classes A1, A2 and A5 for four and six-cylinder naturally aspirated cars have been dropped, which means that the entry-level entries (if you’ll forgive the pun!) for this category will Feroz Ebrahim’s indecently rapid Noble M400 and the the highly-rated 375kW Alfa Romeo Guilia QV of Piet Potgieter, competing in Class A3 for six-cylinder turbocharged or supercharged two-wheel drive cars.

Reghard Roets - the reigning Road Car and Supercar champion, and current Class record-holder with a time of 43.955 seconds - will be back to defend his title in the only Nissan GT-R competing in Class A4.

“I really enjoyed my first outing at the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb last year,” he said, “It’s a very competitive event and there are a lot of serious cars and drivers out there.

“What the hillclimb lacks in distance it makes up for in intensity - blasting through the 1.9km course in 43 seconds takes serious focus and commitment”

Fiercely contested

The normally aspirated V8 cars in Class A6 will include a Ferrari 458 driven by Garth Mackintosh, but Class A7 will be the biggest and most fiercely contested category, with Ford Performance Centre’s supercharged Roush Mustang, driven by experienced circuit racer Barry Ingle, taking on rival tuner Shelby SA’s Paige Lindenberg in a Mustang Super Snake.

Also in this class are Rob Gearing in a brand new BMW M5, Dawie Olivier in the ‘works’ five-litre supercharged Jaguar F-Type SVR, race and rally stalwart Mark Cronje in a Jaguar XJR 575,  Clive Geldenhuys’ twin-turbo six-litre Bentley Continental GT, no less than three light and very agile McLaren 570Ss for Ernst du Preez, Izak Spies and Jacques Wheeler, and Gordon Nicholson at the wheel of BMW i8, which may not win the class but will almost certainly be the quickest hybrid up the Hill.

Tickets, at R120 per person, from speedfestival.co.za.

IOL Motoring