The 11th edition of the Simola Hillclimb proved to be another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, having to be postponed twice in the last year. But finally, the iconic hillclimb took place last week in the mountains near Knysna, South Africa. We had a talk with this year’s “King of the Hill”, André Bezuidenhout, who took the win in the single-seater class in last week’s event. Even more, he confirmed his win with a mind-boggling average speed of nearly 200km/h on the twisty mountain roads near Knysna.
Going for Gould
Andre lived up to expectations, as well as his bold pre-event promise of a sub-35 seconds time, by powering the agile 2007 Gould GR55 McLaren to the best-ever time on the 1.9 km Simola Hill, stopping the clock in just 34.965 seconds. He did this in the final all-or-nothing Top 10 Shootout for the Single Seater and Sports Prototype category late on Sunday. In the process, he slashed his current record time from 2018 by 0.563 seconds – achieving an astonishing average speed of 195.624km/h!
Andre, congratulations on your victory. Please talk us through the race…
It was a close-run thing, as the shadows were already starting to come over the track when I did my run on Sunday in the late afternoon. If we were 10 minutes later, I wouldn’t have been able to go that fast as the temperature began falling. So, it was the perfect run in the end. I desperately wanted to do a 34, and the team worked very hard to achieve this great result.
How did you prepare for this Hillclimb Championship?
This year we had the opportunity to prepare at the 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 one you are already in third gear. Between turns one and two we had achieved 242km/h. These runs help you used to the acceleration. Through Malmesbury, for example, we achieved 4.2g of lateral acceleration. As you can’t practice on the hill before the event, 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.
You had to wait for two years for this race, right?
Yes indeed, 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, to 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 about focus and getting acquainted with the car that helped.
Will this be the new 2022 target for you and the team?
I think there’s still more to come from the car as, until now, I’ve been driving the car as it came from the UK in 2018. Now we’re going to start working on the suspension, and we are looking at adding launch control for next year because at the moment it’s 100% my right foot, whereas a lot of the other cars have traction and launch control systems. We started with a 0-100km/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.
Motul’s area manager Mercia Janssen commented on the partnership:
"This year’s Simola Hillclimb is taking place exactly 50 years after Motul launched the first-ever fully synthetic oil in the automotive market. Our flagship product, 300V, which takes its name from the number of victories attributed to its use even before it was officially launched in 1971, along with some of our other oils, lubricants, and additives, is being supplied to Motul-sponsored drivers, such as André, in the quest for enhanced performance. The latest formulation of 300V launched at 24H of Le Mans recently and will be available in South Africa early next year. The Simola Hillclimb is one of South Africa’s most exciting events. It’s a real test for both cars and drivers, and a real proving ground for our Motul products."
© Pictures: Eric Buijs, Simola Hillclimb, Team Perfect Circle