Suzuki to return to the Simola hill

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The hills will soon be alive with the sound of the Suzuki Swift Sport racing. Suzuki Auto South Africa has entered three new Swift Sport models in this year’s Simola Hill Climb, scheduled from 2 to 5 May in Knysna. This is the third year in a row that Suzuki will compete for the silverware…

The hills will soon be alive with the sound of the Suzuki Swift Sport racing.

Suzuki Auto South Africa has entered three new Swift Sport models in this year’s Simola Hill Climb, scheduled from 2 to 5 May in Knysna.

This is the third year in a row that Suzuki will compete for the silverware in class A1 of the King of the Hill competition and its second as a Tier One sponsor of the event. As such, Suzuki will host the media marquee and take care of the famous Zone 4 with its speed camera and zone 8.

Suzuki will also look after Gasoline Alley, the entertainment and food court for spectators near the bridge at the end of the run.

“There is a beautiful symmetry between our brand ethos and that of the Simola Hill Climb. From its inception in 2010, it has endeavoured to be accessible to each and every motorsport enthusiast. In much the same vein, Suzuki Auto wants to make fun and reliable motoring accessible to all,” says Brendon Carpenter, Brand Marketing Manager of Suzuki Auto South Africa.

For the 2024 attack on Simola Hill, Suzuki will enter three Suzuki Swift Sports. They have opted for a trio of racing veterans in an attempt to win class A1 and to show the world that you do not need a six-figure budget and 2 000 horsepower to conquer the famed hill.

The three drivers that Suzuki has selected for 2024 are precision driver and Suzuki veteran Wesley Greybe, journalist and track racer Brendon Staniforth and fellow journalist and accomplished track racer, Thomas Falkiner.

Says Falkiner: “In the world of accessible sports cars, the Swift Sport has no equal. In fact, I cannot think of another car that offers this level of performance and fun at the price.”

Falkiner joins Suzuki as the most accomplished hill climb racer in the team. While Greybe has raced twice for Suzuki and several times as a demonstration driver. Falkiner raced in the very first Simola Hill Climb alongside Sarel van der Merwe and others, and he has since campaigned for Renault, Jaguar and BMW.

In 2023, Falkiner came 10th in the Road and Supercar Shootout in a BMW i4M50, putting many much more powerful cars to shame and showing the world what an all-electric sedan could do.

“I am so excited about racing in the Swift Sport,” says Falkiner. “While my previous cars at Simola were much more powerful, the Swift Sport has one major advantage: weight. It follows the age-old principle of matching its power to a lightweight body, meaning that it is the perfect car for a short and twisty mountain track like Simola.”

Like Falkiner, Staniforth is champing at the bit to compete at Simola.

“Unlike other hill races, the Simola Hill Climb has a standing start. This has led to a proliferation of stupidly powerful cars with as much as 2 000 horsepower and little perceived space for ‘normal’ race cars.

“Over the past two years, Suzuki has shown that you cannot beat the classic sports car formula of low weight, a great chassis and sufficient power, and it has put many more powerful cars in the shade. I look forward to continuing that tradition this year.”

The third team mate is Greybe, a precision and stunt driver and part-time racer who has led the charge for the Big S over the past two years.

While not planning to do so, Greybe has acted as the wise old sage for the young drivers like Kumbi Mtshakazi who has competed for Suzuki in the past. He would often spend evenings with the novice racers to pore over their launch timing and racing line and advise them on the best option for the next day.

In 2023, Greybe battled the elements to set a best time of 54.395, thereby beating several V8 racing cars and other specialised track machines to reach the podium in Class A1.

“Kudos to Suzuki for putting together such a strong racing team for the 2024 Simola Hill Climb. Between Thomas, Brendon and me, we have all raced in track or other national formulas and it will be a completely different discussion around a few beers each night.

“With all the accumulated expertise in this year’s competition, I have no doubt that we will compete for the top spot on the Class A1 podium and scare a few much larger cars in the process.”

This is the second-generation Suzuki Swift Sport that has been available for sale in South Africa.

Unlike the previous generation, this model uses forced induction to offer 103 kW and 230 Nm of torque from its free-revving 1.4 litre petrol engine. The engine is mated to a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Of equal importance is the vehicle’s weight, which is only 970 kg. Suzuki engineers spared no expense or effort to achieve this, including shaving down the magnets in each speaker to save a few extra grams.

The result is a vehicle that perfectly epitomises the spirit of motorsport. Light weight, good power and a chassis that ‘speaks’ to the driver and that can be steered by the throttle as well as it can be steered by the steering wheel.

“One thing that we did not anticipate when we first entered the Simola Hill Climb is the reception that we would receive from the fans. People cheer for the Suzuki Swift Sport and celebrate its racing times, perhaps because it is one of the few cars at the event that represents and is accessible to the average South African.

“We hope to live up to this hype in 2024, and we believe that our three racing drivers – Thomas, Wesley and Brendon – are perfectly suited to the task,” says Carpenter.

The Simola Hill Climb will be streamed live on YouTube. For more information on the race, please visit speedfestival.co.za or follow Suzuki on its social media channels.


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