Nissan enthusiasts are ready to support the brave King of the Hill contenders as they set several thousand horses free on the famed Simola hill. The 2021 event will not be the traditional spectator event, we came to love, but can be followed on various online and media platforms.

As in previous years, the Nissan GT-R remains the track vehicle of choice in the hotly contested B5 class for racing cars with five or more cylinders and no power restrictions. It is not surprising therefore that a Nissan GT-R has won the overall King of the Hill Championship for four out of the last five years and have been on the podium every year that it competed.

“The Nissan GT-R’s racing pedigree and breadth of talent are best seen in the King of the Hill race, where contenders utilise NISMO and other technologies to extract over 1 000 horsepower from their VR38DETT V6 engines. In fact, rumour has it that some of the top contenders will be running with close to 2 000 horsepower GT-Rs for this race,” says Stefan Haasbroek, marketing director for Nissan South Africa.

Of the ten contenders in the B5 category – which remains the largest in the field – eight are Nissan GT-Rs. Of the eight, five are current-generation R35 models with various levels of tune.

All eyes will again be on the two multiple champions – Wilhelm Baard and Franco Scribante – who will aim to break the magical 39-second barrier up the 1.9 kilometre stretch of tar. In fact, Scribante has broken this barrier during non-official test runs but won the 2019 competition with a final time of 39.3542 seconds.

“This year, the competition in our class will be a lot fiercer. We have heard rumours of incredible power from some of the Nissan GT-Rs. It is going to be a great Hillclimb.”

According to Scibante, their track-tuned GT-R with its unique front wing and raw exposed carbon fibre body panels recently received a new racing gearbox. With this in mind, the team will take it easy at the start of the Saturday testing to see how the car performs.

“While we will nurse the new gearbox on Saturday, you can bet that we will risk everything for the King of the Hill title on Sunday,” says Scribante, who has won the Hillclimb three times in the past five years and who is the first person to hold both the Classic Car and King of the Hill titles in the same year.

One of Scribante’s fiercest competitors will be Wilhelm Baard, who will return with his famed BB Nissan GT-R named Armageddon. With much more than 1 000 horses under the hood, this GT-R was once described as “moving the earth under it, rather than pulling away”.

Baard is the reigning Nelspruit Hillclimb champion and a two-time Simola King of the Hill. He was also the first contender in a GT-R to break the mythical 40 second time up the hill.

“With the unfortunate cancellation of the 2020 race, we have had more time to prepare, and I truly feel that our GT-R, in its current form, is performing perfectly as a complete package. This is not only thanks to our tuning, but also our aerodynamic improvements and upgrades to both small and large componentry,” says Baard.

Baard notes that he has also been able to test the car well on Zwartkops in the weeks running up to this weekend’s Hillclimb, which has given him more confidence to tackle the hill.

“Having said that, we all know that you start the weekend off slowly and tentatively, then you settle into a rhythm and soon thereafter you start turning up the boost,” he quips.

The B5 class will also welcome several well-known GT-R contenders, including Darron Gudmanz, Jody and Martin van Zummerin and, new to the class, Reghard Roets. Roets won the Road and Supercar class in a factory standard R35 GT-R in 2019 and 2018 and this year he moves into the more powerful unlimited class.

Among the many other contenders in GT-Rs and Nissans are Knysna Speed Festival CEO Ian Shrosbree in a Nissan Skyline GTS and Club 23’s Janus Janse van Rensburg, also in a Skyline R32. Janse van Rensburg’s business partner – Jacques van Onselen – will, in turn, race a 1984 Nissan 300ZX in the Classic Car Friday race.

Janse van Rensburg has a special place in Simola history as the first contender to race an electric vehicle on the Simola Hill. He piloted the Nissan NISMO LEAF racing car to a class win in the 2018 Simola Hillclimb.

“Our Club 23 R32 is a specialist drift car that we converted for use on the hill. It is bound to draw some attention, as it is really, really loud and it spits flames under hard acceleration. In that respect, it is the polar opposite of the NISMO LEAF that I last raced up the hill,” says Janse van Rensburg.

“While we have our eyes on a class win, the main reason for our participation is to meet and mingle with other GT-R owners, many of whom are customers of our specialist Nissan and supercar workshop.”

The current-generation R35 Nissan GT-R is the company’s most popular supercar to date and despite still being in production, it has already reached the same legendary status as its forebears.

Each Nissan GT-R is built in Japan, with every R35 engine hand-assembled by one of four Takumi, or master craftsmen. These Takumi have the final say on each VR38 GT-R engine that leaves the factory, and it is said that engines have been rejected based simply on a Takumi’s touch and his verdict that the engine did not “feel perfect”.

Today, the GT-R remains a very popular supercar, with 408 kW and 632 Nm driven through all four wheels. The range starts with the Premium Edition at R2 501 900 and includes a Black Edition (R2 624 900) and exclusive 50th Anniversary Edition at R2 674 900.

The Simola Hillclimb is scheduled to run from Friday, 3 September to Sunday, 5 September. Owing to lockdown restrictions no spectators will be allowed at the track, but all activities will be streamed and broadcast on various TV channels.