Suzuki Auto, a first-tier sponsor of the Simola Hillclimb, racing up the hill for the second year in a row and will this year add a third car to its team.
The three-car Suzuki Swift Sport team will consist of Wesley Greybe, Sudhir Matai and Kumbi Mtshakazi. Of these three drivers, only Greybe has competed before, with Matai and Mtshakazi making their debut to tame the famed Simola hill.
“We entered the 2022 Simola Hill Climb with two Swift Sports – a manual and an auto – to support the Hillclimb and to prove that you do not need deep pockets to have fun and go racing.
“The two Swift Sport models, and their drivers, Greybe and Reuben van Niekerk, performed so well that we decided to add another car to the mix and to add a rookie to our roster to show that you also don’t need experience to get the best out of your Swift Sport,” says Chelsy Pinto, Product Planning and Sales Development Co-ordinator at Suzuki Auto and Team Manager for the 2023 Suzuki Swift Sport Team at Simola.
The rookie in this year’s Suzuki line-up is Kumbi Mtshakazi. Mtshakazi is a seasoned motoring writer and content creator, but he has never competed in any form of racing before.
“It’s difficult to describe my emotions. It is a mix of excitement and fear. I have been on the hill as a reporter when other cars have lost control and crashed or rolled, so I know that it will take all my concentration and effort to tame the hill,” says Mtshakazi.
He will be working closely with Greybe, who has experience on the hill as a competitor and as an exhibition driver. Greybe is a professional precision driver, and last year he set a top time of 54.580 seconds on the 1.9-kilometre track.
“Kumbi and I have had our first meeting, and I told him to just enjoy it, especially on the first day. You need time to settle in behind the wheel and get a feeling for both the car and the track before you start chasing times,” says Greybe.
In 2022, Greybe raced in a Swift Sport manual, and Van Niekerk, whom he also coached, raced in the automatic version. At the end of the last day of racing, Van Niekerk had set a personal best time of 54.913 seconds, only 0.333 seconds behind Greybe.
To mix things up, Greybe will this year pilot an automatic Swift Sport.
“I think there is still some time left on the hill that we can shave off our 2022 times. The auto should be great from turn one to turn three as it frees the driver to focus on the best line,” says Greybe.
With Greybe and Mtshakazi behind the wheel of automatic Swift Sport models, it leaves Sudhir Matai to take charge of the Swift Sport manual.
Matai is a seasoned journalist with several seasons of track racing under his belt. He has successfully competed in the VW Polo Cup in recent years and has raced, and won, the Border 100 in a Porsche GT3 Cup car. He is also a past winner of the Fine Cars races in the Western Cape and has had podium finishes in a Ford Ranger in the National Off-Road Championships (now the SA Rally-Raid Championship).
“The Hillclimb is going to be a completely new challenge for me.
“In track racing, you always have other competitors around you, and you have to race against them for track position. At Simola, you are only competing against yourself and the stopwatch, so it is going to take some getting used to,” says Matai.
While the track and racing formulae are completely new to Matai, the Swift Sport is not.
“I attended last year’s Simola Hillclimb as a journalist and reckoned that the Swift Sport models offered the best racing for your money per second up the hill.
“Any car that set a faster time than the Swift Sport cost hundreds of thousands or even millions more than the Swift Sport. So, I am proud to be racing this car at Simola in 2023,” says Matai.
Matai, Mtshakazi and Greybe will travel to Simola later this week to start preparations for the racing on Saturday and Sunday. As all three cars compete in Class A1 for production vehicles with a turbo or supercharger, no mechanical changes have been made.
“I believe the car I am racing is a daily driver for one of the staff members at Suzuki Auto South Africa, so these cars are neither brand new nor modified. We do, however, have some good data on our tyre pressures from last year’s race, and we will use this to our advantage from day one’s practice runs,” says Greybe.
Racing starts in earnest on Friday 5 May with the Classic Car Racing and will start for Team Suzuki on Saturday morning with the first practice runs.
For more on the Simola Hillclimb 2023, please visit speedfestival.co.za or follow Suzuki Auto on its social channels for live updates.