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A bitter-sweet day for Nissan GT-R at Simola

It was a bitter-sweet day for the Nissan GT-R at the 2021 Simola Hillclimb. After leading the pack throughout the weekend, the two top GT-R contenders – Franco Scribante and Wilhelm Baard – fell just short of the winning time in the King of the Hill shootout.

Scribante came the closest at the end of the day with a final time of 40.522 seconds. He missed a gear change on his run up the hill which cost him valuable time and left him just shy of the winning time of 40.402 set by Pieter Zeelie.

The monstrous GT-R with its distinctive aerodynamic kit and rumoured 2000 horsepower racing engine also had a gremlin in its racing electronics that bothered the team throughout Sunday’s racing. This meant that in some runs he was the fastest modified saloon on the hill and in others, the car would slow down and keep him out of the top 10.

“The problem was intermittent, which means that we don’t know if all our racing electronics are working until we hit the first corner,” says Scribante.

Scribante still set the fastest times of all the Modified Saloon Car contenders during the qualifying rounds. He posted the last qualifying time of 39.522 seconds. And when the time came to perform in the Class Finals, his GT-R broke the track record with a time of 39.303 seconds, breaking his own 2019 record, which was set in a Nissan GT-R.

For Baard, the weekend was far less rewarding. Fuel flow issues from his custom fuel pump left him out of the practice runs and on Sunday recurring understeer from the older racing tyres stopped him from posting the sub-40 second times that he is known for. In the final run, a glitch in the car’s custom racing system meant that the modified GT-R – named Armageddon – lacked low-end power.

He set a final time of 41.829 seconds and although that was nearly a second faster than his first winning time in 2011, it was only good enough to earn him fifth place.

Despite missing out on the King of the Hill title – a title that the Nissan GT-R has won 10 times thus far in the Modified Saloon and Supercar classes – the various GT-R models still delivered some of the most exciting racing throughout the weekend.

One of the most entertaining was Wade van Zummeren in his R35-powered four-wheel drive Nissan R34 GT-R. He surprised the field of highly competitive GT-R racers by setting the second-fastest qualifying time on the final day.

It is the first time that Van Zummeren has driven this GT-R, which is normally piloted by his father Martin.

“The car launches so violently, that it took me a while to get to grips with it and drive it smoothly up the hill. We had a few small niggles, but they were fixed, and we are happy with our times up the hill says Van Zummeren.

In the final Top 10 run, Van Zummeren, who showed incredible promise throughout the weekend, ran wide and clipped a few bollards. This meant that his final run was not counted, which kept him off the podium.

There was a wide range of other Nissan Skyline and GT-R models on the show as well, including a unique rear-wheel-drive Nissan Skyline R33 piloted by the Knysna Speedweek CEO, Ian Shrosbree.

While Shrosbree was not contending for the King of the Hill title, he kept the online crowds entertained and raced hard against fellow rear-wheel-drive modified saloon racers.

“Nissan has been a big part of the Simola Hillclimb from the very start. They definitely have some of the most spectacular cars on track, and the GT-R is undoubtedly one of the crowd favourites,” says Shrosbree.

Simola Hill did not treat all the GT-R and Nissan Skyline competitors equally well. On Saturday morning, the Club 23 Nissan Skyline R32 of Janus Janse van Rensburg hit a wet patch and left the road, ending his race weekend.

On Sunday, the beautiful R35 GT-R of Chris Hollis got out of sorts between turn 5 and turn 6 and left the road, totalling his car and ending his race weekend and keeping him from competing in the Top 10 Shootout.

The Simola Hillclimb is expected to return to its traditional slot in May 2022, when all the top GT-R contenders are expected back to challenge the hill, each other and the track record.

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