|GEORGE, South Africa – Two Suzuki Swift Sport units – not usually seen as performance cars and representing the automaker with a manual and auto – set some unexpectedly fast times and even a place on their class podium.|
The cars set times of 54.913sec (Reuben van Niekerk, auto) and 54.580sec (Wesley Greybe, manual) whose time was enough for a spot on the class podium. And it was only six seconds slower than the class winner, Jared Yeo, in a Porsche Cayman 718S.
Brendon Carpenter, Suzuki SA’s auto marketing manager, told The Corner in a media release: “We entered Simola to show you don’t need to break the bank to have a competitive sport car – or great fun – on the hill-climb.
“We knew that if our cars took less than 60 seconds for the 1.9km hill course we would have proved our point but both drivers improved as the weekend progressed to surprise us – and the spectators – with final times below 55sec.”
Suzuki’s Simola campaign began with practice runs and the first qualifying attempts on Saturday. Heavy rain the previous night and daytime drizzle created slippery conditions and kept several contenders in the pits.
”However, both our drivers drove in every run, regardless of the conditions. Van Niekerk put in a first practice time of 1min06.135, Greybe 1min :01.811. After each run but as they became more familiar with their cars they started shaving second after second.
”By the end of Saturday’s racing Greybe was at 55.709sec, Van Niekerk 55.901 so it was proof that the cars’ suspension and transmission could run so close.”
Van Niekerk added: “It was also very impressive to see how each car could line up for a competitive run, time after time, without any fade or failure. Keep in mind that both cars came straight off the showroom floor to the start.
”It was awesome to be at Simola. The Swift Sport really impressed and we each got into the 54s – incredible for a car that makes 103kW and costs less than R380 000.”
Sunday’s drives started with drama: a heavily modified vehicle blew its engine and spilled oil on the road… practice and qualifying were cancelled as a section road was covered in fine powder.
Greybe added: “I was truly surprised by the Swift Sport’s prowess. The car is light, the chassis taut – ideal for any sport car.”
Greybe’s times improved as the track cleaned up and the air temperature rose. His 54.580 in the class final was his fastest of the weekend – faster than several much larger cars.
HOW DID LITTLE SUZIES GET INVOLVED?
Suzuki 2022 Hillclimb as a sponsor after previously supporting several Suzuki-powered racers in 2021. Carpenter enlarged:
“We joined as a sponsor because our brand loves fun and excitement. We also wanted to help the event return to its status as a fan favourite after the first Covid lockdown It didn’t take much for us to decide to compete.
”Two other racers also represented Suzuki power – Devin Robertson with his Suzuki Hayabusa-powered Radical SR1 (39.515sec) – one of the day’s fastest.
Megan Verlaque was a crowd favourite in her diminutive Speedcar EXTREME, powered by a Suzuki GSX-R600 motorcycle engine. She’s a rallycross specialist on the twisty mountain road and ended her campaign with a 46.828 run during the final Top 10 shoot-out.
The two Suzuki superbikes also returned for a final couple of runs on Sunday. Suzuki also shipped an all-new GSX-S1000 SGT to Simola to show the speed-loving crowds.
Finally, Suzuki invited top-tier racer AJ Venter to bring his Isle of Man TT GSX-R1000 R in full race spec to the hill. He entertained the crowds by screaming up and down the hill during intermissions, sometimes on one wheel.
Last word from Carpenter: “Suzuki has a proud history at various hill-climbs, most notably with Monster Tajima and his modified Suzukis at Pikes Peak in the US.
”Now we can add the Suzuki Swift Sport to that legacy.”