Lancer Evo9 takes the Knysna Hillclimb thriller
After three thrilling days of action in front of an enthusiastic crowd, it was veteran racer Geoff Mortimer who emerged as winner of the 2010 Knysna Hillclimb on Sunday.
Despite a teeming wet surface, Mortimer blasted his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 Mortimer up the 1.9km Simola Hill in 50.637sec to pip Wilhelm Baard (Nissan R32) by a scant 0.183sec.
Due to inclement weather, organisers were forced to scrap final qualifying and the final run was held under the threat of mist forcing the event to be abandoned.
The initial pacemaker was East London's Darren Gudmanz (Nissan GT-R) who stopped the clocks on 51.895.
It wasn't long before fellow Nissan GT-R driver Des Gutzeit beat his time by a hairsbreadth 0.045sec to take over the lead.
Towards the end of the timed runs Baard stopped the clocks on 50.820sec and it seemed as though it was all over bar the shouting.
Almost unnoticed, Mortimer crept towards the line and rocketed off the line for a superb and well deserved victory at an average speed of more than 135km/h.
He said afterwards: "I just tried to get away cleanly and get the right lines. The car was perfect - better than the driver."
Baard was visibly dejected, almost shell shocked as he could not have gone faster.
He said: "I had some big sideways moments in a couple of places. It was interesting!"
Gutzeit couldn't stop explaining, with an ear-to-ear grin how he was on the limit.
"At the top corner it got so sideways," he said, "all I could do was keep the power on and hope it would pull straight and it did, but I used every bit of road there was.
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Jaki Scheckter hustled his Nissan GT-R up the hill quick enough to grab fifth place ahead of Fabio Tafani, who described his superhuman effort in the severely disadvantaged rear-wheel drive V8 Masters car as "scary!".
Subaru driver Anton Cronje narrowly missed out on a top-six placing but got the biggest chee.r as he'd raced at Midvaal on Saturday and driven to Knysna overnight to make the start. Having missed both Friday and Saturday practice meant his effort was worthy of much more.
An event within an event catered for historic cars and this was almost as closely fought as the main event.
Peter Little emerged as victor as he guided his narrow-tyred Cooper up the hill in 1min09.366 to pip the Ulster Imp driven by Dave Alexander by a mere 0.184sec. Third went to Ron Hollis in an MGC Roadster.
Petite Di Dugmore claimed fourth in her Austin Healey Sprite Sebring with Rodney Green (MGB) next as Heyns Stead rounded off the top six in the Miller MG special.
1 Geoff Mortimer (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 50.637sec
2 Wilhelm Baard (Nissan GT-R32) 50.820
3 Des Gutzeit (Nissan GT-R) 51.850
4 Darren Gudmanz (Nissan GT-R) 51.895
5 Jaki Scheckter (Nissan GT-R) 51.964
6 Fabio Tafani (V8 Masters) 52.369