Ceres, teams prepare for "King of the Hill"

Hold on to your horsepower, the King of the Hill is in town! This Saturday, I got to meet 'him', by pure chance. Angie (a friend) and I were doing brunch when she happened to mention the upcoming event. It was like a shot of Espresso to my ...

Hold on to your horsepower, the King of the Hill is in town! This Saturday, I got to meet 'him', by pure chance. Angie (a friend) and I were doing brunch when she happened to mention the upcoming event. It was like a shot of Espresso to my system.

After a phone call relaying my excitement about and interest in the event, I was told about a Panel Van that kicked the living daylights out of Porsche GT2. Yes I know, you did a double take of this sentence, because I couldn't believe it either. I was stunned! I soon I found myself looking at the much publicised and admired Panel Van while its other partner, a Toyota Levin, was being groomed for the big day.

The Ceres hillclimb event is known as "King of the Hill". It is held in the Gydo pass outside Prins Alfred Hamlet, close to Ceres. The event organiser is Ashley Landman, owner of Bloomsbury investment cars in Cape Town.

The Panel Van almost didn't make it to the 2003 race. Who would sit with a white-hot modified speeding machine and not show it off? Definitely not Mike "Turbo" Lotter, who built the engine. He had other ideas and made sure The Van would be there to strut its stuff. Boy, and is it hot stuff! It inspires even the most law-abiding citizen to thoughts of stealing it just to take it for a spin.

The driver, Dawie Olivier, hails from Pretoria and arrived in Cape Town on the Tuesday before the event. On Wednesday Mike finished the 1600 Toyota 4AGE turbocharged engine and on Thursday they dyno-tuned it at Kosie Swanepoel's workshop. (Kosie is another famous mechanic and driver. More about him later.) As it turns out, the car made 250 kW and 380 Nm of torque at the wheels.

Friday was practice day for all the competitors at Killarney racetrack in Cape Town. The entrants ranged in the Porsche class from Turbos to GT2 and 3s, that included the Pretorius father-and-son team Porsche Turbo Cup cars from Pretoria, the new Turbo Cup Porsche of Tobey Venter followed by other classes like the Lotus Exige, a GT40, various Subaru WRX's, a SAAB, the Volkswagen Polo factory rally car from Enzo Kuun as well as Fernando Rueda's Lancer Evolution rally car, but to name a few. One of the crowd favourites was the twin engine Golf of Robby Ferroli. This car had two 1800 16 valve turbo charged Golf engines in.

When Dawie and Mike got to the track the people did not even notice the odd looking Toyota delivery Panel Van. No one paid them any attention or the respect they deserve, until this wolf in sheep's clothing took to the track. Dawie went around the track a few times and noticed that he could catch up to one of the Porsche GT2's very, very quickly. He went into the last corner that leads into the main straight of 650 meters, behind the GT2.

Dawie eased off and let the GT2 go for a second or so. He then stepped on the loud pedal. He caught up with the GT2, pulled up next to it as they approached the pit area and then tapped off as he passed the pits and decided to fetch the GT2 again before he reached the end of the straight, which he did. The crowd went bezerk.

When Dawie got back to the pits, he could not climb out of his car. From a distance it looked like Pamela Anderson was giving a strip show in Dawie's pits. Every one was there! They wanted to see what was under the bonnet. The disbelief on the people's faces to see that the engine is only a Toyota 1600, was priceless. The GT2 driver did not enjoy this as much as we did. Off-course not!

Dawie Joubert, owner of the Lotus Exige, run bearings with his Lotus. He was Mike and Dawie Olivier's biggest competition. Mike volunteered his workshop and services to replace the engine block, which they did. They finished at midnight that Friday.

Saturday was a beautiful day in Ceres. The racing up the mountain started. The cars came up the hill fast. Then it was the turn of The Panel Van. You could hear The Van from afar, like fast approaching thunder almost expecting rain, but only seeing a white lightning bolt shoot by. The blow-off valve wailed at every gear change echoing up the mountain. The 35000 strong crowd scurried for a spot to see what was coming. Dawie threw The Van into the corners and the aged colligated slicks battled for grip. The crowd was not disappointed as Dawie flew past.

At the end of the day Dawie's Panel Van was crowned as King of the Hill. Everyone was surprised, non-more than the factory works driver Fernando Rueda with his Lancer Evolution. He protested with the clerk of the course that Dawie beat him. The protest did not succeed.

The Porsche Turbo Cup Cars were in a class of their own which ran on the Sunday. Though it wasn't originally the plan, the driver who is also the Chief Designer of Porsche Germany had to be back in the office for a meeting the following Monday thus having to compete on Saturday in the GT2 where it had its 'nose' rubbed in the dirt by the Panel Van.

The Lotus of Dawie Joubert did not finish due to a broken fuel hose.

What can we expect to see this coming Saturday and Sunday 29 and 30th November 2003?

This year Mike and Dawie entered again. Dawie entered The Van and Mike entered his own car, which is the Toyota Levin. He bought the car, stripped the rustbucket down and rebuilt it from scratch. When I saw the car, I could hardly believe that it was a 'rust bucket' as Richard put it.

Under the bonnet lies a 2L 16 valve Toyota turbo charged engine. It kicks 314kW and 490Nm of torque on the dynometer, with a big guy in the boot to stop wheel spin. It has got enough torque to wrap the car around the axle.

Mike decided that Kosie "Sideways" Swanepoel, very famous in Cape Town, must drive his car.

With such talent and cars, one can only expect action, worthy of a Hollywood script. Vin Diesel eat your heart out, these are the Fast and the Furious. No recreations or stand-ins, just 300% pure adrenalin pumping live action.

Credits to Richard Bruhin, who provided a lot of the input and information to this article.

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Series Hillclimb
Drivers Ashley Landman