High-octane thrills in the hills

Even Dalene Matthee’s fictional Oupoot would have been hiding out, quivering deep in the dense Knysna forest that encircles us, as engineered thunder reverberated up and down the valley which surrounded the tight road used for the Renault Knysna Hillclimb last weekend.

Renault once again chose the yearly event, now in its third incarnation, to reveal new models to the local market. Two new entrants were the stars of the show, though the Clio RS Gordini is hardly revelatory having been unveiled at the same time as the Twingo RS Gordini last year.

The other new model was the ­Megane GT Line, which comes in two flavours: the three-door coupe and the more mundane five-door hatch.

The new GT Line is pretty easy – it’s the ­exact same car as the model it now ­replaces in the line-up, the Megane 1.4 TCe Dynamique.

The five-door is now also fitted with the sport chassis option which the coupe has always had, and the styling features subtle ­versions of the spoilers and splitters on the full-blown RS models as well as an RS-style grille.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just feels like a bit of a gyp.

Nevertheless the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine produces a decent 96kW of power and 190Nm of torque – not exactly sporty but not embarrassing either with the payoff being good fuel consumption when you’re not trying to emulate RS-style driving.

It’s a bit light on torque when climbing some of the steeper slopes on the Knysna test route, but it makes a fantastic noise.

The Hillclimb saw entrants stretching from grassroots level right up to the big-money, big-name entrants – so spectators got to watch an eclectic selection of machinery from gorgeous classic Jaguar E-Types up to a gaggle of R35 GT-Rs, an Audi R8 and the Ariel Atom which crashed.

Despite defending champion Geoff Mortimer’s best ­efforts in his canary-yellow Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, the Nissans ruled the show.

Mortimer’s unholy control abilities had to submit to the might of the 3.8­litre twin-turbo V6 in the nose of Wilhelm Baard’s modified R35 GT-R.

Baard made a record time of 42.4 seconds and it’s going to take something very special to better that time at next year’s event.

That’s an average speed of around 250km/h, up a narrow and quite twisty 2.5km course from a standing start!
Renault also featured a Brat Pack race with some veteran racers driving Megane RS Cups drawing in the younger crowds, along with five Clio Gordini RS models serving as the steeds for the Media Challenge.

The fans and competitors of this yearly activity all left with their collective thirst for high performance and high octane thoroughly sated. 

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