Sole US competitor reflects on Simola Hillclimb's 'great vibe' and 'next-level cars'

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• Cole Powelson was the only competitor for the USA to compete in the 2021 Simola Hillclimb.

• The event, held in Knysna, takes its toll on both man and machine.

• Powelson praises local competitors for the machinery they bring to the competition.

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Cole Powelson was the sole American competitor in the 2021 Simola Hillclimb. Hailing from Salt Lake City in Utah, it is Powelson's first time competing in this event, but he is no stranger to taking Hillclimb challenges.

In the 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb - widely regarded as one of the world's most extreme motorsport events and the premier in hillclimbs - Powelson finished fourth overall and third in class.

Competing in a privately-owned Citroën Xsara, originally built by Citroën Motorsport and campaigned as a works car in the 2001/2002 World Rally Championship (WRC), Powelson took on the 1.9km Simola Hill. His car is powered by a Cosworth-developed and built Audi 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 engine currently producing around 410kW. Power is delivered to the rear wheels via a five-speed sequential manual transmission and a limited-slip differential.

Cole Powelson,citroen xsara,simola hillclimb
Cole Powelson

A great vibe

Though an engine failure on Sunday (5 September) prevented him from qualifying for the main race, Powelson talks about his Simola Hillclimb experience and hopes to be back for the 2022 edition.

The driver says: "I'm living the dream here in South Africa. It's amazing. I set a very low goal so I wouldn't be disappointed, but I already broke the 40-second mark on just my second run. I got more familiar with the course as the event went on, and the car has been great. I just had such a good time I couldn't really care what my time was. It's been a fantastic event so far.

"The vibe is so great. I just can't explain what a good, relaxed and positive atmosphere it is here. The quality of cars has really exceeded my expectations. It's just top-level equipment with very nice builds to go along with the great people driving them. There's a lot to take in, and I've been looking at every car up and down the pit lane, as well as talking to other hillclimbers that I've interacted with on the internet or email in the past, and now I've been able to meet them in person. It has been a really memorable experience for me so far.

READ: Unleash the beasts - Three modified Nissan GT-Rs competing for Simola Hillclimb win

"The Simola Hillclimb is very different from an event such as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The biggest difference for these cars is the heavy standing start. It's remarkable to see heavy cars such as the high-powered Nissan GT-Rs, which are essentially straight-line drag cars, having to sort out a whole bunch of corners too.

"The extreme loads off the line with a standing start are not something that we have to deal with back home, as even at Pikes Peak, we have a good long run into the start line. So the cars here are a totally different kind of build from how we would approach it.

"There's no way I could bring my GT-R here and launch it like that. I launched it one time and blew the front driveshafts. We're generally running factory Nissan parts, but here they've got heavily upgraded 2 000hp (1 491kW) drag car parts, so it's just next-level. It just shows the quality of the cars here and how far the local guys are taking the builds. It's a short Hillclimb but asks a lot of the cars."

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