• The 2022 Simola Hillclimb is the second consecutive year where Suzuki South Africa is one of the event's major sponsors.
• In addition to being the engine partner to several teams, the automaker also fielded two Swift Sport models for official participation.
• The Swift was the best-selling passenger car for April 2022.
• For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24
Over the last two years, Suzuki South Africa has steadily increased its market share in Mzansi. The Japanese brand, doing duty in South Africa since 2008, has been on an epic roll over the last 14 years, winning customers over with every passing year.
In February 2020, the brand set a new sales record when it sold 1 696 new vehicles. In September of that year, the record climbed to 1 787 units. And the very next month, October, it rose to 2 032! It's fair to say that the automaker has steadily been growing its presence in the local market with a portfolio of reputable vehicles. April 2022 was another record-setting month for Suzuki in South Africa. 3 701 new vehicles were signed off to new customers, of which 1 621 units were Swifts.
While this is all great, Suzuki SA always felt they needed to do more and insert themselves into local auto industry spheres. Talks then began between the automaker and the Simola Hillclimb organisers, giving rise to the Blues becoming one of the event's major sponsors. 2021 was the first Simola Hillclimb where Suzuki SA showed its support, and the agreement continued in 2022.
Generating more presence
For Suzuki SA, coming on board as a major sponsor to the Simola Hillclimb was never about rebranding the event as a Suzuki one. Instead, the automaker's local arm's aim has always been to invest in an event that stimulates the local market in a unique way. Hence, when the opportunity to become a sponsor came around, talks began almost immediately.
"For us to be one of the fastest-growing car brands in South Africa, we would like to support motorsport, and what better than doing it at the Simola Hillclimb," says Brendon Carpenter, Brand Marketing Manager at Suzuki South Africa.
In addition to the event's sponsorship, Suzuki SA is also the official engine partner of several teams, as a few cars are powered by Suzuki motorbike engines, including the Hayabusa's. The Hayabusa is Suzuki's halo motorbike, and its engine is among the most respected in the game. If it's any indication, Suzuki made its intentions clear about its South African involvement and wants to show that it is fun and involving.
"We also want to show the public that Suzuki is a fun brand," says Carpenter. "A lot of the performance machinery run with Suzuki engines - the likes of Devin Robertson's Hayabusa-powered Radical and Megan Verlarque's Speedcar that has a GSX-R600 motor - and for the first time we have two Swift Sports, which is quite great because they are doing timed laps."
April's best-seller takes to the Hill
Prior to April 2022, Suzuki SA already planned to bring two Swift Sport models to the Hill. It was just perfect timing, then, that the Naamsa sales figures were released just days before the event, and the Swift topped the charts as the country's best-selling passenger car for last month. Piloting the cars at this year's event, the brand reached out to motor journalist (and regular Wheels24 contributor) Reuben van Niekerk and driver trainer Wesley Greybe.
Driving an automatic and manual Swift Sport, respectively, the two drivers put it all on the line as they continuously improved their times. On their final runs to determine the Top 30 for the King of the Hill shootout, Van Niekerk and Greybe posted their fastest times of the weekend, both dipping below the 55-second mark. Greybe posted a 54.580 and Van Niekerk a 54.913.
Suzuki's drivers may not have gone to the final shootout, but their attempts in one of the most fun cars on the market have been one of the biggest talks down the pitlane this past weekend.
Carpenter concludes: "This is our first year as a competitor at the Simola Hillclimb, and it has been a thrilling experience. It is great fun to see our two drivers and their Swift Sport models improve their times on every run and beat a couple of more powerful machines. At the same time, we could show the spectators that you do not need a seven-figure budget and a large technical crew to be able to tame the Simola Hill.
"We knew that if our two racers set a time of less than one minute on the 1.9km track, we would have proved our point."
Not bad for April 2022's best-selling passenger car.