Andrew Rackstraw drove his Formula Volkswagen to a double podium finish at the 2023 Knysna Simola Hillclimb on Sunday.
Andrew Rackstraw drove his Formula Volkswagen to a double podium finish at the 2023 Knysna Simola Hillclimb on Sunday. He secured his first class win in the C2 Class, as well as a 3rd overall in the King of the Hill top 10 shootout for single-seaters. Attending the event for the 3rd year in a row, Rackstraw was blown away by the support he received from fellow competitors and supporters. Since the pandemic, this was definitely the biggest and most special Simola event. The grid was packed with some amazing cars with star-studded drivers. The event also hosted some of the world’s best with 3 special guests. Double WRX Champion and WRC Champion Petter Solberg and his brother Henning Solberg were there as well as ex-Formula 1 driver Mika Salo.
This brought a crowd out to the event that we have never seen before. Rackstraw loved every second of it and said, “It was an absolute privilege to share this event with world-class drivers who helped us put on a show for the amazing crowd that came out on both Saturday and Sunday. The Simola Hillclimb has always been close to my heart because it’s the one event where all pressure is taken away and we just have fun! I really appreciate all the fan interactions and all the new people I got to meet.”
As for his driving, Rackstraw did set a personal best time in his Formula VW and really pushed himself to another level. The conditions on the final day of the event were tricky, with rain showers coming down during the qualifying sessions. After Qualifying 5 was cancelled due to rain it was all left to Qualifying Session 6 to set his best time and to top his class position. He got the perfect launch in the last qualifying session and set a blistering 40.259 second run up the hill. This gave him the quickest time in the qualifying sessions by just 0.019 thousandths over his closest competitor Byron Mitchell who also drove superbly in the tricky conditions. Rackstraw’s time also ensured that he would have a shot at the King of the Hill Shootout.
With the stage set, it was time for what would have been an epic class final! Unfortunately, Mitchell’s car went into an engine limp mode which meant Rackstraw just had to keep it on the road in some sketchy wet conditions. Launching off the line in his full wet tyres, he kept his cool and delivered. He had the perfect run which gave him his first overall class win over his fellow competitors.
By the time the King of the Hill Shootout happened the rain had cleared, however, the road was still damp and even fully wet in some places. This made it very difficult to decide what tyre would be best in the conditions. For the final run, Rackstraw decided along with his team to take a gamble and go on slick tyres, despite the damp conditions. It was a risky move, but one that ultimately paid off, as he put in a blistering performance to secure a podium finish in the highly competitive King of the Hill Top 10 Shootout.
Speaking about his victory, Rackstraw said, “I’m absolutely thrilled with how things turned out. The conditions were tough, but we were well-prepared, and I had a lot of confidence in my car and my team. The gamble with the slick tyres paid off, and I was able to put in a great performance in the final run. It’s a great feeling to be standing on the podium and to have won my class.”
Rackstraw’s success at the Simola Hillclimb was a true showing of his skills as a driver and the hard work of his team, RDSA. Led by team manager Claudio Piazza Musso, the team put in countless hours of work to ensure that the Formula VW was performing at its best. Rico Barlow was also brought in by RDSA to assist for the weekend and collectively it was a great show of teamwork and unity. From fine-tuning the engine to adjusting the suspension and brakes, every aspect of the car was meticulously prepared to give Rackstraw the best chance of success.
Piazza Musso, who has worked with Rackstraw for several years, said, “Andrew is an incredibly talented driver, and it’s always a pleasure to work with him. We knew going into the Simola Hillclimb that it was going to be a tough event, but we were well prepared and had a lot of confidence in our car and our team. Andrew drove brilliantly, and it’s great to see all our hard work pay off.”
Rackstraw also credits his sponsors for their support, which has been crucial in helping him achieve success on the track. The Formula VW was sponsored by Sparco, Ravenol, SimGrid, RaceBook Media and Investchem, all of whom provided invaluable support to the team throughout the event.
“Without the support of our sponsors, it would be much harder to compete at this level,” said Rackstraw. “Their support allows us to focus on what we do best, which is driving and preparing the car for each event. We’re incredibly grateful for their support and look forward to continuing our partnership in the future.”
Looking back on the event Rackstraw was deeply grateful to be able to participate in what has quickly become one of his highlights of the racing season. And he is already excited at the prospect of returning to Simola in 2024.
“Simola has always had the ability to make my passion for motorsport become stronger each and every year.
It is an incredibly special time to be able to bond with my team (RDSA) and my dad. What made it even more special was that my mum was able to come to experience the event for the first time as well.
The Simola Hillclimb never ceases to surprise me and this year was no exception. The fans were amazing and the atmosphere was unmatched to any other racing in South Africa. Combine all of that with the international drivers that came down and you had the perfect event.
We walked away with a class win and 3rd overall which was just the cherry on the top, but the people I have to thank for that were all the fans cheering me on and supporting me every run!
I also want to thank Greg Canny for refreshing our engine so that we could compete as well as Paul Bestbier who is our engine tuner and knows how to get our VW engine running perfectly.
Lastly but most importantly thank you to my family for the continuous support and love throughout the whole event!”
Overall, Rackstraw’s victory at the Simola Hillclimb was a testament to his skill, determination, and teamwork. It is clear that he is one of South Africa’s top racing drivers, and with the support of his team and sponsors, he has the potential to achieve even greater success in the years to come.
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