The GT-Rs of South African Hillclimbs
Why The GT-R?

GT-Rs perform well in multiple forms of racing, but are they the ultimate hillclimb machines?

Since the launch of the original 2000 GT-R in 1969, the various GT-R models released by Nissan have become firm favourites amongst car tuners and racers alike. And for good reason. Whether it’s circuit racing, drag racing or street racing, you’ll find the GT-R – and often dominating the competition.


Whether it’s an R32, R33, R34 or R35, the GT-R also makes for a formidable hillclimbing machine.

Is it the model’s advanced 4WD and electronic systems, its extreme tune-ability, or simply because of the wide parts availability? I personally think that it’s a combination of all those things, but it starts with the fact that the GT-R is a capable all-rounder in factory form.

The Original Bad Boy

Let’s start it off with the original badboy – the R32 GT-R.

If you look at some benchmark times set at this year’s Jaguar Simola Hillclimb in South Africa, modern cars like the BMW M2 Competition, Jaguar F-Type SVR and Porsche GT3 were completing the 1.2-mile-long course in 45 to 48 seconds, which is pretty quick.

This particular car was one of two R32s competing, and by all accounts was the milder of the pair. Other than some safety upgrades and a bit of tuning its specification wasn’t too far from stock, and it’s still road registered. Surprisingly, this old girl from 1989 managed to run the hill in 43.957 seconds, which is impressive.

Although the GT-R had far less power than some of the other cars it was racing against, what it did have was usable power, not to mention a great 4WD system to get it off the line in the first place. Of course, having a talented driver behind the wheel played a big part, too.


The other GT-R was a lot more modified. This one is basically a purpose-built race car, and as such it’s laden with carbon fibre parts – the doors, front fenders, hood, splitter and rear wing included. With all the right upgrades, the RB26 engine churns out a reliable 600hp.

Despite having all the ingredients for a fast time at Simola (it’s run 43 seconds in the past), this year the car was plagued with problems and blew its front differential twice at launch. A 46-second timeslip is the best it could muster before retiring from the competition.

The Stepchild

The R33 might be the least popular model of the GT-R’s RB26DETT era, but nonetheless it’s still an amazing car.

What you’re looking at here is an R33 Skyline, but it’s not a GT-R. It’s a rear-wheel drive GTS-25t running an RB25 with a single turbo. As you can plainly see, it’s also quite modified, with a different bodykit, oversized rear wing, and Lexan windows. It also has a lot more power than stock.

The R33 performed some great burnouts on the start line, but the combination of big power and rear-wheel drive didn’t help with launching off the line and it had wheelspin for days. Its best time was a 49.770-second run.

Hello Big Daddy

Ah, the R34, everyone’s favourite GT-R… Am I right? This particular monster is on a whole other level though, and very far removed from your average R34.

I’m sure you’ve recognised that it has a similar livery and the same name plastered on the side as the yellow R32 and well as the other R34 at this event. Border Towing is Martin van Zummeren’s company, and he and his sons Wade (R34) and Jody (R32) have been racing for a long time.

Martin’s R34 features a full JGTC-type body plus some wild extra aero, and was built with one purpose in mind: to be as ridiculous as possible. Under the hood there’s a fully-built race motor running a single turbo setup, with an Albins sequential gearbox to back it up. Power output is somewhere around the 1,000hp mark, and it sounded every bit as angry as it attacked the course in a best time of 40.732 seconds.

As it’s continually under development, I’m sure we’ll see a sub-40-second run out of this R34 in the near future.


Wade’s R34 is a little different than his dad’s, mainly due to the fact that it’s actually a rear-wheel-drive-converted drift car. Running a VR38DETT from an R35 GT-R that’s been stroked and further upgraded to pump out around 1,000hp, it’s a real weapon. Wade can handle it though; he’s competed in multiple motorsport disciplines and has won the South African drift championship three times.

Off the line it’s also pretty sketchy having so much power fed exclusively to the rear wheels, but up the hill it’s one of the maddest-sounding cars ever. It doesn’t sound like your usual VR38, and with every shift of the Holinger sequential gearbox it produces the loudest bangs you’ll ever hear – and feel. Despite its shortcomings with grip, the R34 still managed a 44-second run with many of the corners taken sideways.

The New Kid On The Block

Since the R35’s debut in December 2007, the model has established itself as a favourite amongst petrol-heads. Six of these cars were raced at Simola this year, and all were in different states of tune.

The first one was competing in the Stock Supercar category and was a MY18 model, driven by seasoned local racer Reghard Roets. Posting a best time of 43.840 seconds, Reghard really proved what a stock GT-R can do. He also won the event’s Road & Supercar Shootout, beating – by more than a second – competition that included Jaguar F-Type SVRs, a Porsche 991 GT3, BMW M2 Competition, and a pair of Alfa Romeo Giulia QVs.


Starting as a stock MY12 GT-R, this wide-body beauty was built up into a GT3 lookalike by local company Fast Development. It features carbon fibre body panels and an updated MY17 look, the overall weight was reduced by approximately 300kg, and the engine was tuned up to near 1,000hp. Sadly though, the car had a few issues throughout the weekend, so it never managed to post a proper time. It will definitely be back next year.


Another GT-R that had great potential was the matte grey entry from Franco Scribante Racing. This R35 features a fully built motor and extensive work in the suspension department, but it also had a tough weekend with software-related issues causing havoc. You can start to see that having too much technology isn’t always a good thing…


Properly sorted by NxGen, and with Kyle Mitchell behind the wheel, the Bells & Ross R35 turned in quicker runs every time it took to the hill. It makes great power with an AMS Alpha setup providing 1,200hp, which was more than enough for Kyle to post a 40.862-second best. I was mighty impressed by this car; it proved with certainty that an R35 can be a strong hillclimb machine.


The BB Motorsport GT-R has claimed the ‘King of The Hill’ title at this event in previous years, and the team returned in 2019 with more improvements. There’s a lot of talk about how much power it makes, but it’s definitely not short on it with a stroked 4.4-liter VR38DETT engine under the hood. It also has a great aero package that’s functional but not over the top, loads of carbon fibre to save weight, and a great suspension setup. The driver, Wilhelm Baard, is a madman behind the wheel, which is a good thing when it comes to this type of racing.

This was the first Modified Saloon car to break the 40-second barrier at Simola when it ran a 39.892-second run in 2017. That record was then bettered in 2018 with a 39.463. The GT-R made quite a few runs over the weekend, going quick enough to qualify for the King of The Hill Shootout for the 10 fastest cars.

When it came to the final there was a problem that meant it could only run in rear-wheel drive, so that’s how it competed. The team also decided to lower the car as much as possible for the run, resulting in some magnificent sparks from the underside. All things considered, 40.349 was a brilliant time, and good enough for second place.

We Have A Winner

Is this the most outlandish R35 GT-R you’ve ever seen?

When the first photos of this Franco Scribante Racing-built machine surfaced, it pretty much sent the internet into meltdown. It was shared by more automotive websites, blogs and Facebook pages than the team could have ever imagined.

Of course, the keyboard warriors that know nothing about aerodynamics immediately made more comments than they have brain cells, because you know, the University of Google is the best qualification out there…


Sure, it’s extreme and probably not the prettiest GT-R by traditional standards, but do you really think a team would build something like this without doing proper research? The Franco Scribante Racing crew headed to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb to do some research last year, and after consulting with some of the world’s top tuning companies eventually came out with what you see here.

The GT-R’s wild aero was designed with the help of Dr. Sammy Diasinos from Dynamic Aero Solutions – the same people behind the aero package used on the 2018 World Time Attack Challenge-winning Porsche RP968.


Technically speaking, this is not a real R35 GT-R, as under the full carbon body is a Dodson Motorsport GT Chassis Kit of tube frame design. Full details on the rest of the build are scarce, but the fully built motor is capable of 1,600hp with ease. It also runs a full billet gearbox from Dodson and MoTeC management, making it state-of-the-art in every respect.

The team was super-pressed for time when it came to finishing the car for the Simola Hillclimb; it was literally assembled and had its first start up just two weeks before the event. Many things weren’t sorted in time, like the front wing, which is a rear wing that the team borrowed from their Porsche GT3 R. Nonetheless, they pushed to get the car done.

For the first week of testing it rained almost every day, which meant not a lot of testing was actually done. There were misfiring and other electronic issues too, not to mention a major problem with the gearbox which saw it not shifting into certain gears and basically going into limp mode.

After so much frustration I’m sure most teams would’ve called it a day, but these guys never give up. With the gearbox issue not able to be solved, they flew in a new transmission from Dodson, which only arrived at 7:00pm on the Friday.

That meant a very late night getting it ready to race the next morning.


Over the weekend, they were still making tweaks and had some issues to sort out here and there, which is totally understandable for a new build. But in the end, the team got the car to run properly and were putting in some great times, continually going faster and faster.

Franco, the owner and driver wasn’t even pushing the car to anywhere near its limit, but by the end of the weekend they had the King of The Hill title with a best time of 38.551 seconds, shattering the previous year’s Modified Saloon record in the process.


So what’s my conclusion on the GT-R’s suitability for hillclimbing? Well, they’re an amazing base to start with and have splendid tuning options. One thing you have to bear in mind is putting in too much too quickly, because with all the technology involved it can quickly become problematic.

Build it right, though, and you’ll have a proper beast on your hands.

Stefan Kotzé
Instagram: stefankotzephoto



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how come that guy is using a heat gun in the engine bay of that vr38/R34?


Now that's some serious aero kit on that GT-R in the first pic. (O_O)


Q: how many wings that you want for the car?

A: yes