South African has an interesting race course where a modified Lotus Exige has set a record lap time.
When you think of iconic race tracks, you don’t normally picture South Africa. Extreme speed doesn’t seem to come up in this country, but that may be about to change due to their special brand of racing.
South Africa is a hilly place. The country goes from sea level to a height of 11,320 feet at its highest point, so wherever you travel you’re often going up or downhill. South Africans decided to incorporate that up-and-down nature into their racing culture with “hill climb” racing—getting a car up an up-hill course as fast as humanly possible.
Or inhumanly, as the case may be. It certainly seems that way when you’re watching Dawie Joubert take his modified Lotus Exige up the Knysna Simola Hillclimb course in late 2017.
Making a hillclimb car is simple: it must be nimble, powerful, and light. Lightness matters way more than outright power when you’re constantly fighting gravity as each additional pound will drag you down more than if you were shooting along a level surface. To that end, Joubert’s Exige has been modified to the point where it only weighs 1760 lbs.
Most of that weight savings come from tearing out the guts of the Exige and replacing it with as light of components as possible. The frame was replaced by a longer tube frame that improves weight distribution and aerodynamics, while everything inside the cockpit that isn’t concerned with making the car move has been removed.
The engine was swapped for a Honda K24 2.4-L 4-cylinder with a massive turbocharger tuned to produce 600 hp. During Joubert’s run in late 2017, he set a course record in his tiny machine that unfortunately didn’t count because it was a practice lap.
For the main event, he tuned his turbo to produce 750 hp and subsequently blew his engine. He’s hoping to compete again this year after a complete engine rebuild.
The current hillclimb champions are all Nissan GT-Rs, but we think his little Exige certainly has a shot. Check out the video below and make your own opinion.