Alfa Romeo 4C Spider powers up Jaguar Simola Hillclimb
For a second year running, the evocative Alfa Romeo 4C has shown its dynamic class at the annual Jaguar Simola Hillclimb. Now in its seventh year, the event has become a highlight of the South African motorsport calendar, attracting a who’s who of SA racing, and plenty of exotic machinery.
This year, RPM TV campaigned a brand new Alfa Romeo 4C Spider – the soft-top version of the 4C Coupé we entered last year. The lightweight roadster is perfectly suited to Hillclimb duties, combining a lightweight carbon fibre tub and a low centre of gravity with wide tracks and plenty of power.
The Spider version gets a removable soft top and a carbon fibre reinforced windscreen surround which offers rollover protection in the case of an accident. Kerb mass remains almost identical at 940 kg, allowing for a power-to-weight ratio of 188,3 kW/ton.
The urge comes from a stock 1 742 cc turbocharged four-cylinder engine, transversely mounted behind the cabin, and driving the rear wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifts.
Add front wishbones, adapted MacPherson struts at the rear, generous perforated brake discs all round, a mix of 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels, and you have a machine that looks tailor-made for an event like the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb.
The 4C Spider competed in Class A1 for completely standard cars, with its main competition coming from the Mercedes-Benz 45 AMG of Pierre Bester. While the Alfa had a power-to-weight advantage, the 265 kW Mercedes-Benz made full use of its all-wheel drive system, and was consistently quicker by around 0,7 sec throughout.
Compared to the previous year’s 4C Coupé, the Spider felt a little more compliant, thanks to revised damping, which benefited ride comfort on the long way down from Johannesburg to Knysna, but may have accounted for the slightly slower times achieved on the Hillclimb itself.
Certainly, the images show more lean than I remember from the coupé, and while we broke the 49 sec barrier in the 2015 event, the best time this year was a high 49 sec. A slightly different road surface on the lower part of Simola Hill may have played a role, too.
Even so, the second in Class A1 also meant the 4C Spider was the fastest two-wheel drive car in the class, with motoring journalist Ashley Oldfield brining the first of the Jaguar XE 2.0 R-Sport sedans home in the third class place.
Perhaps more impressive was the fact that we drove the Alfa Romeo down to Knysna from Johannesburg – and back again, while thrashing the car through some of South Africa’s lesser known mountain passes on the way there and back.
In the process, we covered some 2 900 km, at an average fuel consumption of 9,3 litres/100 km, which included all the racing. We ran standard tyres at standard pressures throughout. After a good wash, the 4C looks as pristine as the day it arrived – but it now goes even better than before!
The full story – including action footage from the Hillclimb, and our take on seven of the best mountain passes en route – will be broadcast on RPM TV in the next few weeks.