You need not be a petrol head to appreciate the joys of roaring engines, beautiful bodywork, gleaming livery and speed. The annual Knysna Motor Show and Jaguar Simola Hillclimb promise inspired motoring entertainment this autumn.
The Knysna Motor Show (KMS), this year with Sanlam Private Wealth as headline sponsor, ignites the motoring vibe on 30 April, followed by the adrenaline-fuelled action of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb (JSHC) from 4 to 7 May.
Known for its relaxed atmosphere reminiscent of a country fair, the Knysna Motor Show has become a highlight for car enthusiasts since its humble beginnings in 2003. Organised by the Garden Route Motor Club (GRMC), the event showcases a wide range of vintage and veteran cars and motorcycles, classic sports cars, super cars, new cars, ‘green’ cars as well as several trade-related stalls, food and refreshments.
Raising dust and burning tyres up the Simola Hill outside Knysna since 2009, the Hillclimb is a racing event that sees top drivers from across South Africa and abroad compete, and attracts tens of thousands of spectators.
The organisers of the two separate events decided in 2011 to run synchronously to the benefit of all. “Drawing the events into one week means a larger and more diverse crowd, which offers more for everyone to enjoy,” says GRMC chairman and KMS organiser Peter Pretorius.
His sentiments are echoed by Knysna Speed Festival managing director and JSHC event organiser Ian Shrosbree: “The sheer variety of the offering of motoring pleasure these events bring together, in a mixture of fascinating ‘oldies’ and brute force modern tin-tops, single seaters and sports cars, makes this week a unique experience for young and old.”
Peter says Sanlam Private Wealth coming on board as overall sponsor for the Knysna Motor Show is an indication of how the event has grown in stature and that, with this backing, the show is bound to grow even more.
“Last year more than 5000 visitors could get up close and personal with nearly 400 veteran, vintage, classic and super cars as well as motorcycles – including a 1911 Ford Model T Runabout (winner of the best vintage or veteran car), a 1967 Mercedes Benz W113 Pagoda (winner of the best classic car) and a very rare 1975 Porsche Carrera RS, of which only a handful was built.”
Displays include high-performance cars like McLaren, Lamborghini and Ferrari; classics like MG, Triumph, Morgan, Austin Healey and Rolls Royce as well as modern day models of BMW, Volvo, Alfa Romeo, American sports cars and more. The show also usually features the latest in automotive technology like the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) display last year showing its purpose-designed ‘greener’ carbon fibre prototype vehicle, the ECO-CAR.
Rare car and motorcycle collections – like well-known racing driver Peter Lindenberg’s race car display under the Shelby South Africa banner, and the 50 magnificent motorcycles at last year’s show, which featured unique specimens like a 1954 Jawa Race Production motorcycle and a 1946 Sunbeam S7 motorcycle – are highlights, especially when the engines start to rev. “The Knysna Motor Show is an invitational event for which participants are carefully selected. This ensures the quality and uniqueness of the displays and vehicles take precedence over volume, making it a must-see event, not only for petrol heads, but also for anyone with a passing interest in things to do with motoring,” says Peter.
Confirmed highlights for this year’s event include displays of Micro Cars and MG MMM sports cars manufactured between 1929 and 1936.
Negotiations are also underway to feature a solar-powered car, a competitor in the recent solar car race across South Africa, coupled with a display of electric vehicles under the umbrella of the Electric Vehicle Industry Association.
Several of the super performance cars at the show will be competing in the Simola Hillclimb the next weekend. Proceeds from the event will benefit local charities.
Up the hill
“You won’t want to miss the eighth running of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb this year as the line-up of cars and activities promises to be better than ever,” says event sporting director, Geoff Goddard.
“Our focus, as always, is on putting together the very best show we can with the most exciting and diverse range of cars and drivers you will find at one race weekend.”
Being an invitational event, there are limited places available for the two main events – just 60 for Classic Car Friday on 5 May, and 84 for King of the Hill on 6 and 7 May. A charity golf day kicks the festivities off on 4 May.
Apart from local high-profile entrants and several past Hillclimb champions, this year’s JSHC is expected to include competitors from the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. The fun starts with Classic Car Friday in which vintage, classic and historic motor cars have fun on the hill. Initially for pre-1975 cars, but now including pre-1985 cars to reflect the aging of the race car park, competitors and spectators are encouraged to attend in period dress, which contributes to its unique flavour and atmosphere.
The action on Saturday and Sunday is dubbed the King of the Hill Shootout and sees the heavy hitting machinery and drivers take to the track. A variety of classes cater to a wide range of machinery, but it is the exotic and specialist race cars that attract the most attention – reaching speeds of up to 260km/h, dispensing with the 1.9km stretch of tarmac in just over 38 seconds from a standing start.
This year the King of the Hill will have three categories – the SuperCar Shootout, Modified Saloons, and Sports Cars and Single Seaters – to ensure competitors can compete on an equal footing. “Aside from the established class finals, the number of final shoot-outs, which have always been the nail-biting finale to the event in the past, will triple with each overall winner receiving a prized ‘Jody’ Trophy, which was inspired by South Africa’s one and only Formula 1 champion, Jody Scheckter,” says Geoff.
Initially called the Knysna Hill Climb, the race started as a two-day event, which saw legendary motorsport maestro Sarel van der Merwe (aka Supervan) win the first King of the Hill title with his V8 Masters Ford Mustang, covering the course in 43.0 seconds, reaching a top speed of just over 230km/h.
The event grew exponentially with multiple events under the Knysna Speed Festival banner, but organisers decided to return to basics and focus on the uphill after realising it was not viable or practical. The name changed to Jaguar Simola Hillclimb (JSHC) to reflect the name of its new headline sponsor, Jaguar, who came on board in 2014.
“With Jaguar’s involvement – which has been secured until at least 2019 – the JSHC has been firmly established as the premier motorsport event in South Africa and ranks with international events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK.” Since its inception the Hillclimb has featured some of the finest drivers in the country, including Geoff Mortimer (2010 winner), Jean-Michel Bayle (World Motocross champion and MotoGP racer), Wilhelm Baard (2011 winner), Jade Gutzeit (2012 winner) and the first-ever double champion Franco Scribante (winner of both the Classic Conqueror and the King of the Hill titles in 2014 and 2016).
The question on everyone’s mind this year is whether Scribante will be able to do it again? And will he be able to beat his own fastest winning time up the Hill? The standing record is 38.646 with a top speed of just under 177km/h covering 1.9km up the challenging Simola Hill.
The list of cars that have participated in the event range from classics such as the Porsche 956 and 917 and 1961 LDS Formula 1 to more modern machinery such as a 1989 Formula Dallara, a March 79B Formula Atlantic and the new McLaren MP4-12C and 650s, Lamborghini Gallardo, Jaguar XKRs Coupe and F-Type, and Scribante’s Chevron B19.
The award-winning 2016 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb event, which included the annual Speed Festival Charity golf day, a crowd-pleasing town parade and car display, drew more than 14 000 spectators.
In addition to the races, which can be viewed from different vantage points in the prescribed spectator areas, a ticketed trip through the pits is highly recommended.
“This year’s line-up of cars and activities promises to be better than ever with enough entertainment for the entire family – whether you are a petrol head, speed lover, or someone who just loves a good time, you will leave enthralled,” says Ian.