Knysna – The Jaguar Simola Hillclimb originated as a mere dream shared by a couple of motorsport enthusiasts, but since the very first edition came to fruition in 2009, it has set the benchmark for the most enthralling and accessible form of racing in the country.
Now in its seventh year, and roaring into life from May 6 to 8, the 2016 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb is widely considered South Africa’s premier motorsport event, featuring the largest and widest range of iconic cars and legendary drivers, all giving it their best on the challenging 1.9km Simola Hill.
READ: 2016 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb: All the details
Garnering acknowledgement and accolades
The Hillclimb was acknowledged as the Best Tourism Activity in the 2016 Sanlam Knysna Awards, was a finalist in the Discovery Sport Awards in the Best Live Event category, and the event’s founder and director, Ian Shrosbree, was nominated by the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists for a special achievement award this year.
The three-day event runs like clockwork every time, and is deemed a huge success by sponsors, partners, competitors, spectators and media alike. Behind the scenes, the organising team puts an extraordinary amount of work and effort into the event to make it bigger, better and more appealing each year.
Shrosbee says: “From the time we invited competitors to take part in the 2016 event until now, just before the running of the 7th Hillclimb, the interest in both taking part and spectating this year has been greater than ever before.
“Accommodation bookings in the Garden Route region, the traffic on social media, and some of the improvements we have introduced in our ticket offerings, especially the introduction of the weekend passes and making tickets available on iTickets.co.za, all point to us exceeding 2015’s gate record of just over 12000 people, which should get us closer to a total of 15000.”
SA's premier motoring event
Already the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb has achieved its position as being South Africa’s premium annual motorsport event. This is reflected in the number of corporate, celebrity, government and international guests that are attending the event this year, and the VIP hospitality facilities that are already almost fully booked for all three days.
READ: SA's journos pick up Jaguar Simola Hillclimb gauntlet
“Our focus over the last three years and going forward, is not on the total numbers but on improving the overall spectator and competitor experience, and enhancing the iconic uniqueness of the offering to true performance motoring enthusiasts,” Shrosbree adds.
“We want them to attend in large numbers which, of course is good for us and our sponsor partners. But, most importantly, we want them to thoroughly enjoy each moment and put the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb onto their once-a-year must-attend motorsport bucket list into the future.”
The year-long preparations for the 2016 Hillclimb literally began as soon as the prize-giving for last year’s event was wrapped up, and involved lengthy discussions and negotiations with sponsors, venues, local authorities, volunteers, suppliers, vendors, media and marketing partners.
In the build-up to the 2016 Hillclimb, the facts and figures that make this event possible are truly astonishing, as the normally sedate country road leading from the beautiful Knysna Lagoon to the Simola Golf and Country Estate is completely transformed into motorsport nirvana.
Aside from the numerous build-up and break-down crews, almost 300 staff and volunteers are on-site throughout the event to keep the wheels turning smoothly, supported by 59 security personnel on duty each day that complete a total of 291 shifts throughout the extended weekend.
Currently, 48 marquees and 1230m2 of decking are being bolted together for the 2016 edition, variously being used to create the temporary pit and media complex, the VIP venues, display areas and a host of other attractions and activities. This is supported by 51 Poly John mobile toilet facilities, five VIP trailers and two toilets for the disabled. Nearly 1400m of fencing is erected specially for this event in the interests of safety.
Providing a tantalising feast of food and beverages for the spectators, competitors and crews is a hallmark of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, and this accounts for a significant proportion of the 30 vendors that will be present this year.
For the duration of the Hillclimb, over 3000 cans of cool drink are being supplied, along with 3700 bottles of water and 1250 energy drinks. This is supplemented by 5000 half-litre beer cups, 1400 cans of cider and 450 bottles of spirits. Specialist coffees, complemented by a mouth-watering array of food choices to satisfy virtually any palate, will also be available.
Add to this the multitude of attractions and stalls in Gasoline Alley, the reveal of the all-new Jaguar F-PACE sports SUV on the Saturday – and, of course, the exceptional sights and sounds of around 140 cars being driven in anger up the 1.9km Simola Hill – and you have the makings of a fantastic, one-of-a-kind motorsport festival that is played out in one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa.
It doesn’t get much better than this!