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Cape Town - Short, fast and fun is the way competitors described The Jaguar Simola Hillclimb that took place at the Simola Golf and Country Estate last month. Which is why it seemed fitting to travel there to cover the event in a similar fashion.
Courtesy of CemAir, I flew from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay on a flight which was quick, quirky and scenic in equal measure. And an absolute pleasure if you have ever done the six-hour slog by car. The domestic charter has introduced scheduled flights between Plettenberg Bay and Cape Town.
Their Beech 1900 is a 20-seater aircraft which flies low over the coast from Mossel Bay, giving you spectacular views of the Garden Route. After flying over Robberg Point, where the wild and calm side are shown in split-screen, we landed at Plettenberg Bay “airport”..
So fast and not furious at all was the journey to Plett, and the next morning the short drive to Knysna was over in 20 minutes. Whereas the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb IS fast and furious. And it gets faster every year. Motoring journalist Robin Emslie tells me this year’s Classic Car winner’s time was faster than last year’s King of the Hill.
Described as “one car, one driver, one run and one chance to take the title of King of the Hill”, the event is so much more than that. As opposed to circuit racing, there are no laps; it is a singular discipline as you race against the clock, alone and totally focused on a course that was not meant to be a race track. Which doesn’t mean the pits are not thick with testosterone and adrenaline, and the covetous VIP petrolheads.
Greg Parton, in a Lamborghini Aventador, was doing his fourth uphill climb and described the event as “extreme, a great chance to socialise and a helluva lot of fun”.
As I picked my way between the drivers, cars and paraphernalia associated with serious competition, it was surprising and edifying to find some oestrogen among the testosterone in the form of newby racer Tanya Watts.
Using her mom’s taxi – an Audi RS4 Cabriolet – she was the only women competitor and started racing by default. “I like going fast, but obviously the school run is not the place to do it, so I joined the Algoa Motorsport Club and went and played on the track.”
This was her first shot at the Hill Climb and she proudly told me she “had kicked some butt”, including that of her racing driving husband… Despite this, she says the “men (rather gallantly, I thought) love the fact that she is racing”.
Despite the locker room atmosphere around the pits, the race track was sprinkled with families as they sat with picnics and a great deal of patience as the drivers strutted their stuff in the six heats. The cars were as diverse as the drivers, but there was only one goal: to have fun and get up the hill in around 40 seconds.
A smorgasbord of cars included Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Jaguar, BMW, Nissan, Ariel and Subaru, and a generous handful of hot hatches thrown in for good measure. The Hillclimb provided something for all automotive tastes.
Ten cars out of the 83 made it to the much-anticipated final on Sunday – after 802 runs up the Simola Hill. But it was Franco Scribante who claimed the title of King of the Hill in a record time of 41.59 seconds. Scribante also made history as the only competitor to win this and the Classic Conqueror held on Friday.
A short flip over the track in a helicopter showed just how many spectators there were spread out along the climb.
Despite the rain the day before, which had made the paths a little like well-trampled pig pens, race day was beautiful and as the sun started to bid farewell after an adrenalin-filled day, spectators, motorsport fans and families started the long walk downhill, happy and definitely already looking forward to next year.
The event is “motorsport meets a day out for the family”. I, for one, am in next year. And flying to Plett. What’s not to like about walking along Robberg beach on Sunday morning and being back in Cape Town to walk up Table Mountain in the afternoon? - Cape Times
l See www.speedfestival.co.za
All CemAir flights are on a Beech 1900 aircraft from the CemAir fleet. The schedule operates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with flights leaving Joburg at 9am and Plettenberg Bay at 4pm. Connecting flights between Plettenberg Bay and Cape Town depart from Plettenberg Bay at noon and from Cape Town International at 2pm. See www.cemair.co.za