The annual calendar in South Africa is filled with many a gem that doesn’t register beyond specific audiences. I had heard about it but never really engaged until I was invited by Jaguar to attend the Jaguar Simola Hill Climb in Knysna between May 6th and 8th, 2016. To begin with, Knysna is a beautiful part of the country and where we were put up, the Leisure Island Lodge, was exquisite. We stayed in Leisure Island Villa which used to be the owner of the Lodge’s home and is now available for short-term rental while it is on the market. With views of the ocean and the Heads, it was an effort to drag ourselves out to Simola for the Hill Climb but well worth it when we got there.
2016 was the seventh edition of the Hill Climb and the third with Jaguar as title sponsor. As part of the experience, I was taken up the hill in the Jaguar XF – which I had the opportunity to drive for a weekend when it was launched – and it is amazing how quick you get up the road, even with a driver who is taking it easy. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be a competitor. I was also taken through a mini-gymkhana in the F-Type. It was setup in a small parking lot in the town centre.
The amount of work that must go into the cars is immense. While I missed the Classic Car runs, I did get to watch the parade as they pulled out of town. A potpourri of wonderful pieces of machinery in multiple classes, including Nissan GTR, Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Porsche GT3, Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren MP4-12 Spider, Ford Shelby Super Snake, VW Polo and even a BMW i8. One of my favourite cars was the ‘Dearlove’ Jaguar XJR, which is a beast of a car, as well as the Lamborghini Aventador.
The one car that drew all the attention with every run was Franco Scribante’s Chevron B26 with the Suzuki engine, and it dominated with ease ending the weekend as, truly, King of the Hill.
There was a media competition where five motoring journalists had the chance to race in the Simola Hill Climb driving the XE R-Sport. Ashley Oldfield was the top of the group, finishing third in the A1 Class. There were also a collection of old, classic motorcycles that, although not racing, did a couple of runs up the hill.
Jaguar launched its new SUV, the F-Pace, which arrived from the sky – via helicopter – and was driven down by South African actor, Sharlto Copley. A lovely car that I hope to experience more of ::hint hint::. They also had the F-Type Project 7 on track. There have only been 250 of the car made with South Africa getting 5. I went to the launch which they had in Centurion where the Managing Director of Special Vehicles Operations Division, John Edwards, talked about the process they go through in designing a car – no budget involved.
Overall, a really fun weekend and something I wouldn’t mind doing every year. I had a Fujifilm XT-10 with me on the trip and took a bunch of pictures (as well as my designated cameraman for the trip, Maps Maponyane). Posted some on Instagram and have included a couple below.