The Knysna Speed Festival story began in 2009 with the first running of the Simola Hillclimb. From humble beginnings the event grew rapidly between 2010 and 2012 quickly becoming one of the most popular events on the South African motorsport scene. The 2014 event, sponsored by Jaguar South Africa for the first time, provided compelling evidence that the event had come of age and is the premier event in the country.
It is now accepted as the South African equivalent of the renowned Goodwood Festival of Speed which is held annually in the UK. Goodwood hosts one of the greatest celebrations of car culture and motorsport in the world.
Looking back over the eight events hosted, we have been blessed with some of the finest drivers and cars in the country – and beyond – taking part. These include legends such as Sarel van der Merwe (winner 2009), Geoff Mortimer (winner 2010), Ian Scheckter, Robbi Smith, Jaki Scheckter, Frenchman Jean-Michel Bayle (World Motocross champion and MotoGP racer), Mike Briggs, Deon Joubert, Duncan Vos, Wilhelm Baard (KOH winner 2011and 2017), Jade Gutzeit (KOH winner 2012), Leeroy Poulter, Franco Scribante (winner of both CCF and KOH in 2014 and in 2016, and 2017 CCF), Peter Lindenberg, Des Gutzeit (2015 KOH winner) and Charles Arton (2015 CCF winner).
The list of beautiful cars that have participated in the past include classics such as the Porsche 956, Porsche 917 and a 1961 LDS Formula 1; to more modern machinery including a 1989 Formula 1 Dallara, a March 79B Formula Atlantic, a variety of Ferrraris, the new McLaren MP4-12C and 650s, Lamborghini Gallardo and Aventador, Porsche GT3RS, Nissan GTRS, Jaguar XKRs Coupe and F-Type, and an Ariel Atom.
The Speed Festival underwent a change in 2014 as we returned returned to running only our core event the Hillclimb and the charity golf day. From kicking off in 2009 with a single event, the festival grew rapidly and by 2012 it hosted a Kart Grand Prix, Motor Show, Slot Car Challenge, Soap Box Derby, 4×4 Challenge, 4×4 Forest Drives, a Golf Day and the Hillclimb.
The concept was ambitious and had never been done before in South Africa, but it was simply too much for our small team of volunteers to undertake, and the financial costs were too great. Having taken stock after the 2012 festival we decided to go back to our roots to focus on the Hillclimb and to put all our effort into creating the best event in SA. This philosophy will continue going forward into the immediate future.
We will continue to run the Golf Day as it raises funds for our nominated charities and we will retain a link to the Motor Show even though it is independently organised by the Garden Route Motor Club.
In 2012 we tweaked the Hillclimb by expanding it to three days and offering the Vintage, Classic and Historic motoring fraternity their own day of action on the Hill. Classic Car Friday was born and exclusively featured pre-1975 vehicles. Competitors and spectators were encouraged to attend in period dress and despite very wet weather, the uptake was superb and the seed was sown to create an event within an event sporting a wonderful atmosphere. In 2016 we extended the age of the cars to 1985 to reflect the aging of the race car park.
The action on Saturday and Sunday was 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, which we encourage, but there is no doubt that all eyes are on the fire spitting, tyre smoking exotic and specialist race cars at the sharp end of the pack. Speeds of up to 260 km/h are reached and the 1.9km stretch of tarmac is dispensed with in just over 37 seconds – from a standing start!! It is spectacular!
For 2017 we tweaked the format still further, splitting the King of the Hill challenge into three categories: the SuperCar Shootout, Modified Saloons, and Sports Cars and Single Seaters. It was a great success and well received by competitors and fans alike.
We did this to ensure competitors can compete on an equal footing across the various categories of cars. Over the years the Sports Cars and Single Seaters had become too fast for the racing saloons to stand any chance of victory. It was for a similar reason that we introduced the SuperCar Shootout in 2016 with great success. In that instance the modified saloons were too fast for the standard supercars giving them no chance. The cars practice, qualify and compete in their classes as per the King of the Hill, but have their own shootout final between the ten fastest cars in each category.
These elements combine to give the event its unique flavour and provide entertainment for all ages. The Knysna Speed Festival’s vision is to host and organise the premier motorsport event in the country that is recognised as a premier event internationally. Our goal is to attract an ever-increasing number visitors to the beautiful town of Knysna to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere of motorsport, motoring activities and the natural beauty of the region. The festival not only boosts economic activity in the town, but also benefits charities in the area.