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Karts, classics, slot cars and soapboxes get the Knysna Speed Festival under way

CAR magazine  -  12 May 11

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The first events of the inaugural Knysna Speed Festival take place this coming weekend. Friday, 13 May, sees preparations for the first Knysna Kart Grand Prix, an innovative and spectacular race to be held the following day at the town’s historic Thesen Island, which should provide a unique karting street-circuit atmosphere.

Counting towards both the Western Province club and Eastern Province regional karting championships, practice for the GP starts on the Friday at 14h00 and ends at 19h00. On the Saturday, there will be a warm-up from 14h00 to 15h00, followed immediately by qualifying and racing, which ends under lights at 21h30. Around 40 karts have been entered, starting with the 50 cm3 karts for kids between five- and eight-years old – with 125 cm3 racing karts at the other end of the scale.

Saturday is also Build Day for the schools taking part taking part in the Soapbox Derby that will run down the bottom part of Simola Hill on Friday, 20 May. Assembly of the soapboxes, the parts for which have been supplied with the support of local businesses, including Pennypinchers, CX Steel and Peter van Haldren, will take place from 08h00 at Pennypinchers, Meubel Street, Industrial Area, Knysna. Makita Power Tools will be present to assist the kids where needed.

The organisers are providing 16 soapboxes and the Derby will be contested by teams from primary schools in the Knysna, Sedgefield and Plettenberg Bay areas. The objective of the event is to create a spirit of fair and honest competition among the children, help build team spirit and encourage engineering skills and handicraft. Designed by a local engineer, the Soapbox has already proved to be a huge hit with both youngsters and older racers alike.

Mugg and Bean will provide all the competitors with both a snack and drinks on both Build and Race Days. Popular Mechanics magazine is donating some prizes. For further Soapbox Derby information. please contact Anton Heymann on cell 082 074 6352.

On Sunday, 15 May, the annual Garden Route Motor Club’s car show will take place on the Knysna High School sports field on Waterfront Drive and an impressive collection of auto classics will be on view, intermingled with displays from the local motor trade. The show, which is supported by Knysna Toyota and Frost Brothers, starts at 10h00 and the entrance fee is R10 for adults and R5 for kids. Refreshments and live music will be offered and the show closes at 16h00. For more info on this specific festival event, contact Bunny Mentz on cell 084 300 0990.

The Knysna Slot Car Club’s ‘scale racer’ challenge takes place from Monday to Wednesday, 16 to 18 May, around a purpose-built track sited at the club’s permanent premises in the centre of town. However, as a build-up to the challenge, at the Garden Route Motor Show a smaller version of the circuit will be erected on the squash court where youngsters will be allowed to race. After the show, the more proficient ones will be invited to take part in the main challenge during the week. With Ninco slot cars kindly donated by Jeffrey Stein Sales, racers and spectators can expect a hotly-contested ‘thumbed to the limit’ Ford versus Chevy battle. There is even talk of a coastal challenge... Contact Gary Laughton on cell 083 277 3434 for further information.

Six of South Africa’s drivers from the notorious days of national touring car racing in the 1990s – Mike Briggs, Geoff Goddard, Deon Joubert, Grant McCleery, Robbi Smith and Duncan Vos – who were collectively known as the Brat Pack, have been invited to revive old rivalries and compete against each other in the Renault Knysna Hillclimb with Mégane RS Cup cars on 21 and 22 May.

Mike Briggs won the SA Touring Car Championship twice and was runner-up once. Mike also competed in eight rounds of the British Touring Car Championship.

Geoff Goddard was a BMW team-mate of Robbi Smith and the pairing won the 1993 Castrol 9-Hour at Killarney, going on to dominate the event for the next few years. Geoff gave the E46 its world-first victory when he won in a 328i in Port Elizabeth.

Deon Joubert initially drove BMWs before switching to Opel. He once held the second-highest win rate in local touring cars. Deon raced at a WTCC round at Monza and has even driven in NASCAR. He has been awarded Springbok colours.

Grant McCleery drove for Opel and 1995 was his best season when he raced a Vectra and recorded two wins, 15 podiums and three fastest laps in 22 races, finishing third in the championship.

Robbi Smith drove for BMW and, in 1987, helped introduce the Firestone Firehawk tyre to the local racing scene. Robbi won the SA Group N Class A championship in 1993 and was particularly adept in endurance racing, especially when paired with Geoff Goddard.

Duncan Vos drove for Nissan and helped the manufacturer become the most successful in the SA Touring Car Championship, registering more than 50 wins and 50 pole positions during the period.

The award-winning town of Knysna is renowned for its festivals held throughout the year and a new addition to the calendar is about to set the Garden Route abuzz with four-wheeled action. A week-long programme of motoring action never before attempted in South Africa, the Knysna Speed Festival is destined to become not only a tourism highlight but a premier event on the national motorsport calendar.