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Stars, fast cars and soapboxes...


Excitement builds as the Knysna Speed Festival’s just two weeks away

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The plot thickens in the run-up to this year’s Knysna Speed Festival (13-22 May) as Jean-Michel Bayle is confirmed to compete while Geoff Mortimer prepares to defend his title. There’ll also be an ex-Scheckter Lola in the works!

Former 125 and 150 FIM World Moto X and AMA triple-title champion rider, Frenchman Jean-Michel Bayle, will be flying from Europe soon to compete in the Knysna Hillclimb with a Renault Mégane RS. Bayle visited last year’s event and was nonetheless impressed with the level of competition, so Renault South Africa’s managing director Xavier Gobille offered him a drive in an RS.

Despite suffering a serious injury in 2002 that put him into semi-retirement, Bayle stills competes in the odd event and retains his passion for speed. “Jean-Michel will add some international excitement to the hillclimb and I am sure spectators will warm to his fun-loving approach,” says Gobille.

Last year’s overall King of the Hill, Geoff Mortimer, will be back in the same Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX to defend his crown. “There’s going to be some stiff competition and we’ve done a few tweaks to the car to make it a bit quicker,” says Mortimer. The legendary cicuit, rally and off-road championship driver blitzed up the challenging Simola hill in 50, 637seconds with an average speed of 135 km/h – on a damp surface.

Southern Western Districts Development Class Championhips’ current leader Julian van Rensburg has been entered in a 1970 Lola T200 Formula Ford, which Jody Scheckter drove in its first race at Kylami on August 1 to finish 6th. The car passed hands between 1972 and 1984 as a collector’s item, but current owner Lew Baker felt that the Lola should be competing again and approached 16-years old van Rensburg to pilot the car.

Starting off this inaugural week-long festival of speed on 13/14 May is a Kart Grand Prix, an innovative and spectacular race on the town’s historic Thesen Island, which will provide a unique karting street circuit atmosphere. Counting for both the Western Province club and Eastern Province regional karting championships, practice 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. Entries for this event close in a week’s time.

The annual Garden Route Motor Club’s car show, which is being held on the Knysna High School sports field on Waterfront Drive on Sunday 15 May is expected to attract an impressive collection of auto classics, intermingled with displays from the local motor trade. The show, starts at 10h00 and the entrance fee is R10 for adults, R5 for kids. Exhibitors will get free entrance to the hillclimb. For more info on this specific festival event, contact Bunny Mentz at 084 300 0990 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Knysna Slot Car Club’s ‘scale racer’ challenge takes place from 16-18 May around a purpose-built track situated at the club’s premises in the centre of town. However, as a build-up to the challenge, at the motor show and with support from Jeffrey Stein Sales, the club will have a smaller version of the circuit made up from Ninco track for kids to race on, with the more proficient youngsters invited to take part in the main challenge. Expect a hotly-contested ‘thumbed to the limit’ Ford versus Chevy battle...

Thursday 19 May is allocated to a charity golf day at the Simola Resort, then on the following day local schools will compete in a Soapbox Derby. ‘Free Fall Friday’ will see four-man teams from each of the competing schools race their home-built soapboxes down a 400-metre section at the bottom of Simola Hill. The schools will be provided with kits sponsored by local businesses and ‘build day’ will be 14 May at Pennypinchers premises in Knysna.

On the Friday afternoon, 20 May, there will also be a vehicle parade – including all 80 cars competing in the hillclimb – through the centre of Knysna to the Waterfront, where they will be put on display.

The Knysna Speed Festival site runs from 13 to 22 May. More information can be found on the official website www.speedfestival.co.za