The 10th anniversary of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb was probably the best one yet, and for several reasons.
Spectators arrive in huge numbers for the annual hillclimb, most of whom make a family trip out of the three-day long event. Often, they have to park a fair distance away and walk to where the event is taking place, before finding a suitable spot along the 1.9km-hillclimb.
The first event was established in 2009 as the Knysna Hillclimb when the legendary Sarel Van der Merwe participated and took the very first King of the Hill title in South Africa, with 1500 participants watching. That feat put the event on the map.
In 2010, Renault SA came on board as the title sponsor and, in 2012, Classic Car Friday became a standalone event.
Jaguar SA then took over as the title sponsor in 2014, with over 10 000 visitors in attendance that year. It's also the year that Franco Scribante became the first double-winner in the Classic Car Friday event, as well as being crowned as the King of the Hill. It was also the start of Scribante's huge reign at the event as defending champion on numerous occasions.
The event has come a long way since its first iteration ten years ago. From little VW Golf MK1s and Toyota Conquests climbing up the hill, to fully fledged modified beats roaring up the track, with massive wings in front of the car instead of just the back.
The crowds reached more than 15 000 in 2017, and has surpassed 17 000 in May 2019. Jaguar also invites a host of celebrities to join in on the fun, this year Springbok captain Siya Kolisi enjoyed the festivities, as well as SA personality Minnie Dlamini.
This year's hillclimb definitely saw a new breed of entrants, making the event better than ever. The cars were faster, and a lot more decibels louder. So much so, that some children needed earmuffs or earplugs.
The 2002 Nissan Skyline VR38 of Wade Van Zummeren was tuned in such a way that attendees hit the ground for cover in the Jaguar VIP Lounge each time it started a run up the hill. BAH! BAH! BAAAAH! It's akin to the military personal throwing grenades, except this sound was exhilarating to any petrolhead in attendance.
The only person who seemed oblivious to the drama was my headphone-cladded toddler watching YouTube Kids videos from my phone.
Rivalry was rife this year between two manufacturers, particularly - Jaguar and Nissan. While Jaguar always has a host of entrants and star drivers - this year there were 8 fast cats across the various classes, and all eight cars won trophies too.
Jaguar had three of its newly-launched all-electric vehicles participating too, driven by three former well-loved SA racers, namely Don Joubert, Mike Briggs and Shaun Watson-Smith. Those cars might be silent going up but with 294kW they blast up the hill at blistering speed.
There were two more I-Paces for the crowds to get a feel of the car with shotgun drives.
Jaguar also had the specially-themed and built Springbok Range Rover SVR doing runs too. I'll say this though, if the Springboks could play rugby like that vehicle can drive up the hill, then the All Blacks would have reason to shake in their boots.
Nissan had a bevvy of fast #OMGTRs too, with the most popular car of the day belonging to Franco Scribante, who took his first King of the Hill title in the extremely competitive Modified Saloon Car category, powering his radical 2016 Nissan GT-R to a new Class B record time of 39.274 seconds. He ousted 2018 winner Wilhelm Baard who had to settle for second place in the final Top 10 Shootout.
In the Single Seater and Sportscar category, Andre Bezuidenhout fought off a strong challenge from Robert Wolk (2009 A1 GP Ferrari) to secure his third win a row.
Reghard Roets who made it a hat-trick of victories in the Road Car and Supercar category, after slashing his 2018 time by 0.8 seconds to set a new Class A record of 44.094 seconds in his Nissan GT-R.
I have attended several Knysna Simola Hillclimbs during the past few years, but after this one, I can't wait to see the battle continue next year.