KNYSNA - Speed Festival, the organiser of the Simola Hillclimb, has partnered with Monarch, an esports events company to launch the 2021 Virtual Simola Hillclimb starting with a full-blown series of four qualifiers and culminating in final virtual shoot-outs on 8 and 9 May – the originally scheduled dates of the real 2021 Simola Hillclimb.
Ian Shrosbree, managing director of Knysna Speed Festival, said it had become very clear in the weeks and months of discussions which led finally to the 2021 postponement, that levels of disappointment amongst competitors and fans alike were extreme.
“It was starting to feel like the complete loss of the Hillclimb experience – and we have more than a decade’s worth of excitement and special competing intensity to protect. We realised that while the pandemic continues its impact on our lives we would have to create a meaningful substitute to run up till and through that original Hillclimb Weekend.
“The launching of the 2021 Virtual Simola Hillclimb by ourselves and Monarch ticks all these boxes,” says Shrosbree.
WORLD CLASS VIRTUAL EVENT PLANNED
Around the time of the first postponement of the Hillclimb (at the height of the pandemic in 2020) the Hillclimb organisers met with Monarch and together began the intricate process of building substantial databank of material and moving through the intricate planning needed for a project of this kind.
“It all takes a great deal of time and commitment from all the partners (ourselves and Monarch) which included detailed scanning of the track, the design and development of ‘the game’ itself (with a structure of the qualifying rounds and then the final shoot-outs); identification and recognition of the individual and collective equipment needed by ourselves and our potential virtual competitors... there is a lot of detail and a lot of volume.”
He said the partnership with Monarch had gained a critical-mass momentum and had taken on a detailed structure which was gaining momentum and shape, and now building to a climax.
“I am super excited that together with Monarch we are going to be able to offer our competitors and fans a great experience that is extremely close to the real thing and at the same time introduces a whole new audience to the Simola Hillclimb.”
ANYONE CAN RACE
The Virtual Simola Hillclimb starts with the opening round on Monday 22 March running through to Saturday 27 March. Round two is from Monday 29 March to 3 April. Round three will run from 5 – 10 April, and Round Four – the final qualifying round, from 12 – 17 April.
The scores from all four rounds will produce the Top 10 competitors qualifying for the finals on 8 and 9 May and the winner after those two days of competition will be crowned the Virtual King of the Hill that Sunday evening.
“After cancelling ‘The Hill’ entirely last year, it was doubly disappointing to have to postpone the 2021 Simola Hillclimb to September and we were determined that if we were forced into another postponement our competitors and fans would have a virtual Simola Hillclimb to participate in on that weekend,” explains Shrosbree.
“This virtual version also allows anyone who has dreamt of competing in the Hillclimb to now have a shot at racing against not only other players, but also the record times set in real life by real drivers, and do all of this virtually.’
RACING VETERAN APPROVED
As part of the development programme, the organisers used Mark and Gavin Cronje, two brothers who have both raced in actual Simola Hillclimbs, to try-out the product. They came away from the test enthusiastic about the experience as well as being able to give us valuable inputs used to improve the final product.
Mark commented: “I was fortunate enough to compete twice at the Simola Hillclimb and I recently tried the Virtual edition, and it is mind boggling. The accuracy of the track and the thrill is fantastic. It will give the virtual competitors a great experience of the Simola Hillclimb.”
Brother Gavin was equally enthusiastic: “The virtual track is a tremendous asset for the competitors. At the real event, you only get a few chances to get in a good run. Now, you can properly test and try different set-ups and find the best lines. And the fans: this is as real as it gets!”
The Knysna Hilllimb track will be made publicly available on Assetto Corsa on the 17th of March for everyone to enjoy from the safety and comfort of their own homes.
View the Virtual Simola Hillclimb introductory video here: