Top Gear South Africa 2011: The Review

You may be aware that Top Gear is receiving a lot of criticism lately due to the show hosted at Kyalami grand prix circuit this past weekend. (17th to 20th March 2011).
It also just so happens that before making my way to the show on Friday the 18th of March 2011, I had written an exam on operational management. So, with the subject fresh in my mind, I came back from the show, not disappointed with the efforts of the Top Gear team but instead with the organizers; Brand Events and the logistics, or lack thereof.
During the run up to the show, I collected my media passes from the offices of Brand events. They looked at me in dismay as I strolled into their office and I was questioned numerous times about who I had spoken to, what was my name and what exactly I was doing there. After I explained that I had attended the previous 3 Top Gear shows as media and I was a member of the South African guild of motoring journalists and I had spoken to numerous people at brand events in the past about the show, I then was allowed to collect my tickets. I was also informed that I would have to utilize the park and ride facilities at Waterfall estate. (read on)
This was to enable all visitors to the top gear show to be bussed in and out of Kyalami grand prix circuit. Makes sense, as there would be a traffic nightmare if everyone and their Hilux double cab fought each other for the closest available parking spot at the circuit.
As this is a motor show you would assume that most who visited Kyalami, enjoyed their cars and as a result people would be arriving in supercars, sports cars, historic cars etc. However waterfall estate was not the best place for this as it resembled a 4×4 track more than anything. So after smashing in my sump numerous times and rearranging the dynamics of my exhaust on my car with average ground clearance, I eventually found a parking approximately 800 meters from the buses.
My girlfriend and I then proceeded to walk to the buses in the thick mud caused by the unfortunate heavy downpour during the day. By the time we reached the buses, the seats were soaking wet from the earlier crowds. The bus then filled up and we proceeded to be transported to Kyalami circuit, where to my amazement we were stuck in a traffic jam. I thought the whole point of the buses was to eliminate this, however there was too much emphasis placed on ‘VIP’ guests by the organizers and as a result, the bus had now come to a complete stop at the single gate of the circuit. Even though they were letting VIP guests drive into the circuit in their own cars, there has been much criticism over the treatment of VIP guests. I understand the tickets were hellishly expensive, but unfortunately you got ripped. Go buy some more commodities or build casinos or something.
Anyway I will not bore you with the details, but after a prolonged period of time, the bus dropped us off at the top of the circuit in another mud bath, we then proceeded to walk through the tunnel which created a bottleneck, then down past the Lumina drifting cars, and to the arena entrance where there was yet another bottleneck.
Problem analysis:
  • Too many people
  • One entrance and exit to the arena
  • One entrance and exit to the circuit
  • One entrance and exit to and from the buses.
  • Numerous bottlenecks
  • Disrupted flow of traffic
  • Buses being kept stationary at the main entrance for too long
  • Poor parking facilities
  • Poor staff management
  • Unclear staff roles
(There are more, this is just from my short experience on the day).
I might come across very negative and demeaning, however don’t get me wrong, the actual show on paper looked spectacular and I sure was impressed with the Top Gear team and their stunts. I was also impressed with the array of cars on display and the Red Bull F1. Unfortunately many people did not get to see the F1 due to the heavy rains experienced on the weekend. However I must point out that it rains almost without fail at this time every year, so surely that is something the organizers must take into consideration.
I understand the rainfall affected proceedings of the Top Gear show, however that aside, the actual organization of the show left a lot to be desired.
Alternative solutions:
  • Host the event at a different location, the country has spent billions of infrastructure for the 2010 world cup, what’s wrong with say Soccer city?
  • Create multiple entrances and exits to and from the circuit and arena as well as for the buses
  • Place more emphasis on directing and guiding the masses comfortably and efficiently instead of making sure a handful of VIP’s are well catered for.
  • Allow the public to park their motorbikes at the circuit (like when World superbikes visited kyalami in 2010). This would eliminate hundreds of cars coming close to the circuit
  • Ensure better parking facilities at the park and ride
  • Help ease traffic flow by allowing buses to drive without stopping for a delayed period to the drop off zone
  • Have multiple collection points
  • Have multiple drop off zones
  • Allow pedestrians to walk from the main entrance
  • Don’t have a VIP ticket (money making scam)  resulting in very irritated customers
Once again there are numerous other solutions that could have eased the traffic flow and congestion, these are just off the top of my head.
After watching the show, with the rain and lightening approaching in the distance, my girlfriend and I decided to make our way to the exit, where once again we were forced to wait in a queue with everyone else as the rain started to pour. Due to the ridiculously narrow exit path, my girlfriend was almost knocked off her feet by who could only have been Os Du Randt’s obese cousin.  Psychologists would say conditions were ripe for a huge brawl, but not one for waking up in the morning having had reconstructive facial surgery; I simply sighed, offered the man a Boerewors roll accompanied with an ice cold Castle lager and proceeded to play out my role as jimmy jammer; the sardine who didn’t get away.
By the time we had arrived home, I was exhausted, tired, hungry, thirsty, wet, irritated muddy and my car required Xzibit to come sort it out. In amongst the grade 10 leadership camp a small car show did break out, but sadly it was overshadowed by an overall draining experience.
Anyway, after many people spent a lot of money on their tickets and had there whole day disrupted by the weather and the changing organizational plans of Top Gear I’m sure I am not the only one who feels that something should be said and done.
I am the worlds biggest petrol head and I really love the fact that Top Gear comes to South Africa, I just wish the show was more Top Gear and less unorganized.
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