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It’s always an exciting time visiting the world’s largest gathering of smart car owners and enthusiasts and this year was no exception. For sure, the event is always exciting but the build up and anticipation for such an event always generates a huge buzz. So much activity across the internet – social media, smart club forums and countless emails. And that all happens months before anyone has left home!
We have been participating in smart times events for over 10 years now, from their inception in Klagenfurt Austria then the move to Zell-am-See in Austria prior to the ‘show hitting the road’.
This meant smart times moving to Riccione, Italy in 2011, then to Antwerp, Belgium in 2012. This year it’s off to Buochs, near Lucerne in Switzerland.
But before I update you on this year’s Swiss event, let me say to anyone that has not yet had the ‘smart times’ experience, I urge you to participate in such future events. It is unlike any automotive gathering anywhere. A multi-cultural eclectic mix of colour, individuality, excitement and activities all relating to smart cars and their owners and all supported by smart.
And so to this year’s event. There was always superb interest from the UK participants to travel to Switzerland and thesmartclub again organised a ‘package’ to help smart owners travel from the south of England to the amazing venue in Buochs.
Although our ‘official’ journey started on the evening of Wednesday 21st August near the port of Dover, England, many of the group had to travel some distance to even reach that point including our own unique ‘motorsport’ smart Roadster. We’d driven the 750 km from Edinburgh to the overnight halt at the Dover hotel.
Although every visit to smart times is special, this year was especially important to the UK as we were one of three countries bidding to act as ‘host’ country for smart times 2014! thesmartclub had liaised closely with smart UK to bring together a pitch for the city of ‘Brighton’ on the south coast of England as the ideal location for the 2014 event. We were up against strong competition from Vienna, Austria and Cascais, Portugal. As you can imagine, the UK arrival and presence at the venue in Buochs had our UK‘ Union flags’ waving and ‘Vote Brighton’ publicity visible amidst asea of Austrian and Portuguese flags and promotional marquees. Each of these countries was hoping to grab the attention and secure the votes of those present. Indeed, it is only those smart enthusiasts present at smart times who can cast their important vote for next year’s host country.
smart times is all about the smart community and 2013 had an additional attraction as it is the smart Roadster’s 10th Anniversary. To celebrate this fact, we joined a special motoring tour of the area organised by smart and held uniquely for these iconic models on Friday afternoon. With less than 50,000 smart Roadsters worldwide, it’s always such a pleasure to be part of a ‘group’ of Roadsters (whatever the collective name for a group of Roadster may be) and Buochs saw over 300 of these cars line up to participate in the drive that afternoon – a memory that will stay with us and all the other Roadster owners for a long time to come! And so it was, after a great Friday night with Dr Annette Winkler officially opening smart times 2013, it was into the main day of the smart times event – Saturday.
This is where the event really comes to life with hundreds of additional smart enthusiasts all arriving at the venue. There were competitions throughout the day for a select group of entrants with categories focussing on areas such as tuning and performance or in-car audio and entertainment – I was honoured to be one of the judges. Then, from around noon on the Saturday, over 1100 of the cars attending started to line up for the traditional ‘corso’ run. This ‘corso’ is now a firm tradition for every smart times event where cars drive a prescribed route in and around the smart times venue and the Swiss team had excelled themselves. Despite the pouring rain on the day, the 45km route took the participants from the airfield, along the edge of LakeLucerne and then through the beautiful Swiss villages all the way to up to Seelisberg.
What made this run extra special was the effort to which the local villagers had gone – there were musical bands, groups of school-children waving smart flags, dancers and a host of locals in national Swiss dress all lining the route – despite the pouring rain, everyone was smiling and waving to each of the smart cars as they drove the route. Seelisberg was the turning point where voting cards for the 2014 host country were handed out prior to the cars looping back through the villages and returning to the airfield. This return drive is always equally exciting as the leading cars have the chance to pass those cars still making their way to the turning point – it’s a mass of waving hands, loud horns and flashing headlights as the 1100+ cars pass each other! An experience hard to describe but wonderful to experience!
Later that evening, once all the votes had been counted, the candidate countries were invited back on stage with Dr Winkler to witness the results of the votes. The stage lighting went into a frenzy and the music built up to announce that … the highest number of votes had gone toPortugal. An ecstatic Portuguese team (and the whole audience in the smart times marquee) cheered and applauded and people immediately began planning their smart times 2014 adventure to Cascais.
After a fantastic Saturday night party, our UK group finally made their way back to the local hotels for a good night’s rest before the following day’s drive back to Saarbrucken, Germany and then back to the UK. Of course, virtually all those leaving on the Sunday met at the Buochs Airfield on the Sunday for one last ‘get together’ to say ‘au revoir’ to old smart friends and to new friends made over the course of the 2013 event.
To those smart owners who have not had the pleasure of experiencing a smart times event, I urge you to find time in your calendars and attend this unique, community focused event. It really does bring owners and enthusiasts together from multiple countries to an event hosted by smart themselves – it’s not a motor show, trade exhibition or sales arena. It really is an event for smart customers and the smart community by smart and it’s an event once experienced, never ever to be missed!
My thanks go to Dr Annette Winkler, smart and all involved behind the scenes, Rob East and the smart UK team, thesmartclub Members, the superb teams at smart of Switzerland, Austria and Portugal and, of course, all the other smart enthusiasts who go towards making smart times the very special event it has become.
The article was written by Al Young, Chairman & Managing Director of thesmartclub. Established in 2000, this is the world’s largest independent club for smart car owners and enthusiasts with Members in 52 countries around the world. Al’s motorsport Roadster (with navigator Fiona Young) was 1st overall, 1st in Class and was the 1st team in the 2012 grueling London-Athens Endurance rally covering 6000km through 21 countries in 11 days! Work is currently underway on the car for the Madrid Rally in May 2014 and the car will be present at smart times 2014 in Cascais, Portugal. (Photographs courtesy Tony Williams, Steve Smith & Al Young)