smart times – two very simple words that evoke a passion, excitement and buzz in smart owners and enthusiasts around the world. An event that has taken place annually since its inception in Austria over 15 years ago, before moving to Riccione, Italy in 2011 to start the smart times annual ‘tour of countries’.
Last year (2016) smart times was set in the bustling market area of Hamburg, Germany. With a superb venue and super-hot temperatures under blue skies, the ever popular ‘corso’ parade took place through the city centre streets – over 3,000 smart enthusiasts in a record 1,637 smart cars. The corso run, and the now famous ‘hairpin loop’ allowing cars to loop back to ensure everyone sees each other on the way to the finish, always provides an added buzz.
But it also provides the local population with a unique opportunity to line the streets, wave, cheer and see the unbelievably diverse range of smart models, smart colours and, yes, smart owners! It’s also a fantastic platform for the smart brand and, to this day, remains as something very special and very valuable within the automotive sector.
Small car, big community
Of course, for all those attending smart times events, it provides a unique opportunity for enthusiasts to gather, meet, review and enjoy the vast range of smart related activities and, importantly, each other’s company. However, for the majority of smart fans participating in this annual pilgrimage, getting to and from the selected venue is also part of that enjoyment.
From each individual’s home to some local or regional meeting point and then a journey (in smart parlance: a ‘tube’) to gather and meet others ‘en route’ prior to arriving at the smart times destination. There can be a military precision with the logistics for many. Weeks (and months) spent on social media and local group meetings discussing routes, timings, accommodation and who is bringing what car cleaning products such that the cars can look immaculate after their lengthy journeys. As ever, with the distances covered, the countries visited and the spectacle of smart times, each event forms a major part of everyone’s holiday or annual leave.
Ready to cross ‘The Channel’
For us in the UK, smart times events mean round trips of perhaps 4,000 or 5,000 kilometres depending on venue, in addition to crossing ‘The Channel’. This year, we have multiple UK groups (thesmartclub, Invicta smart club, Wherry smarts, Sussex smart, East smart, Wessex smart, smartmaniacs, smart car Southwest and theroadster.net) travelling from Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, leaving the UK several days in advance of the official start in Salou. Many of us will have already travelled a considerable distance simply to get to the UK coast!
Some will then travel via the Channel Tunnel or Ferry and take a leisurely drive through the country roads of France, avoiding the motorways, via Clermont Ferrand, the spectacular Millau Bridge, Girona and then on to Salou. Others will take a fast blast down the toll roads of France, through the Pyrenees (some great Roadster roads) and onto Salou whilst a number have chosen a fly-drive option collecting smart hire cars in Barcelona.
Small car, big community
Importantly, smart times is an international event. I know from personal experience, that meeting up with friends from many other countries in the days leading up to smart times, and during the event itself, is one of the additional key elements bonding the international community of smart owners and enthusiasts together. 2017 is no exception and many of our UK groups are coordinating a range of meeting locations with smart friends from Norway, Denmark, Germany and France ensuring a somewhat ceremonial arrival in Salou!
One of the great features of smart times is the variety of venue each year. This has included spectacular city centres, dockland areas, the lush greenery of mountain meadows and lakes or the sun, sea and sand of beach resorts. The 2017 event in Salou brings the latter – a wonderful beach, palm trees and stunning setting for what will be a magical smart event.
Proud owner for over 18 years
Experiencing smart times is something anyone involved in smart, professionally or socially, ‘must do’. For as long as I have owned a smart (over 18 years to be precise) I have always said that the experience of being amongst so many diverse ‘same brand’ cars and cultures within the one area is so unique and so special. In fact, from a UK perspective, I’m delighted to see that our overall UK group will comprise an excellent cross section of smart models including the 450 (and crossblade), 451, 452, 453 and 454.
In addition to the social aspects of smart times, there is always a range of new and exciting opportunities to experience at each event. 2017 is no exception and will focus on the new smart electric drive with 30 vehicles on site. I can already envisage large crowds of enthusiasts, all holding their phones taking innovative pictures as they enthusiastically stand on their toes or lie on the ground for that ‘great picture’ prior to a test drive.
The 2017 smart times theme is ‘electric’… not only is there the smart electric drive models and the wonderful miniature ‘slot-car track’ but, on stage on the beach, under the swaying palm trees, there’s a headline act. DJs Nervo will be performing their range of tracks that has redefined electronic house music. These two Australian sisters (Miriam and Olivia) are superstars within the song writing world and have previously written hits for artists such as Kylie Minogue, Ke$hsa and David Guetta.
For new and ‘regular’ visitors to smart times from around the world, you can again be sure of a range of events and attractions in Salou. Both in the days building up to the main event and the superb corso parade route through the beautiful scenery along the Catalunya coast.
Be in no doubt, smart times 2017 will be an ‘electrifying’ experience and I look forward to meeting friends, new and old, at what is without doubt, the most prestigious smart related event in the annual calendar.