I really wish I was still a child — life was so innocent then. We believed in a man in a red suit coming down a chimney; in a bunny delivering chocolate eggs; the slaying of dragons; princesses being locked away in towers and that mermaids swam the seas. Our imaginations ran wild and anything was possible. Isn’t it sad how, as we grow older, we slowly stop believing? Our imaginations are contained, and our dreams are shattered by the realities of life and responsibility.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if fairytales didn’t only exist in Hollywood blockbusters, but we were somehow able to recapture that attitude to life? In a way we can, but have had to give it a new name, a more acceptable term for adults who are no longer allowed to believe in fairytales. It’s called it the bucket list. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman popularised the term in the 2008 movie. And it’s a simple-enough concept: what would you like to see, do and experience before your ignition gets turned off for the last time? Drawing up your bucket list allows you to be a kid again: you don’t question whether it’s possible or not, but instead you relish the freedom of dreaming big.
So it goes without saying that most items on our lists are things which are not available in our network of influence or are out of our reach financially. I love travel and, obviously, cars, and as you are reading a motoring supplement, it’s fair to say that we are probably going to have a few items in common on our lists. And this is why I am blessed and grateful that I do the work I do, because it has given me the opportunity to tick so many items off my bucket list as well as unlock new experiences that were never on it. I have probably had my hands on the wheels of most of the “must-drive” cars on your list. I have raced cars and tested my ability as a driver, stayed in some amazing hotels, visited cities I have always wanted to explore and discovered and learnt to appreciate what makes South Africa such a beautiful place. Two weeks back was another one of those “living the dream” moments. There I was, strapped into the co-driver’s seat of one of Regent Racing’s Dakar spec’d Nissan Navaras, competing in the opening round of the national Donaldson Cross Country Championship in Harrismith.
It’s a magnificent part of our country, but there was no time to admire the scenery. I was only vaguely aware of cosmos-lined farmlands hurtling past as we powered through a highly technical and demanding 700km route. Regent Racing’s Celebrity Drive initiative has been incredibly popular, giving some heavyweights in the sporting and entertainment world a taste of cross-country racing. Being the competitive bugger I am, I wasn’t content to simply make up the numbers and go along for the ride — I wanted to add value as a co-driver. Even though this wasn’t my first time in this beast of a machine, the mind still boggles at the terrain these vehicles can tame… you find yourself thinking that perhaps the Easter Bunny isn’t so far-fetched.
But, sadly, this fairytale didn’t have a happy ending. The lengthy technical route, in trying conditions, took longer than the organisers had anticipated, so I was gutted when I had to retire at the halfway point because I had a plane to catch — to Abu Dhabi — for another pinch-myself experience. This city in the Persian Gulf is a bit like dropping through Alice’s rabbit hole into Wonderland: a city of smoke and mirrors, a galaxy away from where I had just been playing in the raw beauty of nature. Michelin had brought me to Abu Dhabi to celebrate 125 years of the company’s pioneering success — from introducing air-filled tyres in 1895 to producing the first radial tyre in 1946.
But it’s Michelin’s race-winning technologies and success on race- or dirt track that I am most familiar with. For many, this trip would have ticked a good few items on the bucket list, such as visiting the famous Ferrari World, staying at one of the world’s most recognisable hotels, the Viceroy, or cruising the manmade Yas Island on a luxury yacht. For me it was the chance to tick off another world-famous racetrack, the Yas Marina Circuit. I was unleashed on the South Circuit which, if you are familiar with this Formula One track, includes the second very long straight which ends in a second-gear left-right-left sequence of corners before you arrive at the ballsy, fast, double right-hand turns 15 and 16, that hurtle you on a collision course with the Viceroy Hotel.
This section really tests the dynamics of a car, but your resolve will probably falter before the car lets go. A sequence of tight direction changes sees you emerging on the other side of the hotel, before diverting left and back on to the straight to complete your lap. But what made this a solid-gold bucket-list experience, was what was waiting in the pit lane for me to drive: the Ferrari 458, a Merc SLS, an Audi R8 V10, a Porsche 911S, a Corvette Stingray and a manual Toyota 86.
–Marius Roberts is the anchor for Ignition GT Channel 189