I’ll let you in on a little secret. Motoring scribes get things horribly wrong sometimes. Take me, for example. I nearly killed my editor once. It was an overcast day in the Western Cape, the chosen setting for the launch of the then new Audi A4 Allroad.
The brief was simple enough. We would sample the crossover over a selection of secluded gravel roads, before stopping at one of the province’s ubiquitous wine estates for some lunch and a spot of corporate self-congratulation. Standard fare on product launches, really. At the time I was a reporter at another online title. Little did I know then that the man in the passenger seat who turned a whiter shade of pale would end up employing me. Perhaps for not much longer after being reminded of the incident. Anyway, there we were, trundling along, chatting and soaking in the scenic sights of South Africa’s little slice of Europe.
I blame my hunger and eagerness to get to that lunch venue — but I decided to pick up the pace a bit. “This thing feels pretty solid, eh?” I remarked nonchalantly as my inner Gugu Zulu started to show. As anyone who’s ever had a crash will tell you, things slow down dramatically before that horrible moment of impact.
The fork in the gravel road seemed to jump out of nowhere. The options were limited. Straight ahead and we would be conducting an unwanted test of the Allroad’s tree-felling abilities. A stationary bakkie to the left meant an equally disastrous outcome. Sharp right it would have to be then. Naturally, my navigator in this nightmarish rally fantasy of my own doing was too scared to dispense directions like the ones I recalled hearing during my many hours of playing the Colin McRae games on PlayStation.
I hooked an abrupt right — and at that fairly brisk speed, on that traction-devoid surface, the inevitable thing happened. That sizable chunk of German estate car went sideways. “Quick!” I thought, “do the Scandinavian flick!” Too late. We were too far gone to salvage things and by the time the slow motion drama had unfolded, we were facing the other way. At that point the silence in the well-insulated cabin of the Audi hung heavy in the air. It was palpable. Just a tangible awkward silence. Eish. I think we swapped over at that point.
And the remainder of our journey might have been a little quieter in the knowledge that I had brought us a little closer to the Almighty. Take it from me, no amount of Quattro trickery can safeguard against driver ineptitude. But life is a funny thing — it’s about being granted second chances, isn’t it? Since that hapless incident years ago you’ll be happy to know that I’ve had a collision-free run. I’ve been privileged enough to hone my skills at the helm of numerous machines, at various South African circuits, under the tutelage of some of the most respected names in the industry.
And I feel that part of being a credible voice on motoring matters is being able to concede to readers that, yes, we do get it wrong sometimes. That incident in the Audi reinforced a point we tend to forget. Every single time we get behind the wheel of a car, we’re responsible for our lives and those of others. And as much the thrill of driving gets our juices flowing, let’s remember to enjoy our passions responsibly.