Last week Wednesday, I received a call that I have been secretly dreaming about since I was in junior school. The dreams always varied slightly, but there were a few constants that always prevailed – food, rugby and fast cars. This was exactly what was being offered to me, and I hastily accepted the invitation to join some of the Springbok rugby team and BMW SA representatives for lunch, followed by an afternoon of reckless driving. I was told I would be flown up to JHB the very next day to Zwartkops Raceway where I would test drive a few BMW’s around the track and meet the Bokke and BMW team. The only difference between my dream and reality was that I had to share the day with some of SA’s finest media and bloggers alike, which obviously was not a problem.
Upon arrival at the JHB airport, I was picked up by one the loveliest 5-Series I have ever had the pleasure of being inside. We made our luxuriant way to Zwartkops Raceway pit areas where we were introduced to Guy Kilfoil and Britt Preece, who briefed us on our schedule for the day. I think it is safe to say that not much of the brief made it into our heads, as we were surrounded by a sleek fleet of vehicles that most of us had previously only been able to ogle through bulletproof glass. Guy immediately offered to take myself, Arthur Jones & Tank Lanning around the track in one of the limited edition BMW 1M. I was blown away by the sheer power of the engine that was evident in the way that we were being thrown around corners. Throughout this rather hair-raising introduction, Guy casually told us about the car we were in, and the day ahead, while manoeuvring his way around the track at breakneck speeds. White knuckles are a good enough explanation of how that drive went. My fingers were stiff after we clambered unsteadily out of the car.
Arriving back in the pit lane, we saw a few of the Bok ambassadors doing their thing. JP Pieterson was being interviewed, Frans Steyn was being photographed and Jannie Du Plessis was about to go around the track in the Team Afrox BMW 335i race car (I have heard that there are only 2 in the world, and we got the privilege of playing with them – because that’s how BMW roll). Jannie had a look of fear and excitement in his eyes, which is something you don’t see very often from a Springbok. His expression upon returning from his two laps in the Team Afrox BMW was priceless. Next up was Frans, who seemed a little more nervous than excited after watching Jannie. Words literally cannot describe the look on his face after his laps – he could hardly talk, let alone breathe. It is quite something to see some of my personal heroes looking so flustered over a simple drive, especially as they always remain so calm and sure of themselves during their games. This psyched me up even further for what was going to be the ride of my life. Schalk Burger and Jean De Villiers arrived just after Frans’ drive, and we all made our way inside for a little introduction and a quick chat about safety, rules and regulations. We were then led straight back out onto the track in a very bold move by BMW – they were going to let us race against each other!
At the pit lane, we were met by 4 of BMW’s finest makes; the new BMW 328i, BMW 1M, BMW M3, BMW M5… and we got to drive them all. Each car had an instructor, and having the opportunity to drive each of them, we really got to experience the ins and outs of each model first-hand. Arthur and I paired up, and out of each of the monsters I got to drive, I have to say that the 1M and the M3 were truly magnificent. The M3 was the first car I drove and had a fantastic yet stern instructor by the name of Christo, who on my final lap told me that I was not allowed to use the brakes. As terrifying as it was, it was possibly my best lap on the track. The way these cars handled the road was incomparable to any other vehicle I have driven before, and the amount of power being pushed out by both of them was phenomenal. I was clearly in my own world where I was king for a day – a dream come true for any guy in South Africa (well, most guys). I must also mention that Schalk Burger drives like he plays rugby – hard, fast and with a lot of determination. He lapped me in one of my training laps at a speed I don’t even want to imagine.
Our time was cut short and I thought I might not get the opportunity to get a lap with the professional BMW track drivers but luckily for me, they organised a little something-something. Next thing I knew, I was kitted up, strapped in and ready to go (or, as ready as I could possibly be). With Tank in the other Team Afrox BMW 335i race car we raced each other around the track in three laps of sheer driving pleasure. It was any petrolhead’s dream. We were being flung into corners at terrifying speeds, braking at the last possible second (which, believe me, seems too late), tailing the other car so close I could actually feel the slight grinding friction of the bumpers and bonnets touching each other. It was mind blowing, and one of the most epic drives I have ever been on. I can honestly say, as an adrenalin junkie, that it was more fun than any rollercoaster I have ever stepped foot onto. As an added bonus, my driver got his fastest lap time that day, while I was in the car with him!
After we had all calmed down, we went inside for a quick “Happy Birthday” to JP Pieterson who was presented with a rather awesome cake by Guy. Unfortunately, after that my day had to come to an end. The drive back to the airport was spent reminiscing about the cars and the unforgettable day we had just shared. It is something I will never forget – the day I raced Zwartkops and chilled with the Bokke. Massive thanks to the BMW team, Guy and Britt especially – you guys definitely did a fantastic job. It was also great to bump into Ben from “Follow The Bounce” as well as to meet Arthur and Tank. A fantastic day was had by all.
This video was stolen from Ben (Follow The Bounce) as I wanted to show you what a lap around that track was like (and I wanted to show you Jannie and Frans’ thoughts after their race):