Knysna – It’s not often that a journalist not only tells the story but is also in the story; yet that’s what happened when five of South Africa’s fastest motoring scribes were invited to compete for the Alucat Cup, as part of the weekend’s Jaguar Simola Hillclimb.
The sponsors put Jesse Adams of our print sister publication Star Motoring, the Sunday Times’ Thomas Falkiner, Mark Jones of Citizen Motoring, Topcar editor Angus Thompson and Stuart Grant of Classic and Performance Car Africa, in identical, bog-standard Jaguar XF sedans and kept a close eye on their times as they competed against each other and about 80 other competitors, driving anything from a Type 37 Bugatti to a Nissan Skyline GT-R so fast and so furious that it was quicker going up the hill sideways!
The first surprise was that, right from the initial practice runs, their times were incredibly close – usually within fractions of a second of each other – with Adams almost always leading the pack.
But the rest were so close that all five were in with a shout and suddenly the Media Challenge was no longer a ‘fun event’ – although if anything the camaraderie and the comments traded back and forth became even more light-hearted, the stories of lurid slides, missed apexes became wilder and the in-depth discussions of take-off technique more detailed.
But only three could go through to the final round on Sunday afternoon.
Grant put in a superb run when it mattered most to edge out Falkiner and Jones by mere thousandths of a second, prompting the latter to comment: “I may be the oldest and heaviest but I certainly made them work to keep me out of the top three!”
Then it was crunch time and the fastest three – Grant, Adams and Thompson – each took one final tilt at Simola’s steep and twisty 1.9km hill.
And it was Grant, finding superb form when the pressure was on, who stopped the clock less than 0.03sec quicker than his close friend Adams, while Thompson made a costly tactical error and lost out by half a second.