Newport, Rhode Island - Three Brazilian journalists have just completed a Trans-America drive that could have come straight out of an episode of the reality TV show The Amazing Race, crossing 14 countries in 20 days.

And why they did it was even more amazing - they were racing against a whole fleet of some of the world’s fastest sailboats.

The intrepid petrolheads - led by former rally driver Cacá Clauset - left Itajai on the coast of Brazil at the same time as the seven 20-metre Ocean 65 yachts set off on the 5700 nautical mile (10 400 kilometre) Leg 8 of the 2017/2018 Volvo Ocean Race, with the aim of getting to the finish in Newport before the boats.

That meant driving 17 600km over a mix of freeways, back roads and gravel from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again, from sea level to 5500 metres, across Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States, as quickly as possible.

And what high-performance racing vehicle did they choose for this epic road trip? A bog-standard Volvo XC40 SUV, chosen at random off a showroom floor.

The trip took them 20 days; incredibly, the worst mechanical problem they suffered during the expedition was a flat tyre. Clauset said a far bigger challenge was the bureaucracy, passport detainments and even police surveillance they had to deal with along the way.

And did they beat the boats? Well, no, actually. The entire fleet of seven identical boats arrived in Newport within three and a quarter hours of each other, less than 16 days after leaving Itajai - but to judge by the video below, the road trip must have been a lot more comfortable.

IOL Motoring