Quintin Smit, World Record Holder - That's how I should introduce myself, I think... Truth be told my claim to the "World Record Holder" title is shared by 500 other drivers. We all took part in a relay test drive of a fleet of new Kia Sportages in order to set the record for the World's Longest Test Drive.
I would like to claim I went through an arduous selection process in order to 'make the team', but in truth I was selected randomly after registering on Kia South Africa's Facebook page. I would like to claim we traveled all around South Africa in pursuit of our goal, but in truth my contribution was a short drive from Somerset West to Stellenbosch, a total distance of about 20km. I would love to report that the journey was fraught with danger and we were forced to wrestle the mechanical beasts over unimaginable obstacles, but again the truth is we cruised comfortably down a dual carriageway, without so much as a speed-bump to slow our progress...
It was all far too easy - and the car didn't help either. Don't get me wrong, the Sportage is by all measures a very good piece of kit. Comfortable, quiet and very well equipped. It left me amazed at how far the Korean car company has advanced from the last model. Externally the car has some very nice design features, like the power bulges in the bonnet, sloping roof-line and sexy LED lighting. The interior is a very nice place to sit with high quality plastics, leather all over the place and more gadgets than you can shake a stick at - including the amazing wireless charging facility for your phone.
The problem is, as with most modern cars I've driven recently, with all the gadgets and creature comforts on offer, the actual business of DRIVING seems to take a back-seat to everything else.
Driving has become a chore to most people, a chore they get no pleasure or satisfaction from, and I have to ask; Is it society's mindset towards driving that has changed? Or have cars just become boring? Or perhaps cars have become as boring as they are, because people just don't care about driving any more?
Hooliganism or driving skill?
When did it become anti-social to drive enthusiastically? When did a passion for cars make you a car bore, yet being interested in fishing or cricket just means you have a hobby? Why is it that whenever I'm driving a really nice sportscar, I can almost FEEL the hate from other people as I go by?
My very first Track Day
This social idea that cars are simply tools for getting from A to B, or an accessory to make you look cool, or rugged, or successful, is simply idiotic! Why can't they build cars that are just FUN TO DRIVE any more? I know a flappy paddle gearbox is faster, but I much prefer the involvement of having a lever to yank around in the gearbox. I know that 4 wheel drive gives you more traction off the line and in slippery conditions, but the catastrophic understeer it causes makes me want to tear my hair out! I know that in normal driving electronic driving aids can make the drive much safer, but at the very least give me the option to turn all that rubbish off and let me play with the thing. I know that parking is easier if you don't have to feel the friction of the wheels on the tarmac through the steering wheel, but driving is so much better when you can feel what the wheels are doing as you start feeding in the power at the exit of a corner!
So this is my tribe - if you feel like modern cars are letting us dying breed of petrol heads and purists down, join me in protest! Scream from the pit lane that we don't want any more cars that drive themselves, no matter how impressive that makes their numbers - WE WANT TO DRIVE , and we want to have a damn good time doing it!