The WCS Challenge: COMPLETING THE NC500 FOR UNDER 15K
The eighth edition of the weekly car challenge is upon us, and it takes you right across the oil painting that is the North Coast 500
I'd like to start by apologising for not being able to consistently post these challenges. I had plenty of time to allocate to writing these for the first few weeks, but I've been swamped with University work as of late.
I will continue to try my best to post them every Monday/Tuesday, but I would like to take this opportunity to say that I'm sorry if I am unable to write them up as frequently as I should over the coming two months, which will be my final push as an undergraduate journalism student. On with this week's challenge ..
The United Kingdom isn't an especially vast country, but in spite of this, it feels like most people are cramped into several big cities, and the rest of the nation doesn't have much to do. When you consider this, and the massive road network we're blessed with, you'd think we have a plethora of incredible driving roads to blitz across: but that's not entirely true.
We are severely restricted by the menace that is the speed camera, and constables of her majesty's government. The roads that we can fully utilise, though, are spec-bloody-tacular. A seemingly never-ending road, that cracks open the heavens, and stretches through scented fields of lavenders and sunflowers. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Scotland's answer to the fabled Route 66: the North Coast 500.
Image credit: The Torridon.
516 miles of scenic landscapes and beautiful wildlife, with an equally glorious, velvety smooth road stitched right across the length of the Scottish Highlands. Opened to the public in March of 2015, the NC500 was formed in order to help the dwindling tourism sector in the north. Inadvertently, us Brits have become the beneficiaries of this decision.
The economic implications of the NC500 have been a welcome sight for Scotland, whilst offering an affordable getaway to fellow Europeans. But let's not turn this into an advertisement to go and visit historic castles and monuments .. what we really care about is the road that was voted as the fifth best coastal road in the world upon release.
Image credit: Sam Moores on Pinterest.
Yes, that picture makes me weak at the knees too. But before we elaborate on this week's challenge, here's a summary of the previous challenge:
(Note: I know it's been a while since I last did one of these, so click here to be forwarded to the first WCSC, with all the details to catch you up to speed.)
The seventh challenge, which was posted three weeks ago, set contestants on a fictional cruise from the tip of the Black Forest, to the Nurburgring. You'd then set the quickest lap time you can, before retracing your steps back to meet journey's end. This trip was inspired by Jeremy Clarkson, who once said that the Mercedes McLaren SLR was designed to ''cruise to the Nurburgring, do a mind blowing lap, and then cruise back home again''.
That's why the entrants for this competition were especially interesting: you needed something that was created for grand touring, but was also fast enough to beat the SLR's Green Hell lap time of seven minutes and 40 seconds. Whilst your average 2021 supercars, like the Ferrari 488, can complete the lap in close to seven minutes flat, they can be slightly more bias to track ability, as opposed to comfort. Here's a few of the most interesting entries:
First up is this exciting pair from Jackson Hillerby. The Audi R8 is several generations old now, and in the time since its introduction, it's stapled its standing amongst the remaining supercars in the world. The BMW M8 is another fabulous vehicle, and one that you can't really go wrong with. In terms of grand touring, both are equally adept. When speed is concerned, they'll demolish the SLR's time, too. Being practically brand new is yet another box ticked for them. I just think they're both a little .. vanilla.
The Mercedes S-Class has always been a leader in the field of luxury, and their 2017 model was no different. Sling a great big V8 Bi-Turbo to its nose, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better all-round car in the world. I debated long and hard with myself about awarding the 250 Tribe Coin reward to Nicholas Clayden for this: but it stills lacks a bit of magic, if you ask me.
Yet another car I struggled to leave out from top spot is this absolutely gorgeous 718 Spyder: and like a few of the other cars on this list, is in pristine condition. I really love Porsche's newest pocket rocket - it's just got such a sense of drama about it. It comes second only to one other car in the eighth WCSC in my opinion:
Costing just £80,000 and sporting a triple black paint scheme, this McLaren 570s was the pick of the bunch for me. Not only will its lap time shatter that of its distant relative, but it's also the best looking car that McLaren have made in recent years. Since their rebirth with the MP4-12C, the historic Woking-based firm have stressed an importance on the suspension and overall daily usability of their vehicles. In many ways, then, the 570s offers everything the SLR did in its heyday, and more. It also does it whilst being only a fraction of the size.
Congratulations to Michael Maclean, who is the winner of this week's competition!
On to this week's challenge:
The NC500 is a road which deserves the utmost appreciation: the manhours that went into the creation of those finely crafted silhouettes of tarmac must be eternally cherished, and you're about to do just that this week.
Image credit: The Campervan Bible.
The journey will begin at the Kingsmill's Hotel, where you'll likely see hordes of fellow car and bike enthusiasts, eagerly awaiting to see what treasures they'll see on the road. From there, you'll head east, past the picturesque towns of Plockton and Torridon. Then, you'll begin your ascent north, encountering the twisty roads towards the tip of the United Kingdom: the Scottish Highlands.
It's also worth noting that your convoy may often be grounded to a halt just as you fork towards the Tongue Hotel, because this stretch is arguably the prettiest part of the North Coast. Following the road west up until the historic Ackergill Tower, you'll then start your freefall back towards the Kingsmill Hotel. These will be 529 miles you'll never forget, so, time to choose your chariot.
You're given £15,000 to spend on a convertible sportscar to ferry you across
the length of the NC500 - what do you buy?
Noted, Scotland does suffer from torrential downpours, pretty much all year around: but let's say that our journey happens on the few clear days that they do get, with the sun gleaming down on you throughout. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? It makes me want to quit University, move to the Highlands, and drive endlessly around the NC500 until the end of time - probably in an MX-5.
Good luck all, get involved now to have a chance of winning 250 tribe coins!
Image credit: loveEXPLORING.