The highly-anticipated Cape 1000, a 1000-mile "tribute" to some of the world's most historic races, has kicked off in Cape Town. Here are some of Hannes Oosthuizen's highlights from Day 1.
Photos by: Devin Paisley, Dieter Pey, Duwyne Aspeling, Stefan Kotze, JoNo Nienaber
After a festive registration "celebration" at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on Tuesday, which saw nearly 40 dream cars, ranging from a Concours-level restored '56 Porsche 356 to a modern-day Lamborghini Aventador line up, and participants arriving from across South Africa, The Cape 1000 - which was but a dream a few months ago - finally became a beautiful reality.
I've always dreamt of participating in the Mille Miglia, or the Carrera Panamericana or even the Paris to Peking, so kicking off what will hopefully become a series of petrolheaded adventures on home soil is ideal. The Western Cape definitely has some of the driving roads and scenery in the world, and the organisers of this event (Supercar Lifestyle) have worked them all into the schedule.
The 1 000-mile route takes in some of the Western Cape's best roads, with 60% of the distance being allocated to "Grand Touring" and the remainder being regularity stages, where drivers and their navigators have to work closely together and meticulously follow the stage's timing and speed instructions to achieve success and, hopefully, score some points.
The best laid plans...
When Cars.co.za announced its support for the rally, our plan was to run our restored Ford Capri Perana. However, events are hardly ever predictable in the classic car space, so I can't say I was completely surprised when that car wasn't finished on time. It did leave us with a bit of a problem, however...
The Perana (and my colleague Ciro de Siena as driver) was entered into the Pre-1977 Classic category of The Cape 1000, and so his replacement vehicle had to be from that era, too. That ruled out all the other cars in the SentiMETAL Heritage Fleet, and so we had to look beyond our South African Specials and the only fitting vehicle was a 1967 Citroën DS19, part of the greater collection. Now, before you laugh, keep in mind that the DS actually had quite a successful rally career, and won the Monte Carlo Rally twice (in '59 it was actually the less-complicated ID that won, but still...).
Ciro accepted the challenge and went shopping for berets and USB-powered air-conditioners and fans. You see, it's a bit hot in the Western Cape at the moment.
Meanwhile I had my own challenges. The organisers had already secured a beautiful '57 Austin-Healey 100/6 for the event, but unfortunately (not for me, though), its crew couldn't make the event, and so it happened that I ended up in the navigator's seat (which is very small) of this iconic British sportscar, with my co-driver being none other than Greg Marucchi, a petrolhead I know well from his involvement in Concours SA.
It truly was a fantastic sight to see such a staggeringly diverse line-up of cars show up at the Silo Hotel for the start. "My" Healey carries the number 102, which meant that we had to start second. Now, I'm not going to give you full run-down of the specs and history of the Austin-Healey 100/6, but for the purpose of this article you just need to understand a few things...
Firstly, it has no roof - well it has a roof, but putting it up would be useless (see point nr.2). Secondly, the drivetrain emits a lot of heat through the footwells, so it gets, uhm, toasty in there very quickly, and if you were to put the roof up, it would essentially turn into a mobile oven. Third, it also has no side windows - again, you can bolt some windows onto it, but that makes the already cramped cabin even smaller, and also keeps more of the heat in the cabin. So, we had to complete the near 400km route in searing heat, with no roof and no windows. Thankfully Ciro bought me a very nice hat in China Town when he went to look for all his mod-cons for the Citroën.
The route started in the Waterfront and wound its way around the Peninsula, taking in the spectacular Chapman's Peak Drive, before heading for Gordon's Bay and the stunning Clarence Drive along the coast. Next to the ocean, where the air was cool, it was sheer driving bliss, with the Healey impressing with its torquey power delivery and handling.
A temporary Cape 1000 Cafe was set up on Clarence Drive to give participants the chance to stretch their legs and for engines to cool down, because temperatures were rising.
As we headed inland and started climbing some hills, the higher ambient temperatures, coupled with the heat from the Healey's engine, made driver and navigator alike sweat... a lot. Twice it looked like the Healey would overheat, but in both instances Greg managed to get the temperatures back under control. It was touch and go, though!
Another challenge was that the car's speedometer isn't functional, and that the odometer is in miles... while the routebook is marked in kilometres. So I had to use an app on my phone to keep us on track and in the points. Challenging indeed! Or rather... a baptism by fire!
Lunch stops and the Elgin Railway Market included a short gymkhana challenge, before the convoy moved back towards Theewaterskloof dam for more stunning scenery. The last rest stop was at the beautiful Benguala Cove Lagoon and Wine Estate.
From there, Greg got the opportunity to drive a rare Mercedes Pagoda back to the Arabella Estate, which gave me the opportunity to spend some time behind the wheel of the Healey. Gosh, the gearbox really isn't very easy!
Given the sheer beauty of the imagery captured on Day 1 alone, The Cape 1000 is poised to become a highlight of South Africa's annual automotive events calendar, and interest has already been expressed by international petrolheads.
Tired but happy, I'm looking forward to Day 2... and praying for cooler temperatures. As does, I'm sure, the Healey.
Oh, and during evening proceedings it was announced that Ciro and Duwyne Aspeling in the DS managed to achieve a fifth place in the Regularity Challenge, with me and Greg in 7th in the Austin-Healey. Not bad for newcomers!
You can follow The Cape 1000 on Instagram here. The Cape 1000 is sponsored by Cars.co.za, SCL Travel, Silvercrest Super Car Insurance and Mix 93.8FM.