The more eagle eyed reader will have noticed I’ve attended a fair number of motor shows this past year and while I’m certainly not complaining about this, it does leave yourself wondering how on earth to distinguish between them all. Well first off this is the only one to be held at a racetrack, Zwartkops to be precise. So once again, brimming with enthusiasm, I headed off to see what’s what, even though it had been far and away the most poorly advertised.
I’d heard about it through the grapevine, a friend’s friend who happened to be working there and only heard one advertisement over the radio on the Sunday evening, a fat lot of good considering the show was well and truly over by then. So I expected to be greeted by the sound of crickets upon arrival. Boy was I wrong. To my amazement people had already started to trickle in, shocking considering I’d arrived at 7:45 on a Saturday morning and indeed lines had started to form by then and by the time midmorning rolled around, police had to step in to direct traffic.
Now why on earth would this happen? Driving all the way out to Zwartkops before 8 on a Saturday morning makes less sense than using a cheese grater to get rid of zits. Well it was the boys at TopCar who’d pulled out all the stops to offer you, Joe public, an incredible deal. With the massive price tag of zero Rands, a brief breathalyser test and indemnity form signing it was your turn to get out onto a race track in your choice of car. When I first heard this I thought, well they’ll probably have a couple of Golfs and maybe a BMW 320d, nothing to get excited about. Amazingly I was wrong and to my great surprise and delight there was an amazing selection of vehicles, from BMW to Renault, Subaru to Lexus, Toyota to Nissan. Almost all of the major manufacturers were represented, an impressive sight to behold indeed.
Having gotten there earlier than the earliest of early birds who’d had a good night’s rest, I was in the fortunate position of being guaranteed a drive in something nice. Of course the Subaru’s, BMW’s etc quickly got snapped up. No matter though because on quick examination of the remaining vehicles, something caught my eye, a solitary Alfa Romeo. An Alfa Romeo Mito to be precise and to put the cherry on top, the Quadrifoglio Verde model with brand new 1.4 turbo charged engine, now developing a punchy 125kws.
Soon I was strapping myself into the little Mito and in no time at all was out on track with my assigned instructor riding shotgun. After flicking the DNA system firmly into ‘D’ and giving myself space between cars it was time to see what the little Alfa had to give round a track. Burying my foot deep into the carpet the new engine jumped into life, issuing a throaty growl from beneath its bonnet and with the turbo kicking in, propelled us forward with gusto, planting a most satisfying kick in the behind. Into the first corner I expected to be straight off into the gravel trap, as let’s face it you wouldn’t expect miracles here, but low and behold that little Alfa continued to surprise me, powering through the corner flat out in 3rd gear without a hint of understeer. I had planned on being a complete idiot and purposely put the car well over its limits, but once I was behind the wheel, the Mito begged to be driven and driven properly.
With an incredibly responsive throttle and steering to boot, the Alfa Romeo Mito was a joy to behold, pushing the driver more and more, willing you to find the apex better or be just to be that little bit braver into the corners. Unfortunately with there being so many other cars on the track at the same time on such a small track, you were never able to get one complete flying lap in, however by the end of just three laps, I was in love again. Thus ended my one night stand with the Mito. It was a wild ride and one I’ll remember for a long time, but above all it left me wanting more.
However this wasn’t the end of the show by any means. The whole of Zwartkops was buzzing with activity, covered from end to end in stands, people and of course promo-girls. With so much to see, it was hard to know where to start and in truth you couldn’t see everything on one day even if you wanted to. But with a R60 price tag on entrance, it was well worth spending two days perusing your way through it all, drinking in the sights and sounds. And some very loud sounds there were indeed, the most monumental of which was the fully fledged drag racer, which when started up, drew in a crowd faster than moths to a flame only to be blown back by a sheer wall of noise that hits you as the massive engine is revved.
Other highlights included the superb go kart track, Forza Ferraris flying round the track, stunt bikes and of course the South African built supercar, the Perana Z-One by Zagato. All this and much more besides; combined into an astonishing automotive medley with something there to interest everyone. In summary, the Gauteng Motorshow was a complete hit and I only hope that next year it will be bigger and better than ever, with a greater emphasis placed on public participation. To TopCar, I take my hat off to you guys for leading the way and showing everyone how a car show should be run. Now bring us more of the same!