Killarney Track Day: GM/Reeds, Take a Bow!

I thought, for some inexplicable reason, that I was over the giddy, childlike excitement that came with driving cars with a certain performance calibre. I don’t know what could possibly have brought this misconception about. Fortunately, an amazing bout at a Killarney Track Day with the guys from GM and Reeds reignited that goose-bumpy passion I thought was buried somewhere inside me with the rest of the inclinations of my early twenties. As I zipped around the track and ascended near-literal mountains on the 4×4 course, that giddiness and excitement came rushing back in floods – thank the torque-blessed gods!

Let it be said, right here and now, that the guys from GM/Reeds really know how to treat a man (or woman!)… Heading to Killarney I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had seen a few clips here and there of what days on the track looked like. Usually there was some level of supervision, where drivers were treated like school kids and watched with eagle-eyed precision as they fumbled around a track, sweaty-palmed and cautious as a teenager on a first date. Needless to say I was somewhat concerned as to the exact way the day would unfold…

Killarney Race Track beckoning me from the pits!

Killarney Race Track beckoning me from the pits!

Having attended the Isuzu Open Day last month I however had a slight grasp of the type of team the Reeds guys were and the type of events they laid out for their loyal customers, potential buyers and, of course, the tag-alongers like myself. They put on a rather good show – top shelf stuff as far as I had seen. However, as much fun as that open day was, this day on the track totally blew that out of the water! Not only were we afforded a number of loops around the famous Cape Town track, in an assortment of vehicles of our choice, but the Isuzu KBs and Chevy Trailblazers were out in full force on a 4×4 track of epic proportions, with introductions to the basics of 4x4ing to boot – a handy helping hand for the novice like myself, but more on that in a bit. First – the track (Oh, the track!)…

Arriving at the Clubhouse, I filled in my details and collected my customary take-home goodies (I’m getting quite used to the idea of being plied with branded gifts at these events, I won’t say no!) and sauntered upstairs towards the wafting smells coming from the main hall. As I soon found out, a full lunch was being served so I grabbed a plate and tucked in, helping myself to a drink as I did. After lunch we settled in to a short presentation about what we would be doing for the day. Then we split into two groups, one for the track and one for the 4×4 course. Having done the whole 4×4 thing, I opted for track first, and wow… I was going to write something there but I thought I’d just leave it like that, just wow!

Greeting me at the entrance to the clubhouse, A Chev from days gone by stood beaming...

Greeting me at the entrance to the clubhouse, a Chev from days gone by stood beaming…

As we got down into the pit lane we were introduced to the two rows of cars we would be having the pleasure of enjoying over the next hour or two. Branded Chevies, Opels and Isuzus glistened invitingly before us as our instructor talked us through the options. Of course, my eyes gravitated to the Astra GTC and the Corsa Turbo and even left a small shy glance for the newly released Chevy Spark Sport. First up for me was the Spark, which was awesome on the track. Little did I know that this was just a taster of what was to come.

Pick your poison. A plethora of driving options...

Pick your poison. A plethora of driving options…

Fortunately, the awkwardness of that hawk-eyed supervision was totally erased from the equation. We had an instructor leading us out and showing us the proper racing lines and so forth and staying in contact via hand-held radios in each vehicle, but generally, we were left to our own devices and I even got to froth generously as I sped along on my ace, a-la-Stig, in the Opel Astra GTC, shooting through corners and jetting along straights. I can honestly say that this is right up there as one of my best driving experiences – ever! This was such a treat and, as I said, I was not prepared for that giddy excitement I experienced as we inched back into the pit lane. Climbing out of my new crush all I could say was “Shoh!”, as I jiggled my hands to shake off the goose-bumps! Every red-blooded man has had this experience I’m sure, as a favourite sportscar has rumbled past them in a quiet street – that tingle up your spine that ends in an explosion of energy at your fingertips, it’s electrifying (and this is in no way meant to echo ‘Grease’, but even that applies)…

The Astra GTC beauty that ferried me so finely along the track.

The Astra GTC beauty that ferried me so finely along the track.

I got to drive the Opel Meriva, Corsa and Astra and the Chevy Trailblazer and Spark Sport, all of which impressed in their own unique way, I was not disappointed in any one of their performances and the new models we got to test were simply delectable!

Before we said goodbye to our new crushes, our instructor treated some passengers to a few final speed laps, where he pushed the pace in the Meriva and then the Astra OPC, the flagship of the Opel fleet. I got videos of both as they came flying past the pits, so close to the wall that I actually had to lean back out of the way from my little overhanging perch! The promised jet-like noise from the OPC was nothing short of flabbergasting!

The Astra OPC struts its stuff!

The Astra OPC struts its stuff!

From there we rolled into our pick of Isuzus and Trailblazers. I lucked out with a D-TEQ300KB in a devilish red and we headed for the track. Our instructor here (who had contact with each driver via the radios in the car, just like we had on the track), a man by the name of Marius, could easily double as a comedian. Had I known we were going to be treated to a show like his, I would’ve sneaked some popcorn along! As he entertained us through what might have been a somewhat tedious explanation of 4x4ing specifications otherwise, we drew closer to the moment where we’d get to slip our bakkies into 4-Low and climb these towering dirt mounds.

My devilish KB...

My devilish KB…

Marius the comic 4x4 instructor takes us through some finer points...

Marius the comic 4×4 instructor takes us through some finer points…

This was an entirely different experience to the track and though I had heard of Killarney’s dirt track, I had never actually seen it in all its splendour, as I was doing right here. We tackled giant inclines and steep descents (a daunting prospect, but with the ease of use of the KB it was more treat than terror), splashed through mud and water pitches and edged our way through uneven sand banks. We were surely no 4×4 pros but we took on the course with a deft approach, snapping pics and videos naughtily when we should probably have been concentrating on the road ahead of us. As we completed our second run of the course we edged back into the waiting convoy with enormous grins on our faces. Again our inner children were bursting through…

Taking pics when we should really have been a bit more focused!

Taking pics when we should really have been a bit more focused!

Back at base camp I hesitantly climbed back into my own vehicle, remembering the track experience and smiling wistfully. I edged out of the Killarney gates a renewed and enthusiastic driver. Killarney Track Day was simply a win!

The sky smiling at me as I left the track...

The sky smiling at me as I left the track…

 

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About Baywatch Bergemann

Baywatch Bergemann is a wayward, transient academic who would rather spend his time on the beach or on a hillside than in the classroom. We're thankful for that and that he chooses to spread his wisdom here rather than anywhere else.

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