Struggling Imprezas, a fast BMW, slow Audi and a Forester from heaven
All I can think to myself as I stand at the flag-off point is how odd a collection of vehicles this is. Does nobody know what an autotest (sometimes referred to as a gymkhana) is?

I can see an old Legacy station wagon. I can see not one, not two, but three Subaru Foresters, only one of which is fettled by the STi skunkworks team.

I can see a W124 Mercedes-Benz E Class. There is also a Volkswagen Passat. A Suzuki Swift. A BMW 335i. There is even an Audi S5 coupé.

This looks more like a gathering of a youth-oriented Sacco meeting than the starting lineup for one of the best motoring tournaments this country has seen in a while. Maybe they are here to vie for a Top 40 Under 40 vote in a business newspaper pullout. Who knows?


But then again, peppered among these concours-class automobiles are an infinite number of Subaru Imprezas, ranging in vintage and iteration from the first-generation GC8 saloon (and a solitary GF8 estate) to the (almost) latest 2014 STi; a boggo automatic WRX and a highly tuned 5-speed STi share space with a new 6-speed stock car.

The number of doors varies from two to five. The tailpipes are all spitting sharp bursts on the overrun. They are all blue; so blue and noisy that a female fashion blogger would wear sack-cloth, tear out her hair and smear ashes upon herself if she were to spend even five minutes in their midst.

I am no female fashion blogger though; I am in my element here: the drivers are my friends, and irrespective of what I sometimes write about their cars, I cannot help but admire the array of metal stretching backwards towards the tail end of the runway. This is going to be good.

The drivers all have questions and suggestions. Some say they cannot see all the cones, and could I please place a few more?

No, the course is what it is, you should have used the sighting lap to get your bearings. Now you have one practice lap to decide how hard to throw your car in my carefully hand-crafted hairpin turns when you put the hammer down.

Others say they might get lost.

Sure, go ahead and get lost… and get disqualified in the process. You either follow the course as is or forget about getting ranked. Please, pay attention. Next!

One or two say the first roundabout is too tight.

I know, I made it that way. It is deliberate. Use your brakes wisely, sir.

What these drivers do not know is that the organisers have laid down a special surprise for the spectators. It is here that we (as tradition has always dictated) pause and go back in time to names and cars that have featured in this column before. We will start with the car.

If you remember the onset of the strained relations between Car Clinic and the Subaru Fan Club, then you definitely remember a piece that appeared here titled “The White King vs The Dark Knight”.


The Dark Knight (a black Zero Sports GDB Subaru Impreza WRX STi — the so-called N10 version) was originally owned by Zul Mohamed before changing hands twice and landing under The Paji’s ownership, which is just about the time he and I pitted it against a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Extreme Edition; and the resultant write-up instigated a war that saw social media light up in flames and all forms of diplomacy disappear between this columnist and Subaru drivers everywhere.

I enjoyed driving that car fast, just as much as I enjoyed writing the review. The car was sold not too long afterwards.

The current owners of The Dark Knight said they would put up an appearance, but not the way many would have expected. Like extra-terrestrial beings, they would come from the sky, bursting through the clouds in a tiny aircraft, I’m guessing a Cessna.

Unbeknownst to whichever driver would be trying to prove himself on the skid-pan at the moment of first contact, the plane would do a low flyby as said driver gunned his poor engine towards the end point aiming for a flying finish (in a manner of speaking) in such a way that both aircraft and vehicle would cross the finish line together. I think some of my colleagues might be watching too many reruns of BBC Top Gear. Read more…..

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