Just a friendly roadside warning (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
The first thing my instructor says to me with a straight face is that I am about to have as much fun as I possibly can “with [my] clothes on.” He isn’t wrong.
Let me back up just a bit.
South Africa has a hijacking problem (carjacking is called hijacking in South Africa). According to Well Aware, there are 140,000 hijackings and car thefts a year here. The problem is so bad that “Hijacking hotspot” signs have been placed all over the country along the stretches of highway that attract the carjackers.
“It’s usually stretches of highways that are pretty, and people slow down or stop to take pictures,” my guide Theo Pieters told me. “But it happens in cities too. Someone tried to hijack me two weeks ago, but I saw them sneaking up behind me and just blasted on the gas."
Not one to take things lying down — or just wait for a carjacker to sneak up behind me — I decided to call up the Adrenalin Driving Academy and see what they could teach me. OK, full disclosure: I’M OBSESSED WITH LEARNING HOW TO DRIVE LIKE MARIO ANDRETTI … and if someone could teach me that and how to get away from hijackers? Bonus!
We already look a little bit like Mario Andretti, right? (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
Adrenalin teaches everyone from the army and the police to bus drivers and regular citizens how to drive, how to deal with difficult road conditions, or just simply how to race. They offer anti-hijacking classes, offensive and defensive driving courses, and high-performance lessons as well as security detailing. All of these classes are held at the massive Gerotek Test Facilities outside of Pretoria. The grounds, which span several hundred acres, have an almost 90-degree hill on which to test the balance of SUVs; a swooping curved racetrack; off-road courses; a skid pan, which, when it gets wet, simulates a slippery, rainy road; and pretty much anything else you would need to test a car in the worst possible circumstances.
That’s where I met my instructor, K.T., the one who warned me about all the fun we were about to have. K.T, goes by just initials. He is that cool.
K.T., who used to be a racecar driver, turned on a hydrant in the middle of the skid pan and said, “It’s coated with a special paint, so when you hit the water, you will be going twice as fast as you think you are.”
He then strapped me into the driver’s seat (which is on the wrong side of the road and includes a stick shift, thank you very much), and proceeded to teach me how to do J-turns and 360s, what to do if a car fishtails, and how to stop while hydroplaning.
You don’t want to mess with this chick in a Target parking lot. (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
It was heaven. As in OH MY GOD I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN RIGHT NOW heaven. Next time I go, I’m signing up for the offensive driving course, which shows you how to jam your way out of a blockade (real-life bumper-car style!), ram other cars, and possibly bang your way into the right spot during Christmas shopping at the mall. I also want a loop or five on the slanted racetrack around the Gerotek facilities. Because holy cow, did that look like heaven.
Seriously. If you go to South Africa, call K.T. and strap in. Because it is just that much fun.
Telephone: +277 84100300