Test­ing the limit of go­ing in cir­cles

Mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist sets world record, writes KEVIN RITCHIE

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

IT’S LIKE driv­ing all the way to Dur­ban – side­ways. That’s how one of Jesse Adams’s col­leagues summed up his world-beating ex­ploit this week.

On Mon­day, Adams, a 39-year-old mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist at the Satur­day Star Mo­tor­ing, beat the Guin­ness World Record for the long­est ve­hi­cle drift.

Ger­man Har­ald Muller set the cur­rent record of just over 144km for a con­tin­u­ous drift, ef­fec­tively skid­ding into a per­pet­ual cir­cle with­out stop­ping, in Turkey in 2014. Adams crushed it by 24km, set­ting a still-to-be-rat­i­fied world record of 168km in a marathon 5 hours and 46 min­utes.

It wasn’t easy, he al­most gave up dur­ing the 1 000-lap or­deal.

“Be­fore Mon­day, I’d never done more than an hour in the car, so I was go­ing into the un­known,” said Adams. “Af­ter an hour I was fine, af­ter two hours I was do­ing cal­cu­la­tions in my head and start­ing to panic. It re­quires in­tense con­cen­tra­tion. You can’t lapse for a mil­lisec­ond, be­cause as soon as you do, the car starts to spin. I had a drinks bot­tle with a tube – if I reached for it, the car would go into a spin. If I reached for the en­ergy bars in the door pocket, the car would spin, if I moved my left foot be­hind the clutch, I’d lose con­trol.

“At 600 laps, I had a ma­jor freak-out ses­sion, I was only just over half­way and I pan­icked, lost my bear­ings en­tirely. You’re do­ing cir­cles over and over and I had three ref­er­ence points; a fire truck, the gazebo where the judges and wit­nesses sat and a stair­case. I com­pletely blanked out and al­most be­gan hal­lu­ci­nat­ing, I started see­ing ev­ery­thing in red.”

Adrian Bur­ford, a for­mer mo­tor­ing scribe and to­day a rac­ing driver coach, saved Adams.

“I had ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Adrian and I said, ‘Dude, you’ve got to talk to me’, he started count­ing off the laps with me.”

The panic sub­sided and Adams went on to com­plete the 1 000 177m laps, less 48 that were legally de­ducted as in­com­plete ev­ery time the car had spun.

To­wards the end, the pain cours­ing through his neck, arms, legs and back was made bear­able only by the thought of fin­ish­ing and ly­ing down on the skid pan next to the car and rest­ing.

Mon­day was the cul­mi­na­tion of a dream that’s been two years in the mak­ing, start­ing with a six-month bid to get the Guin­ness Book of Records to sanc­tion the bid, and then 18 months of lo­gis­tics and train­ing. He had to get per­mis­sion to use the Gerotek mil­i­tary test fa­cil­ity, west of Pre­to­ria, and ar­range time­keep­ers and four in­de­pen­dent judges, and med­i­cal res­cue amid a host of other ar­range­ments.

Get­ting the car was the eas­i­est part, he says.

“I pitched the idea to Toy­ota… They thought it was fan­tas­tic, per­fect for their facelifted 86, a rear wheel-drive sportscar, which is mar­keted as be­ing able to go side­ways. It’s a play­ful, ag­ile car.”

With the ex­cep­tion of an extra fuel tank, the car was un­mod­i­fied from the ver­sions that are sold off the show­room floor.

Bur­ford mounted some GPSbased Vbox dat­a­log­gers, the same tech­nol­ogy that he uses to train rac­ing driv­ers, and to­gether he and Adams worked out ex­actly what it would take to beat the record.

But why go around and around in cir­cles for al­most six hours wear­ing a nappy just in case?

“I love cars, I love driv­ing and this was a record that I thought I had the car con­trol to chal­lenge and the re­sources as a jour­nal­ist to get done,” he says.

Adams is unique as a mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist in that he doesn’t just write about cars and go on ex­otic launches.

“When I fin­ished school in up­state New York, my friends all went to col­lege I started sweep­ing the floor of the lo­cal garage, grad­u­at­ing to fix­ing al­ter­na­tors and ul­ti­mately qual­i­fy­ing as a me­chanic. From there he grav­i­tated to mo­tor­sports but al­ways in the pits, never be­hind the wheel. It was only when he came to South Africa 17 years ago that he started driv­ing, ral­ly­ing and do­ing cir­cuit rac­ing.

“It’s the op­po­site of drift­ing, I would drive at Kyalami where if you start drift­ing, go­ing side­ways, you’re los­ing time,” he says. The art of drift­ing, though, he per­fected as a young driver in the win­ter in the US, on snow-bound roads.

“I be­came very com­fort­able with a car go­ing side­ways, al­most out of con­trol.”

In the 10 years he’s been at Star Mo­tor­ing, he’s driven all over the world, from tak­ing Porsches up and down the Scot­tish High­lands to rac­ing in the Audi TT Cup in Ger­many.

“I’ve had some epic ex­pe­ri­ences and this one was right up there with the best, but it’s con­sumed the bet­ter part of two years of my life. Now I just can’t wait to get back to the hum­drum rou­tine that most peo­ple hate, just com­ing to work, check­ing out the new cars and writ­ing about them,” he said.


Jesse Adams on his way to set­ting the Guin­ness World Record for the long­est ve­hi­cle drift.

Rebel Wil­son

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