KNYSNA, South Africa — Every good festival needs a good sideshow. For the 2018 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, those duties fell on the shoulders of British stunt driver Terry Grant.
The stuntman has an impressive resume, including the world record for the longest barrel roll in a production vehicle, as well as the record for the largest loop-de-loop in a car. The former he set in a Jaguar E-Pace and the latter in an F-Pace, so he’s no stranger to doing silly things with Jaguar SUVs.
For this year’s Hillclimb, Grant chose to attempt to drive the entire course in an F-Pace, but with a catch: he was going to do it on two wheels, with a South African celebrity riding shotgun. Four runs were scheduled, two for each day of the Hillclimb’s King of the Hill competition. The first time he did it, I had no idea he planned on driving all 1.2-miles, so I was as wowed as the rest of the crowd.
Afterwards, I thought nothing more of it aside from getting some photos of the remaining runs until Jaguar South Africa PR man Jesse Adams walked up to me midday on Sunday, shortly after Terry went up the hill with pro rugby player Eben Etzebeth, a mountain of muscle measuring at 6’8” in height and 260 pounds in weight.
British stunt driver @terrygrant1 sent a Jaguar F-Pace onto two wheels and drove it that way for nearly four minutes, covering the entire 1.2-mile length of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb course. Special mods? Only a locked rear differential and tires inflated to 90 psi. . . . . . #jagurshc #jaguarfpace #terrygrant #stuntdriving #knysna #southafrica
“I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news,” he said. “It’s the same news, actually,” he continued, “you’re going up with Terry.”
I’m not sure if he expected to get an objection, but he wasn’t about to get one. I’ve done far more ill-advised things in my life than get into a car with a professional driver, especially one that’s been professionally fitted with a full rollcage. Like riding motorcycles and racing a Daihatsu Charade.
Though the right-hand-drive F-Pace’s interior had been removed, a manual transmission was in place for the usual automatic, and a manual brake was fitted as well, the only modification Grant needed for the stunt were tires inflated to 90 psi and a locked rear differential, I was told.
To make things more interesting, Jesse threw in a transponder to track the time up the hill before Grant and I headed off. Presumably they waited to do that until the last run because a random American journalist is more expendable than a member of the national rugby team or one of the judges on the local version of “The Voice,” Bobby Van Jaarsveld. That, and crashing early cancels the remaining runs.
As we approached the starting line, the announcer informed the crowd that said American journalist was riding shotgun and that Terry was going to be giving him a scare. If he’d known that I’d once rolled a Daihatsu Charade, he’d have known that it would take more than that to put fear in my eyes.
After exiting to help set up the ram and to give a brief interview, Grant got back in the car and off we went. The F-Pace promptly went up on two wheels as we went up the ramp and stayed that way as grant intended. There was far less drama than I expected, frankly, and Grant made only the slightest of inputs to the steering wheel as we went up.
Things were slightly touch and go towards the end, but we crossed the finish line as planned, at which point Grant set the car back down on all four tires for the drive back down.
Once we made our way back down to the temporary paddock, the time was announced: 3:03. A far longer time than the 40-60 seconds needed by most competitors, but they were using all four wheels instead of only two.
Behind my balaclava, a smile graced my face the entire time. So much for scaring the Yankee scribe.