Playing the shame game

Calvin Fisher lives his life a quarter mile at a time. And that takes ages in a van

I’m not sure if this game is played by any of my peers or if I’m just a delinquent. But I suspect it’s a common thing, in fact I think this is how fabled rare hot versions of the past were ‘created’. Let me explain.

I currently find myself spending far too much time at the helm of a colleague’s Nissan NV200 van after he experienced what mountain bikers like to call an ‘incident’. With the sort of 1.5 litre diesel engine you’d expect to find in a Nissan Micra it’s not particularly fast so boredom ultimately sets in and quick. Conversely, that coupled with the mandatory school runs, drop offs and collections that mar adulthood means I’m often in a hurry. Here’s the thing, just near my house, along an otherwise mundane section of suburbia resides a section of tarmac that would inspire the great Formula One circuit builder, Hermann Tilke himself. A sort of rising left-hand corkscrew that plunges right, two lanes deep with gratuitous Armco along its brim. I know it as intimately as a man can know an inanimate thing, every pockmark and rut, the granularity of its surface from the nape of its apex to its on-cambered bowl. Naturally I have no qualms rushing a little diesel-powered delivery van through it at maximum pace. I imagine this looks terrifying and impressive all at once from the outside, and that’s only scratching the surface of what I like to call the Shame Game.

It comes down to luck. Or rather, the point where preparation and opportunity collides with each other, with the latter largely depending on timing and who else is around. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you encounter the spiky haired pilot of a somewhat breathed-upon VW Golf GTI (or something similar – it matters not). His idea of motorsport involves shifting into S (for Sport) at the traffic light, then virtually dropping the clutches of his semi auto and flattening his right paw until the naturally aspirated Honda Civic (or something similar – it matters not) beside him has been forcibly relocated to his rear view mirror. He is by all means a driving god, right? I can believe that he is probably the same chap who highway cruises at 180kph but when the road gets squiggly his left paw starts dithering on the brake pedal. Now imagine this same individual blasting down the tarmac that leads to my personal Laguna Seca-styled corkscrew, slamming on the anchors then coasting nervously, confusing his entry and exit points whilst waiting for the road to unfurl itself before blatting at full tilt down the next straight. This is what I like to call a prime candidate for the Shame Game. Now picture me diving in on his right, neatly clipping the outside of the turn, kissing the inside apex of the right hander and then scything outward in one neat arc amidst the horrible redline clatter from one of China’s humblest hatchbacks, an appliance white GWM C20R. The choice of car here is irrelevant but really, the lowlier the better. The bigger the shock, the larger the awe. Needless to say Mr Turbo has now been relegated to MY cheaply hung rear view mirror. On this occasion he will go home with the sort of race tale he won’t likely repeat on his local Internet forum, but chances are he’ll feign disinterest the next time something indiscernible pulls up alongside him and gives him an asthmatic rev.

Now, before you get the impression that I fancy myself a bit of a hotshot behind the wheel, let me make it clear that you couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m quite crap. However, in reality all cars are inherently capable of impressing under the right circumstances and if you have a basic understanding of how to take a corner then transforming a generic front wheel drive hatch or rear-wheel-driven delivery vehicle into something capable of humiliating those whom are big of head and large of displacement is easy. In fact, it can be deeply rewarding. De Waal Drive is another fun haunt of mine where many a car marked STI, Type R, AMG or RS has come off second best against what must have been secretly developed super-and-turbo-charged hyper hatchback iteration of a Renault Sandero, Ford Figo or Toyota Etios. It wasn’t.

Just to be clear. I’m not talking about actual street racing here. I’m talking about choosing an absolute peach of a moment whereupon you’re about to enter a special piece of road alongside a special piece of machinery being piloted by an unsuspecting or less familiar driver and unleashing hell. Like I once did at a traffic light in Gordon’s Bay. There I was, loading the full complement of the Nissan van’s 200 Newton metres against an unsuspecting handbrake alongside a previously windgat GT-R R35 driver who chose to pull off like a granny at the precise moment I dropped the clutch and chased the horizon down. For that 10 seconds or less until he realized what was happening, I smoked him (yes that was a Fast and Furious reference). You could call him whipped. As for me, I now answer to Van Diesel.

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