A few days ago, just hours after taking delivery of a supercharged Jaguar XFR for a road test, I found myself at a standstill on Cape Town’s De Waal Drive in the middle of a truly horrendous traffic jam, with rain pelting down. Aware of the car’s prodigious power, I had been taking it easy on the wet road, reasoning that there would be plenty of time to experience its roadholding abilities once the rain eased off.
Then I noticed something a little odd: the white Corsa in front of me was beginning to roll backwards, gathering speed as it went. I promptly hit the hooter button and held it down, watching in disbelief as the car kept coming. One second two seconds and ! The Jag rocked a little, but nothing fell off, which was good. The Corsa moved forward slightly, then stopped. No one got out.
During the next 30 seconds of so, I amused myself by making up new and provocative combinations of swearwords, speculating on the likely damage to the Jag’s front end, and taking photographs of the other car with my cellphone camera. Then, having decided that it was obviously a driverless, remote-controlled drone, I got out. Seconds later, so did a female driver.
Okay, now here’s the thing: I was driving a million-rand car that belonged to someone else, and had just been treated to an earnest lecture (reinforced by envious comments from colleagues at CAR magazine) on the car’s formidable power and the importance of caution in wet weather. So you will appreciate the iron self-control evident in my next utterance: “What the hell were you doing? Are you mad?”
She utterly ignored me. Walking to the rear of her car, she checked it for damage (my cellphone image shows what appears to be a slight dent), glanced briefly at the Jaguar’s front end, then got back into her car and drove off very slowly. Interestingly, the Jag’s front structure appeared to have absorbed the impact without any damage whatsoever; even the number plate was unbroken.
A few thoughts: anyone who stops on a sloping road without applying the brakes is being silly and irresponsible. Perhaps the driver was talking on her cellphone, and simply forgot. (If the impact had damaged the Jaguar, you can be sure that lawyers would have subpoenaed her phone records.)
One of those “Baby in Car” decals was affixed to the Corsa’s rear window. What does this mean? Is its intention to remind other road users to be careful in the vicinity of a precious cargo? Does anyone see the irony here?
And finally, does anyone know a friendly traffic cop who can help me track down the car’s owner using a registration number? I’d like to give this person a call and convey a few home truths