MHD coaxed car lovers into the Smart Cones Challenge and made them push the beasts to the limit. Even proud owners had to admit their ignorance of the awesome capabilities of their own cars! Alvin Thomas joins the happy crowd.
His palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy but the determination in his eyes suggested he was calm and ready. There’s good reason for his exhilaration: Akshay, an engineer based in Oman, was vying in a challenge to take top spot in a race that could land him in the United Kingdom and alongside classic cars such as the Jaguar E-Type and so on.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and hundreds of people had taken up the challenge.
Dubbed the Jaguar Art of Performance Tour, the event was held over last weekend (March 2-3) at the Oman Automobile Association (OAA).
One the face of it, Akshay seemed like he had no chance to beat his competitors. On any normal day he drives a Japanese SUV and has no history in racing. But, when the light went green, he kicked into overdrive in the 280hp Jaguar XE R-Sport that he was given the keys to.
What happened next was amazing: The youngster attacked the cones with no haste, clipping none and maintaining an accuracy rate of 97 per cent. And in one minute and 16 seconds (1:16:00) he completed the course – thereby taking the top spot.
He confessed he had never driven a Jaguar before – but that’s the beauty of it. Anybody with a valid driving licence could have had a go in the sedan around a specially designed track laid out for the Smart Cones Challenge dictated by GPS coordinates sent via a satellite.
Now if that wasn’t James Bond-worthy content, then we don’t know what was.
If Akshay manages to hold his place on the podium, he will be flown to Abu Dhabi for a competition and finally to the UK.
“I’m extremely happy to be on top of the leader board,” said the elated engineer. “I drive a regular SUV on a day-to-day basis and this is a dream come true for me. These cars are real beasts and I cannot help but say that I am incredibly lucky. Thank you Jaguar and Land Rover, and thank you Mohsin Haider Darwish (MHD) for organising this wonderful event.”
It was the general consensus throughout the day. And it’s not just the Smart Cones Challenge that was garnering attention and electrifying the atmosphere. There’s something for everybody: Kids were given small cars to sit on a ride while the elders were treated to the real deal. And yes, there’s food too… lots and lots of it.
Cars from Jaguar such as the F-Pace, XF R-Sport and the XE R-Sport galore, nobody was seen wasting any time to queue up for a chance to get behind the wheel.
But it’s not just Jaguar that’s taking the spotlight. Visitors were also allowed to take control of Land Rover’s latest offering – the Range Rover Velar.
Draped in candy red and grey, the cars stood out from the lot, and people weren’t shy of clicking selfies with the dream machines to share the moment on their social media platforms.
The challenge was simple: drive the Velar as slow as possible. The aim was to finish the course in two minutes – or as close to the time as possible. The challenge, which included you – the driver – to reverse onto a small ramp, took place in a neatly laid-out course.
Also drawing crowds were the XF and the F-Pace duo that were pushed to their limits on a slalom course. The course laid out with cones forced drivers to manoeuvre the vehicles in the safest and quickest way possible.
The noise of tyres begging for mercy and the engine hitting the red line translated very well to the overall aura of the event.
And if you thought that it was all, then you’re wrong. Land Rover had something up its sleeve too – and it had the crowds in tears (literally).
Organised in the lovely off-road course at the OAA as part of the Land Rover Experience Tour, visitors were driven around challenging off-road terrain in the Land Rover Discover, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Sport SVR.
The course included everything from a 35-degree gradient torque test to axle test. Some of the challenges were so daunting that the passengers had their eyes shut.
Still, with experienced drivers Mohammed and Talal taking control of the drive, everybody was safe.
“Safety is our priority,” says Talal, driving a Land Rover Discovery over a ramp.
“People don’t know how capable these SUVs are – and we are here to show them their limit. We even had existing customers of the SUV come to me and tell me that they didn’t know the capabilities of their own cars.
“And that’s the beauty of Land Rover and Jaguar. These are cars designed to be the best – and so we’re confident that they will take your breath away once you’re in it.”