13 March 2018 is a date I will not soon forget. Being so honoured to have been invited to the WesBank Car of the Year Awards evening as an Associate Member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists, is a privilege I feel I may not be able to describe adequately in words alone. As I would dearly love to share my experience with you, I will try my best to articulate my delight, awe and overwhelming sense of pride at being part of this much-anticipated event.
Having only been part of the motoring industry as a young and enthusiastic journalist for 8 months, I have worked incredibly hard to earn my place in this tough-as-nails reporting world. Being the only female, Indian journalist currently in the industry, I have taken on this role with commitment and humility, and being recognised as an Associate Member of such an auspicious Guild is a true mark of distinction, and an accomplishment of which I am most proud. In this regard, I would like to thank Tony Herbst, most especially, for allowing me to be part of this esteemed Guild, and to add value to this industry.
As I arrived at Gallagher Convention Centre on Tuesday evening, I felt a flutter of nerves and a charge of excitement when I noted the red carpet, the magnificent set up and the beautiful, elegant décor; the atmosphere had a contagious sense of excitement, and a pulsing hum of anticipation hung like an aura around the guests. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of glamour and reverence – the organisers must be congratulated for the spectacular attention to detail that was evident right at the outset: from the invitations, to the beautiful venue, luscious cuisine and the dapper men and elegant women who added to the sense of exclusivity in what I can only describe as a World Class event.
With a host as remarkable, unique and riveting as Derek Watts, the evening was off to a grand start. An MC of distinction, Derek was phenomenal in keeping us on the edge of our seats as the evening progressed. After an address by Chris de Kock, WesBank Group CEO, the build-up to the great reveal came to a climax: so it was that when it came time for the grand announcement, I was quite breathless with anticipation. Revealing first the magnificent, stylish Alfa Giulia as the second runner up, and then – with tantalising leisureliness – revealing the S90 as the first runner up (the brilliant and elegant offering by Swedish manufacturers Volvo), it was finally time: with my heartbeat echoing the LED-ensconced drummers on stage, the Porsche Panamera descended from the roof to take pole position, much to the delight and applause from the crowd. Adrenalin coursing through my body, I was swept up in the emotion of the people around me.
Being evaluated by a revered panel of Jurors (amongst which were the likes of Hannes Visser and Ferdi de Vos), the winning vehicle of this coveted title must earn highest marks in categories that include Exterior Design, Interior Materials and Layout, Technology, Engine and Transmission, Engineering Integrity and Build Quality. The winner must also rank tops in terms of affordability for its class, and present as an all-round sublime driving experience. With such names as BMW, Audi, Toyota, Opel, Renault and Hyundai taking the accolade in previous years, it is clear that the winner (and runner’s up) are in good company.
With three such amazing vehicles taking these sought after titles, I sat for a moment, taking it all in, before feeling my heart swell with pride; as a young journalist, relatively new this industry, I was beyond privileged to realise that I had personally driven, reviewed and written about two of these vehicles. Of the list of top ten finalists (which include the Land Rover Discovery, the Kia Picanto, Toyota C-HR, Peugeot 3008 and the Suzuki Ignis), I had personally driven and reported on more than 80% of the nominated vehicles. In the few short months I have been in this industry, I have driven over 200 cars, and this magnificent event was culmination of these past few fantastic months, where I have had the honour of living out my passion. If I ever needed confirmation of how far I have come, and how much I respect and admire my colleagues in this industry, this was it.
In this regard, I would like to thank those who have made my dream possible: my supporting Dealerships who have trusted me to represent their brands, and provided me with access to a host of incredible vehicles, many of which made it to the finals. I would like to thank the Guild and the Sponsors for an unforgettable event that most certainly motivates me to strive for better and work even harder to bring credit to this dynamic industry. I would like to congratulate each brand that was represented in the top ten, and most especially the worthy winners, for continuing to produce vehicles of distinction and quality – I look forward to seeing even greater things to come in the year ahead!
By Desh Bechan