It's D-Day here at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week; a mixture of nerves, reticence and resolve written on the faces of the chosen representatives of each yacht as they pit themselves against each other for their biggest test yet – the Audi Drive Challenge – the opportunity of driving away in an Audi A4 Avant, courtesy of German luxury car manufacturer Audi on the line.
Brad Jones, the Audi Motorsport ambassador who designed the course at Hamilton Island airport, explained the Challenge to competitors. “It's about skill, precision and consistency. The most consistent driver after two rounds will win,” he said before giving each a test round in the Audi RS 6 sedan. Obviously speed comes into the picture too.
However, it is not just the Audi Drive Challenge that will deliver the vehicle to one lucky boat owner. The victor will first have to win his or her division at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week – and there are 11 divisions.
Jones went on to say: “The great thing about the way we do this exercise is that we never know who is going to win. It's an event anyone can win and the lucky person won't know until the prize giving at the end of Race Week.” Joerg Hofmann, Audi Australia's Managing Director, will divulge the lucky winner at the prize giving on Saturday evening.
A surprise first driver was English adventurer, Ben Southall, famed for winning the Greatest Job in the World at Hamilton Island, after a world-wide search to find one enterprising individual from over 34,000 applicants, who was given the ultimate experience of working in the islands surrounding the Barrier Reef for a six month period just over two months ago.
The gregarious Southall, 34, who lives in a three bedroom beach home overlooking the Barrier Reef, far from his home in Hampshire, was keen to take the Challenge: “Great. I get to drive the RS 6 and the TTS. I'm extremely interested in Audis – I'm stoked.
“This was my day off work, but when I got this invitation, I said ‘no way! I want to drive those Audis.'”
Southall, who is making the most out of his time on Hamilton Island, enthused after his drive: “I'm getting to do amazing things. This is a real experience; it gets the adrenalin going! Getting to drive the RS 6 around the course comes close to England winning the Ashes!
One of the early sailors to take the Challenge was yachtsman of renown, Iain Murray, representing Hamilton Island owner, Bob Oatley and the Wild Oats X crew.
Before taking his chances, Murray, of America's Cup, Olympic and 18ft skiff sailing fame, admitted: “I haven't done this before. I'm just going to watch the guys before me and take it from there.”
After the drive, Murray conceded: “Everything's easy until you've got to do it. It was good fun. Pity it was over in 30 seconds, I'd love to do it again…..”
Comments were flying thick and fast from the sidelines, with a lot of laughter, as some drove like maniacs, missed some of the course, burnt up rubber and came to a screeching halt at the finish.
“I think some of those guys got a big shot of testosterone before they got behind the wheel,” commented Darren Jones who drove for Limit, owned by Alan Brierty. It sure appeared that way.
Further information: www.audisailingsport.com.au