There must have been 50 of them. And they outnumbered us four to one, called the shots, set the crawling pace and spilt all over the road taking everything up to the dreaded solid line that marked the edge of our four-wheeled existence — just over there is molten lava. Behind the wheel of a McLaren 570S the world suddenly becomes very constrained: all that power, all that speed, and you can hardly go anywhere. Smooth tarmac is your only lifeline. And here we have, what, a hundred footpower versus 5,040 horsepower. Cyclists…
The crawl and the tension… you could slice it with the chiselled spoiler of Amit’s Ferrari. And then, 30km later at 30kph, the solid white line cut us some broken slack, and one by one all 14 contenders for wheels’ 2016 CotY awards passed the huddled group of cyclists into the freedom of the open Abu Dhabi desert road — in the distorted heat haze near the horizon the blacktop appears to twist and turn all sorts of ways but it’s as straight as can be, and the three sportscars in our convoy shoot off flat out for the finish line that never comes — all day, really. Twelve hours from now, and 478km later, we’re not an inch closer to the goal. Car of the year? No idea. And this was supposed to be fun… Easy even. A bunch of car guys, a bunch of cars, some of the UAE’s greatest roads, all carefully waypointed to avoid speed cameras and speed bumps (unless you ask the supercar drivers who moan at every pebble).
Instead, the sheer variety of machines gathered send us into knots and twists — every argument is a shouting match between at least eight people trying merely to cough out the last word in between throat lozenges. We keep going in circles, argumentatively and literally — our route loops back to the start, the Gulf News headquarters, and apart from a great Friday weekend drive, plus some rather nice photos in the bag, you’re hardly going to convince Tim that the McLaren isn’t the best, or Fadi that the Ferrari isn’t the best, or Imran that the 7 Series isn’t the best, or me for that matter regarding the Mazda 2.
The problem with having this many different opinions on board, with more experience and knowledge than ever to augment our CotY process, is that everyone has a different opinion. Everyone’s unique (and some of us are downright special…), and the team is as varied as the cars. Some have different driving styles and different emotional fulfilment needs — Gautam will say a car oversteers and another will swear it understeers. It doesn’t mean we don’t know what we’re doing — it means we each love cars in our own ways and love is a hard concept to argue.
We can’t agree on whether to stop for lunch at KFC or Burger King, let alone on CotY, but one thing we’re all united on however, is that every one of the 14 cars gathered here deserves to be here.