Clarence Drive, Gordons Bay, South Africa
This Great Road was initially published in issue 74 of Total 911.
There are some essential elements to defining a fine drive. A great Tarmac surface, long straights, tight cornering with a well-banked camber, spectacular vistas, and the all-important refreshment stop at the end of the drive.
Clarence Drive fulfils these elements with fervour. Starting in the seaside town of Gordon’s Bay, 60km east of Cape Town, you’re immediately impressed by the rawness of the rugged and rough steep mountain range to the left, rising sharply away from the road. The mountains form part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve where building is prohibited and Fynbos and wildlife abound. To the right the bank falls away to the ragged rocks hugging the False Bay coast and the Atlantic Ocean.
The approach to the bumpy bridge over the Steenbras River requires some concentration to avoid that horrific bottoming out sound, but then the road climbs steeply with a nice double lane. Second gear is a good choice at the start of the climb, revving smoothly towards a gentle curve to the left and then the right. A short stone wall lines the road, which is more of a warning than a barrier, so caution is the better part of valour when picking the apex on these bends. Co-drivers need to keep a sharp lookout for baboons not uncommonly strolling across the Tarmac and, across the bay, whales breaching in the sunlight.
Don’t let the panorama obscure one’s driving application, though, as the road quickly runs into two hairpins, which again need second gear and a gentle ease on the power as you leave the second corner. The road then drops down quickly to sea level and speed tends to increase rapidly just as you pass the entrance to Kogel Bay beach and its super surfable waves (water temperature 12 Celsius, though). This is a good spot to kick on a bit and safely pass those annoying caravaners. The 2.5km of straight road is a treat and the GT3 certainly sits flat on this section, with the rear spoiler working overtime.
Length of drive: 15 miles Points of interest: Kogelberg Biosphere; whale watching. Food and accommodation: Bucaco Sud Guesthouse, www.bucacosud.co.za; Glen Craig Hotel, www.glencraig.co.za; Hook line and sinker, www.hooklineandsinker.co.za. What’s your favourite 911 drive? Let us know: [email protected]
Length of drive: 15 miles
Points of interest: Kogelberg Biosphere; whale watching.
Food and accommodation: Bucaco Sud Guesthouse, www.bucacosud.co.za; Glen Craig Hotel, www.glencraig.co.za; Hook line and sinker, www.hooklineandsinker.co.za.
What’s your favourite 911 drive? Let us know: [email protected]
Next is another sharp incline, straight at first but then a quick turn to the left and then right, with a steep loose rock slope to the left and a sheer cliff to the right. No time to look at the view here as the road banks slightly to the right over a small rise. Too much speed and the car lifts a little, the front wheels feel a little light and its backside sits low. The top of this climb is a good 600 metres up from the crashing waves and the road then snakes gently down the next hill, giving you the time to scan ahead and plan for the next sharp corner taken real slow. In the distance is the next village, Rooi Els, that forms part of the UNESCO world heritage reserve.
When driving at a mature speed it is always prudent to consider other road users and this is especially important on Clarence Drive. The route is frequented by cyclists, motorbikes and other vehicles, and where the road narrows a little alongside the cliffs, sticking to your lane couldn’t be more important.
Approaching Rooi Els, another straight section allows a final gust of the flat six towards the final kilometre of this 20km jaunt. Off to the right is another surfers’ haven, with a lovely warm lagoon welcoming the driver into the quaint little hamlet. A welcome lime and soda refreshes even the harshest thirst before turning around and driving back along the marvellous R44, or carrying on down to Kleinmond, Hermanus and beyond. On the Bihl barometer, this rates 10/10.