Today started more relaxed than most as we only had a short distance, around 80 miles, to cover before arriving in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. Upon walking out of our rooms, we knew it would be a good day; the weather was incredible with a cloudless blue sky, and the enchanting mountainous terrain stretched out to the horizon. Interestingly, despite being on the equator, because of the altitude and location in the mountain valleys, this area is actually considered a desert, with a lot of cacti to be seen too! Truly a mesmerising landscape!
Anyway, our first port of call for the day after consuming a large breakfast was a race track just 400m down the road. We just couldn’t resist; with the usual ease, Sebastian had managed us free and exclusive access to this incredible track, and at 11am we arrived all feeling very excited! The track owners were also kind enough to give us the use of one of their school cars, so we were able to drive the SRZero alongside the school car. This enabled Sebastian, a very accomplished racer, to teach us how to attack this extremely difficult track.
As for the track, it has to be seen to be believed! Wrapped around a sparkling clear lake and nestling between towering mountains, the tight turns and adverse cambers make for a really tricky ride; much more so than Bruntingthorpe which is the only track the SRZero had ever been on so far! So, after having surveyed the track, we each took turns in the SRZero. We did make sure however that we didn’t push the car too hard as we still need it to last until Ushuaia at the earliest!
I was first up in the SRZero and trailed Sebastian as he drove the school car. It immediately became clear how much more powerful the SRZero is over the school car because even though Sebastian is an incredibly good racer and I am quite the opposite, I was easily able to keep up with him. Had I wanted to push the car a little further, overtaking would have been easy too; this just gave me another demonstration as to the potential of EVs on the race track!
Next up on the SRZero was Toby, and Nik and myself went up the tower from where the track could be viewed, in order to see how Toby did his lap. The first few corners were taken well, but at the third we saw a cloud of dust, we heard a screech of tyres, and the car spun wildly out of control! From where we were standing, it looked like he had smashed straight into some trees…
Nik and I ran down from the tower and jumped in the van. We sped over to the scene of the crash and miraculously, what we had seen was not accurate. He had indeed spun the car, but it had remained on the track and was completely unharmed…phew! Suffice to say, the rest of the lap was taken much slower, as were the laps that the rest of the guys drove! I guess the moral of the story is don’t drive a race car without racing tyres! And also not to be risky wish such a priceless car of course!
Anyway, aside from this little scare, our time at the track was absolutely exhilarating. We all felt the thrill of racing and were desperate to drive some more! However, we did still have some driving to do and deadlines to meet in Quito, so we headed off from the race track at around 1pm, along with our heavily armed police escort.
I really can’t express how incredible the short drive up to Quito, at over 2,800m a.s.l, was. The road wound its way around mountains so high that huge snowfields could be seen on top of them! Consider that we were mere kilometres from the equator and you get the idea of how high these mountains must be. The road quality remained absolutely flawless, and every turn revealed a new view which made you gasp in wonderment. When you couple this with the fresh air, warm sunlight and great companionship, you have a day which, for want of a better word, was magical. Really, it felt like an absolute dream!
After a few hours of this amazing drive and a couple of police escort changes, we arrived at UPS, the polytechnic university here in Quito who had kindly offered us a place to charge and hold a press event which we were due to do the following day. After depositing the car under a marquee which was constructed for the above purpose, we still had loads of energy left and we wanted to do something exciting!
Upon many recommendations, we were suggested to take the cable car up the mountains to over 4,000m to view the city at night. Along with Monica and Armando from UPS, we ascended the mountain. We were repeatedly warned not to run or exert ourselves at this altitude as the low oxygen levels would cause our hearts to go into overdrive and we might need to be rescued with oxygen cylinders; apparently this has happened many times before!
Anyway, like excited dogs we ignored all advice and proceeded to run around like maniacs. For some reason, the low oxygen levels gave us a huge amount of energy, and this culminated in having a press up competition at the top of the mountain! However, after 37 press ups, you could really feel the altitude! Nonetheless, we all coped really well with the lack of oxygen, and we didn’t experience the altitude sickness that some people are prone too. The view of the city was also breathtaking, not that we had much breath to take at this point! You could see the lights of the city stretch out into the distance, and the huge scale of the city could be observed.
Unfortunately, the cable car was just about to be closed for the night, so we had to make a dash back down the mountain to avoid being stranded up there! Upon returning to the base station, we met with a whole bunch if lovely people from KPMG who then took us out for a delicious restaurant. This was followed with a trip to a really fun club playing awesome music, and we happily danced away into the early hours of the morning!
What an amazing day in Ecuador, a country far exceeding our expectations, and a fantastic start to our short stay in Quito! Many thanks go out to Monica, Sebastian and Eduardo from UPS, the British embassy and KPMG respectively for all your continued help and support!