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Fallen star

10 months ago

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Peter Robinson | Journalist


25 August 2023

Marina Maumann guides the W211 Mercedes E-Class down the steeply twisting Camps Bay Drive, just south of Cape Town, South Africa. It’s 26 January 2005, and Marina and Mica Naumann are looking forward to celebrating their wedding anniversary over dinner. Today Mica is on his mobile rather than at the wheel and Marina is driving the 2002 E270 CDI, her birthday present to Mica.

Without warning an alarm sounds, the instruments flash ‘Long Stop Brake Failure Stop Car’. Marina would if she could. The brake pedal turns soft, travel increasing as if there’s no connection to anything. The E-Class’s once-vaunted Sensotronic (SBC) electro-hydraulic brakes switch to back-up mode. With a spongy brake pedal and minimal retardation, there’s no chance of obeying the Houghton Road stop sign. Finally, desperately, Marina steers the Mercedes to a stop on the footpath.

Shaken, scared by what might have been, Marina knows she never wants to drive this Mercedes-Benz again. Mica turns the E270 around and points it uphill towards their garage. Transport for the evening is an ancient Isuzu bakkie (utility vehicle).

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