SUNDAY - To RAF Thorney Island in a smart red Ford Fiesta S 1.0 Ecoboost triple to tackle (with my 30-something son) our first motorsport event of the year, a GRRC autosolo.
It’s the simplest competitive car fun going, autosolo. In a day-long event, you tackle four different courses against the clock, with seconds added for mistakes. Lowest total wins.
The course is fast enough to find your car’s limits, yet slow enough to remove any need for helmet, speed licence or driving pyjamas. It’s very different from the flat-through-Eau-Rouge kind of thing but, as decent drivers often discover, it takes serious skill and you want to win.
Which is something I emphatically failed to do. A string of ham-fisted mistakes put me two-thirds of the way down the field. Still, my son Jon won the class and was third overall behind the two most agile cars entered, a Caterham and a tiny, noisy Turner.
Rolling on smart black wheels, the Fiesta was admired by all for both looks and ‘jinkability’ – the latter ironic because as we glided back to The Smoke, you’d have sworn there was a tiny V12 under the bonnet.
MONDAY - A traffic lesson on the way to work: a dozy Land Rover Freelander driver crowds a bloke in Ford Transit, who swerves to assert his rights and gets close to a bloke on a Vespa. It all happens at 15mph, so it’s untidy rather than unsafe. At the next lights, the trio blow up a storm of shouting, contorted faces and raised fingers.
The whole thing is so inappropriate – they look so stupid in their synthetic outrage – that I resolve (again) to keep calm in traffic no matter what.
TUESDAY - Dropped in for an early evening canapé at the South Kensington emporium of Hexagon Classics, Lotus’s newest dealer and its first in inner London for years.
Chairman Paul Michaels, who knew Colin Chapman and sold Lotuses as a dealer nearly 40 years ago, says he returned to the fold after reading of Lotus’s recovery in the Financial Times and being impressed by the quick reaction to his subsequent approach by CEO Jean-Marc Gales and his team. “I saw the story over the weekend and contacted the company on Monday. They came to see us on the Tuesday – and by Wednesday we’d done the deal.”
THURSDAY - The people spoke decisively at the ballot box a fortnight ago, but it occurs to me that some in the car game might be sorry to see the departure of business secretary Vince Cable, a staunch and effective supporter of UK manufacturing. I rang industry guru Richard Parry-Jones (Cable’s co-chairman at the Automotive Council, the successful government-industry planning and ideas body) to get his thoughts.
“He was sceptical at first,” RPJ told me, “because the council began under the previous government. But it didn’t take him long to understand what we were doing and come on side. After that, he never missed a meeting, was a good ally and provided us with a good mixture of encouragement and challenge. I don’t know his successor, but we believe he understands what we’ve created and will want to keep going in the same direction.”
FRIDAY - Cripes! Another driving challenge. Weeks ago, I lined up a battery-powered Renault Zoe – improved with a set of Clio RS wheels and tyres – to investigate the record for electric cars at the forthcoming Bugatti Owners’ Club meeting, La Vie en Bleu (at Prescott Hill, near Cheltenham, 24 May).
Now comes a request from Renault Central that I share the jaunt with another driver, none other than Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams, one of the country’s most experienced professional racing drivers and a Prescott specialist. Whizzo’s a good bloke, but he isn’t going to be slow. I’m going to have to lift my game.
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