SUNDAY AM - Can driving be brilliant and terrible at once? It certainly can, and here’s an example. Headed off to Prescott to run an electric Renault Zoe in the annual hillclimb for French marques, La Vie en Bleu.
Plan was to compete on my own for a bit of fun, but some club type decided I should drive with Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams, one of the country’s most versatile and experienced racing drivers. If ever there were a recipe for humiliation, this was it.
Renault found a set of super-sticky Yokos, and the car felt instantly quick off the line, especially for something with a 12.3sec 0-60mph time.
Most importantly, it gripped, steered and turned really well, even during a late-morning downpour.
Whizzo was fast, of course, finding time to make ‘hush’ signs to the marshals as he noiselessly sped by. He soon turned 60.29sec, easily beating his previous electric record (in a Zoe). I soldiered on, eventually managing 61.88sec – slow but not entirely beyond the pale.
SUNDAY PM - Prescott is less blokeish than most race tracks, but it was still surprising just how interested people were in our Zoe, especially women.
They liked the styling and the interior but, funnily enough, they also liked the way it zipped uphill, which they felt matched its cheeky persona.
Found myself slipping into sales patter: “People pay £100k for cars with very little noise and vibration – and here’s one with none of either, small enough to park, for £15k.” Might even have sold a couple of the little things.
WEDNESDAY - It’s not every day a president of General Motors walks into our humble place of trade, but the present incumbent, Dan Ammann, paid us a flying visit for lunch today as part of a busy European tour.
In a sandwich-laden round table discussion he revealed that (a) the recession may have ended in the US but it’s not quite over in Europe, (b) model relationships between GM’s European and US brands will only keep on growing, (c) Chevy’s hybrid Volt and battery Bolt lose money but are still worth doing, and (d) his own interest in high-performance driving “probably” works to the betterment of GM’s cars’ dynamics.
Ammann also entertainingly dismissed a recent merger approach from Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne, “because we’re still merging with ourselves”. It was a fascinating hour from someone who seemed bent on making sure the motor industry looked no more complex than it is.
THURSDAY - So sorry to hear of the death of Erik Carlsson, the Saab rally legend who was one of the world’s nicest men, as well as one of its greatest drivers.