MONDAY - Early business at Bentley in Crewe, so I left Gloucestershire at 6am to avoid the traffic, stopping at Keele services north of Birmingham for a coffee.
It’s a while since I’ve done a no-nonsense trip in a little car like our Suzuki Celerio, the kind where you concentrate equally on saving time and fuel. It was a pleasure; the absorption took me away from the nonsense on the radio. The 999cc triple’s fuel consumption just gets better. My 71mpg was once a figure you’d dream about from a Vespa, let alone a five-seat car.
Only after leaving Crewe did an irony strike me: the place will soon be home to Bentley’s Bentayga SUV, one and a half times as long, two and a half times as heavy and eight times more powerful than the Suzuki.
The words of Bentayga project leader Peter Guest came back to me: “If WO Bentley had set out to build a car in 2015, I’m sure he’d have made an SUV.”
TUESDAY - Lunch with Jaguar design director Ian Callum in the relaxed atmosphere of Rules, the capital’s oldest restaurant. Such meetings normally happen at motor shows, where you’re chasing the next big thing, so it was a special pleasure hearing Callum talk about his own Jaguar journey.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” he said. “I’ve always loved the brand, and when I took over I reckoned I knew what was needed. But I was petrified to be put in charge of the company’s vision. I thought it would take 10 years to get things right; 16 years on, we’re just about getting there. We’ve renewed the saloons, launched the F-Type and we’re well advanced with F-Pace, the sports crossover I said I’d never design.
“We have a fantastic design team. More and more they create things I wish I’d designed, which is as it should be.”
Callum, who still sketches cars for relaxation, believes the post-F-Pace period will be a time for reflection, because the Jaguars beyond will begin a new generation. Exciting prospect.
WEDNESDAY - To Buckmore Park, the Kentish kart track near Chatham, where owner John Surtees, the former car and motorcycle world champion, was hosting a relaunch with new karts, a new logo and bold new plans for an extension of the 0.6-mile track that he hopes will lead to a world championship event.
Buckmore, which nestles in a natural amphitheatre beside the M2 motorway, has played a vital part in UK motorsport, having helped to develop the careers of stars such as Johnny Herbert, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Anthony Davidson and the late Dan Wheldon.
This was a carefree afternoon, with guests taking to the track in the new karts and one or two sitting in with racing driver Scott Malvern in a special high-powered two-seat kart. Reminded me of Michael Schumacher’s view of karting: that it was the purest form of competition this side of F1.
THURSDAY - To Pimlico Academy in central London to enter my home-built model rocket car in a Bloodhound-promoted competition that’s spreading like wildfire in schools across the UK. You pay a fiver for a kit, build a car from foam (plans included), go to a local meeting and race on a 20-metre wire-guided course. The Bloodhound crew stick a proper pyrotechnic rocket into your car’s chuff, ignite it electrically via a launch button and measure its speed with a radar gun.
The results are spectacular. Even my own 48mph run looked remarkably quick, but the winner’s 62mph was truly awesome. And how interesting to discover that even in a foot-long foam car weighing almost nothing, you still win by paring weight, reducing frontal area, cutting rolling resistance and refining the aero. I’ll do better next time. Details at bloodhoundssc.com.