The Lotus was pretty terrible: poorly assembled, dreadfully uncomfortable and needlessly noisy. But when we got to Scotland and let it loose on the A9, well, I’ll hand over to the 24-year-old me, writing somewhat breathlessly in this very magazine on 2 August 1989: “In the Lotus it was demonstration time. I sat and steered; it flew. No driving experience I have ever had comes close to that drive from Inverness to John O’Groats.”
It was my first proper, long-distance blast in a bona fide supercar, and while there have been plenty since, you never forget your first. I arrived at the tip of Scotland so exceptionally pleased with myself that it is possible I slightly overplayed my hand: the following morning, the road test editor blasted off in the Lotus, leaving me a Nova to drive back to London.
It was 2009 when Lotus last won our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car shootout, with the original, normally aspirated, sub- £50,000 Evora. Ten of us were involved in the judging that year, and for nine of us, the Lotus was top of the tree: better than the Lamborghini Murciélago SV (which, as I recall, fell foul of the track’s noise regulations before it made it out of the paddock), better than the Porsche 911 GT3 of the same year, and better than the defending ‘Handling Day’ champion that year, the Nissan GT-R.
On the day, I was one of very few who’d had a taste of the Evora already, having been to Hethel in 2008 to drive a late prototype. And yet, even though I knew what was coming, the Evora dazzled. It had – still has – a world-class chassis with just the right amount of grip and body control to marshal its power and weight, and not a morsel more. I remember being delighted by the car’s hydraulic steering rack; very taken with the throaty roar of its V6; and utterly besotted with the carefree drifts it insisted on chucking around Goodwood’s Lavant corner.
To the residents who live in the house you’re always told about when the Goodwood marshals are warning you not to drift around Lavant corner, then, I should probably apologise. Never mind. It was the Evora’s fault. And, as I remember, it wasn’t just me who was seduced to misbehave.
Fantastic drives go hand in glove with Lotus cars, and given that I first went to Hethel when Colin Chapman was still in residence and that I’ve owned seven Lotus cars since those days, there’s a decent store of experiences to draw on.