When it is your job to convey the passion and joy of driving, it’s a problem when that thrill is no longer easy to achieve. I live in the south-east of England, and whatever the car, driving in this part of the country is not a lot of fun. Short journeys in mileage can be epic in time taken. And even when the traffic is not at a standstill it’s so dense that overtaking and making progress is almost impossible. Speed limits and cameras I can cope with; there is little one can do with congestion.
But I’ve not given up, it has just required a shift in attitude and approach. To really enjoy driving in 2019 you will have to make an effort, almost by recreating a past in which families would ‘take the car out for a drive’ as a recreational pursuit on weekends. If you live where I live that means travelling some distance to find great roads, and while it might be a bit of a slog to get to them, it’s worth it when you arrive.
To prove the point I’ve asked a quartet of colleagues to name their favourite roads and I shall go and drive them. Andrew Frankel, Dan Prosser, Matt Prior and Richard Bremner have each come up with a strip of asphalt that is fixed in their memories; place where they’ve had memorable drives often in unforgettable cars.
What car to take? Not a supercar. Cars such as McLaren’s 720S and Ferrari’s 488GTB are too fast, too stressful, too big and too unsubtle. My first choice was an Alpine A110, but that was out of the question because photographer Luc Lacey would like to take at least some of his kit. So we’re driving a Ford Fiesta ST – not because we’re trying to be particularly worthy or down to earth, but because it is a supremely good car that I know, from driving it on its launch in France, will be perfect. To prove the point that effort is required, my first task is to drive to Inverness airport to pick up Lacey from where we will proceed to Matt Prior’s road of choice: the A82 from Fort William through Glencoe.
The drive to Inverness went well thanks to a 4am start to avoid the worst of the traffic down south and in the Midlands. The only glitch was having, for time’s sake, to use the A9. With average speed cameras for most of its length from Perth to Inverness, it is possibly the most irritating stretch of road in the British Isles. I rarely use cruise control but it is essential on this road in order to keep the licence clean. With Lacey and kit on board we head west alongside Loch Ness and the Caledonian canal. It’s mid-afternoon on a week day yet there is hardly any traffic and the Fiesta ST has more than enough performance to overtake the slower cars we do come across. Here’s another great thing about driving in Scotland: people up here still know how to drive fast. Their skills have not been blunted by half a lifetime spent crawling around the M25.