MONDAY - I think there may be hope for my driving after all.
In recent years, I’ve become quietly desperate about the way the very quickest performance cars – McLaren 650S, Porsche GT3 and suchlike – impose such loads on your body as they corner, brake and accelerate near the limit that it’s all you can do to drive them precisely for more than a few minutes.
Some will dismiss this as heresy, but I’m telling you the truth when I say sustained on-limit driving, even in the finest road cars, is a job for athletes of the Le Mans persuasion – unless, of course, you opt for the half-out-of-control-on-an-airfield thing that so reliably sustained Top Gear all those years.
Funnily enough, it was driving the ‘continuation series’ Lightweight E-Type Jag, on its traditional-treaded Dunlop racing tyres, that restored some of my faith.
The generous limits of this car, high enough to be quick, low enough to be predictable, allow you to judge exactly how far the shapely rear will slide under power, to exit quick corners exactly on line. I suspect this is why historic racing has become so popular in recent times. I certainly want to experience this feeling again.
WEDNESDAY - What a privilege to spend time with Aston Martin chief Andy Palmer on a busy working day (you'll be able to read about that online soon). Don’t believe I’ve ever learned so much in so few hours.
Although flat out all day, Palmer even found time to explain, in his office via a whiteboard, some essential principles of marketing he reckoned I was missing.
Most reassuring were the Aston chief’s plans to make the 102-year-old firm sustainably profitable by expanding its sports model range enough to protect it against boom and bust, and to earn sufficient ‘free cash’ with all-new models to fund the all-important model range after next. Watching Aston’s next decade is going to be a pleasure.
THURSDAY - To Goodwood’s Moving Motor Show, to have my first go in Ford’s new Mustang on UK soil. Henry’s people were as helpful as ever, but they had only a convertible version with the 300bhp Ecoboost turbo four on hand, and my choice would have been a V8 coupé.
I’d become concerned about ’Stang ride quality during early testing in the US (the car literally bucked its way around Hollywood), so I was braced for rude shocks in two ways. But it was great. With my friend Mike driving, it felt supple, powerful and smooth. On the bumpy estate roads you use to return to the start of the famous hillclimb, the car coped really well. Now I’m lined up for a longer drive, full of hope.
As for the MMC, it was packed as I’ve never seen it packed before on a Thursday. If the looming London Motor Show next May – or the weekend’s Formula E grand prix in London’s Battersea Park – were any threat to Lord March’s famous fixture, it wasn’t evident. Everywhere you looked, there was the usual evidence that Goodwood’s organisers had thought things through a little better this year.
SATURDAY/SUNDAY - The Range Rover’s away on someone else’s holiday, the Ferrari’s been grabbed for Goodwood by AN Other and the Suzuki Celerio is a little small, so my transport for Goodwood’s big days is a Volkswagen Golf R, billed by many as the finest hot hatch, and one of the most versatile cars ever built.
I’m paying my dues and joining the fan club. It’s quite clear the car has been created out of perfect decisions about space, styling, driving position, materials, performance level and much more. Its only fault is its own effortlessness. Without a rival permanently on hand, you’re inclined not to realise quite how well it’s doing.