It’s hard to open a car magazine these days and not see a car on full opposite lock, smoke pouring from its rear tyres. It looks dramatic, but if you have the right equipment and venue, it’s really not very hard to do. But it is every bit as much fun as it looks. In equipment terms, you need something with rear-wheel drive (four is possible, but generally harder) and, if you want to drift rather than just do a momentary skid, a limited-slip differential is pretty key. As for a surface, loose is best, wet is good and private is essential. There are race schools all over the country where you can polish your technique to perfection.
3. …Then try it in a Nissan Leaf
Two things to do here: watch drifting and go drifting. But if you’re going to do it officially, you might not want to try it quite like we did. The car you see here is a Nissan Leaf. Yes, it’s electrically powered and front-wheel drive, neither of which you typically associate with a drift car. But thanks to a product called Easy Drift — large plastic rings that you slide over the deflated rear tyres of a car (front or rear drive) and then blow ’em back up again to keep it in place — the Leaf will go sideways whenever you want. Or, quite often, when you don’t want. Basically, it’ll go sideways everywhere. It’s like having tea trays beneath the back wheels but they don’t fall off. Because the Leaf is front driven, though, what it takes to coax it out of a slide is preciously delicate steering inputs and/or a bit of power. Adding more power is fine, but there’s so little grip at the back that you’ll then find yourself at the wheel of a fast-travelling Leaf with only two gripping wheels. Amusing… in the right place. The right place for us was Angelsey at the final round of the British Drift Championship. Lots of Nissans were there, none of them Leafs. But as entertaining motorsport goes, it’s worth a watch. It’s loud, smokey and seriously impressive.
4. Buy a Volkswagen
We’re quite serious. Last year VW spent more on R&D than any other company on earth. This means today’s Volkswagens are among the best-engineered cars yet produced. But some credible authorities put the emissions scandal bill as high as €40 billion. After paying that, will VW maintain that level of spending? Its family cars may never be this well engineered again.
5. Pray your team makes it to the finals of Euro 2016
Then while everyone else is watching people kick a piece of leather around a large lawn in Paris, you can be out enjoying your motor on the quietest roads you’ll ever find in daylight hours.
6. Spectate at Wales Rally GB
If you think it looks good on telly, you’ll be staggered by the reality, where the talent, confidence and sheer courage required to drive along tree-lined forest paths at triple-digit speeds is laid bare for you to see. And however incredible the driving, just remember it’s the co-driver, sitting there calmly reading out instructions to a maniac in a Peltor helmet, who’s the real hero.
7. Take a horse riding lesson
Want to appreciate how good cars are today? There’s no better way.
8. Have a free 30-day trial on Amazon Prime
And make sure it coincides with Clarkson, May and Hammond’s new show, which starts in the autumn. The prospect of the three amigos returning with a Hollywood blockbuster budget should be irresistible. Then you can judge if Top Gear’s success was all down to them, as they say, or the Top Gear brand is too strong to be overshadowed by any presenter, as the BBC says.
9. Get a story published
Every writer knows that feeling when they first see their name in print. It seems incredible that your opinion should be of such value that someone is actually prepared to pay you money for it, as is the fact that many people, possibly tens of thousands of them, will choose to spend a few minutes finding out what you have to say. It is as good for the ego as it is rubbish for the bank balance. How do you get published? One way is to become a proper journalist, and Coventry University offers a one-year MA in automotive journalism. But what if you just want to see your words somewhere and get them framed and hung on the wall of the downstairs loo? If you’re happy not to be paid, it’s easy, but it’s also cheating. These days anyone can publish their views on anything for free. It’s called Twitter. In essence, you need two things: an idea and an outlet. As far as the outlet is concerned, manage your expectations. Unless you have a story they have no chance of getting from their known contributors, you’re going to struggle with frontline magazines and major national newspapers. But smaller magazines, local papers and websites might be far more amenable to paying a few quid for a decent story. And don’t be downhearted if you don’t have access to some incredible car to review. If you’re brave and collar the right person at the right event, you could, in five minutes, have an interview that any editor might pay to publish. Then you need to pitch your story. Write it first, because if it’s hard to get unsolicited stories published, it’s a doddle compared with unsolicited ideas. Keep it short and remember: if you haven’t gotten your editor’s attention in the first paragraph, he or she will never read the rest. Then send it in and be prepared for rejection. If the response is poor to non-existent, try another outlet. And never, ever do it for free, or the ‘honour’ of having your name next to it. If it’s good enough to be published, it’s good enough to be paid for. As Dr Johnson was once moved to say: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
10. Read a great motor racing biography
Some of the best books we’ve read come from this category. Among the finest are Archie and the Listers by Robert Edwards (about Archie Scott Brown), Speed with Style by Leon Mandel and Peter Revson (about Peter Revson), The Unfair Advantage by Mark Donohue, and Full Throttle by Tim Birkin, the last named worth it for its dedication “to all schoolboys alone”. And if you’re looking for a Christmas present from this year’s crop, Where the Writer Meets the Road by American racer, journalist and broadcaster Sam Posey is as good as they get.
Come back tomorrow to find out what we have lined up for 11-20...