We all like driving, otherwise your eyes and my words would not be meeting on this page now.
But how often do you go for a drive? The difference between driving and going for a drive is profound. Given our common passion you have thought we’d all be out there, driving for the sake of driving. But that’s not what happens: every drive is compromised, usually by the destination. The hard facts are that you are here and it is there. These are immovable parameters within which you must work.
What if you woke up one morning and just drove and not just for a few hours but a couple of days? What if driving became not the means, but the end? Where would you go?I thought I knew. We needed a car and as the Porsche 911 GT3 is our current Britain’s Best Driver’s Car champion, that choice was not difficult.
But we also needed a route. This was the delicious bit. To keep it relevant, the only limit to this plan would be the shores of Great Britain. Upon that canvas I could doodle any damn journey I chose, taking in the roads of England, Wales and Scotland over which I’d most enjoyed driving cars during 25 years in this job.
As most journeys tend to, this one started at home. I live in the Wye Valley where if you drive west from London is where the good roads start. Parked outside my shed with my old Peugeot, older Land Rover and ancient Fiat peering down upon it, I fondly imagined startled gasps of French, English and Italian as my blue collar accumulation of antediluvian wreckage beheld the young German nobleman in their midst.
Wingman would be Autocar staff photographer Stuart Price, picked not just for his talent with a camera, but his tolerance of the kind of driving I have in mind. He’s done 200 miles just to get here, so now it’s already lunchtime on day one, and our journey has yet to commence. On the plus side, Stu is lovingly constructing a tuna and Quavers sandwich: if he can stomach that, he has nothing to fear from my driving.
Where to go? I thought about the west country, but few memorable drives have come on those roads, fewer still since a blanket speed limit was draped over Dartmoor. So we go west to objective one at Black Mountain, probably the single most challenging road in Wales.
I’d not say the road from Brynamman to Llangadog is perfectly for the GT3 – its narrowness makes it a more Caterham-friendly facility, but the Porsche still flings itself at the mountain with monumental conviction. There’s no time to relax here: huge boulders line the road that can – and have – ripped entire suspension assemblies off cars conducted by drivers greedy for more than their fair share of apex.
But armed with a precision instrument and taking care only to drive what you can see, it presents an inspiring challenge. Of all the roads for which we are heading, this presents the toughest intellectual challenge. You might not whoop with joy at its conclusion, but that quiet glow is no less satisfying for that.
We fill for the first time in Llandovery and at just 3.30pm, the light is already failing. Photo shoots usually stop around now at this time of year, but this is not a shoot: it’s a drive during which we’re taking some shots to prove we did it. Besides I love driving in the dark: roads you think you know well become strange and new as your journey through the night takes on an altogether more intrepid quality.
So we hammer north, up the wonderful A483 to Beulah and then the B4358 to Newbridge-on-Wye. The A470 from there to Rhayader is fast, but the B4518 from there to Llanidoes and on to Llanbynmair is simply epic. Narrow, quick, full of crests and cambers its surfaces are made variable by the ingredients of both its tarmac and stomach contents of the livestock that frequently passes this way.