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.
I’ve worked out the best configuration for the GT3: shockers on soft, gearbox in sport, exhaust left quiet, all safety nets disengaged. On this road an old GT3 would be a handful: you’d need to be in the right gear and mindful of its desire to understeer. The new car is not like this: both physically and mentally it asks a lot less of its driver, though whether that comes at the price of providing less pleasure in return is one of the questions I’m here to answer. We rejoin the A470, head up to Dolgellau and then turn north again on the A494 to Lake Bala.
Turn left from Bala town itself on the A4212 and you will drive through the best corner in Britain. Not the fastest, or toughest, just the best – an endless, wide open left through which there’s time to load the GT3’s Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres to the limit and then ease on and off the throttle to see how it addresses the road. It adjusts its attitude as if your foot were literally pulling and pushing the nose toward and away from the apex. Clearly beside himself with admiration for my talent, Stu is staring at the stars and propounding a theory of the universe that can only be the product of a brain too long exposed to a diet of tuna and Quavers.
Soon my hidden agenda is revealed. Living in Wales as I do, I know that when it comes to heroically awful Christmas decorations, this country is in a league of one, which is why I have chosen to drive from its south to north coast under cover of night. In Blaenau our efforts are rewarded by a single dwelling whose illuminations are almost certainly visible from space, let from the A470.
I’d like to stay but time is pressing and Snowdonia is waiting. At Betws-y-coed we turn left to Capel Curig and left again onto the A4086 and over the magnificent Llanberis Pass. In most cars you tend to adopt higher gears as confidence builds, but not this one: because the engine is so mighty between 5000-7000rpm, you need to teach yourself to use all 9000rpm that this extraordinary motor provides. My only complaint is the choice of ratios. First and second are two low, with too long a gap to third. Fourth, fifth and sixth are too high, especially since 7th is geared low enough to ensure maximum speed occurs at peak power.