We've got just three cars left - a shame, perhaps, because, as Cackett has just said, it feels pretty tragic to leave the Cayman GT4 behind, in any company.
And where we’re going – to the sometimes thin and bumpy, sometimes broader and flatter roads of the Yorkshire and Lancashire Dales – I suspect it would have performed rather well.
But in the end, it was the compelling nature of the Ariel Nomad (“terrific fun,” said Frankel), Porsche 911 GT3 RS (“utterly dominated on circuit,” said Saunders) and Ferrari 488 GTB (“a ruddy joy,” said Cackett) that got them through what would be a crucial cut.
These three were separated by the finest of margins at Snetterton: the Nomad and 488 GTB finished there with 10 points apiece, the GT3 RS a single point behind them. It was just too close an order for our consciences to bear without giving them some extra time, some extra miles. We really would need this two-day jaunt, away from it all, to separate them properly. We could take our experiences with us, but not the scores, and when we ran out of time, we’d agree on a winner. In other words, any of the three would be in with a shout.
They’re a compelling trio. They’re certainly not three you’d put alongside each other in a conventional group test, because they don’t do the same thing. They’d make a brilliant three-car fun garage on their own, if you were lucky enough.
The GT3 RS was a point behind but in Norfolk had been doing what GT3 RSs do best: kicking everything’s backside on a race track. “It utterly dominated [at Snetterton],” said Saunders. “It does everything so well on circuit and reminds you why 911s make such fabulous track cars.” Frankel agreed. “Get it right and it’s awesome,” he said, but all of us noted that the RS variant of the GT3 range perhaps wasn’t as forgiving as the regular GT3, which strolled off with this gong the last time we held this competition in East Anglia. “Amazing powertrain and old-school balance,” said Cackett. “Less forgiving than the non-RS, but mega.” Would that count against it on the road, rather than on track, in the Dales? It might.
The Nomad also had those who’d seen both sides to its character. “The way this car takes you from zero to hero in not very long at all makes it something truly brilliant,” said Saunders of the Somerset lightweight, whose dual-rate springs – softer at the top, firmer later on – had astonished us with its ability to ride Norfolk’s roads like its bumps simply weren’t there. We loved the space and time it gives you to set it up for corners, thanks to that smoothness – and also its “perfect pedals”.
Clearly, it wasn’t developed for smooth race tracks, but nonetheless, Saunders said it didn’t matter that it was “low on grip, a bit unstable under hard brakes (it’ll lock a rear first) and only moderately quick around a lap. You’re too involved to care”.
Frankel wasn’t too involved to care. “Hilarious on the throttle, but traction issues aren’t limited to slow corners,” he said. “A mid-engined car this light and soft should be like a missile from a rocket launcher out of the corners. Also too keen to lock the rear brakes on entry.” But even he noted that he “loved the steering, power delivery and whole attitude”.
And it’s the Nomad’s attitude, that joie de vivre, that would serve the Nomad best in the Dales, we suspected. Could I realistically sit and argue now that its suspension was as thoroughly developed for fast road and track use as a GT3 RS’s or 488 GTB’s? Not at all, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s good enough, because it has yet another purpose, and because the Nomad simply wants you to have fun. To quote not one of our testers but Jules from Pulp Fiction: “Personality goes a long way.” So it goes to the north with as strong a chance as anything.