Was sitting in the office, nattering to editor Hallett the other day about various things concerning Autocar when, right out of the blue, he hit me with the worst news of the decade. And to begin with, I wasn’t quite sure how to react.
“Did you hear about Chobham?” he asked. “It’s closing. On December 31 that’s it, finito. Finally they got planning permission. Which means the whole shebang will soon become a housing estate.”
All I could do was sit there, with my bottom jaw dangling in the air, lungs and vocal chords not able to muster more than a quiet “eh?” And then it really hit me. And all the memories began flooding through my mind. And then, I kid you not, my eyes became a fraction more moist than they had been 30 seconds earlier.Chobham was the test track where we used to take anything and everything that was fun to drive; it was the location where all of the above photos were taken. And when it rained there was often a sprint out into the office car park – towards the nearest rear-wheel-drive car. Which would subsequently be driven down the M3, round the M25 one junction and towards The Great Steering Pad in the West, known somewhat enigmatically as the Chobham circle.
All those pictures you’ve seen in Autocar over the years – of M3s, Holdens, 911s, Lambos, Elises, you name it – they would never have happened if the road testers hadn’t cut their teeth on the Chobham circle.
And then, of course, there were the times when things went wrong. When I stuffed a Golf GTi so far into the undergrowth a search party had to be sent out just to locate the car. Or when we jumped a Cayenne so high it went clean over the guard rail and into the woods beyond. Or when Goodwin (it was always Goodwin who had the biggest spills at Chobham) nearly killed himself – and a poor photographer – in a monumentally out-of-control Peugeot 306 Rallye.
And that’s to say nothing of the tens of thousands of tyres that have been shredded on the Chobham corner. Or the AC Ace, in which an ex-staffer lost control then drove straight over an extremely expensive camera bag, shortly before driving straight into a tree.
Chobham was a home from home for us at Autocar, and life will never be the same without it as a result.