Which was weird because everyone present, even the amiable boss of Noble, Pete Boutwood, who’d turned up in the M600 personally, expected the opposite to be the case.
But there were two key factors to consider. One, although Barrable is a star in the making, he didn’t have a clue which way the road went to begin with, whereas I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve punted cars through The Snake over the years. Two, after several practice runs the Fabia’s front tyres were well past their best. At one point, in fact, it left the road and went for an unplanned sojourn into the woods, so badly was it suffering from understeer.
And then someone suggested getting a stopwatch out and timing them individually, just to see. Which was when the Skoda rally team snapped into focus and Barrable’s competitive spirit burst into life. And the Fabia found itself wearing a brand new set of tyres that were harder in compound and a whole lot grippier than the first set.
With these duly fitted we agreed to do one sighting run and one solo timed run each. I went first and scared myself stupid at least twice trying to extract the maximum from the M600 – never an easy thing to achieve when there are trees just six feet from your first mistake and the tyres you are using are beginning to fade. My time was 33.2sec.
Surely that couldn’t be beaten, I thought, as my pulse rate came back below 200bpm. Wrong…
With its new tyres fitted and Barrable in full maniac mode, the Fabia looked like a completely different animal as I watched it turn into the first corner. And it flew – literally in places – through The Snake to a time of just 31.1sec.
I was mortified. So was dear old Pete from Noble, who thought for a moment that his car was about to pull off one of the more unexpected stunts of the year. But the works Skoda IRC team had been sandbagging all along, of course, and in the end, according to The Watch, it wasn’t even especially all that close.
Conclusion; road cars like the M600 may appear to be unbeatably quick in isolation, but competition cars will always be quicker. Sorry Pete, but I did try my best to prove otherwise. Have a look at (and try to enjoy!) the video if still you’re not convinced.