I have to be honest. I’ve never really followed motorsport. The only time I did take a moderate interest was when I was 13. The kid I sat next to in most lessons at school was an F1 obsessive and wanted me to take an interest by following a driver.
So I choose some bloke called Alan Jones because his car was sponsored by Leyland Trucks, which was the local big employer and only a mile or so down the road. He won the 1980 F1 championship and I quit following the sport while I was ahead.
I have a problem with circuit racing. All that massive talent and extraordinary engineering poured into going round in circles, tackling the same corners year after year.
I can quite see the glamour and the huge sense of occasion that follows the F1 soap opera, but I fail to see the point of doing the same thing over and over again.
I do, though, have great admiration for rallying. The cars are – often – closer to reality and the demands on the drivers surely far more random than they are in F1.
When I was a student, I took myself off to the old Patrick Collection in Birmingham which had the most amazing collection of Group B rally cars and their road-going sister models. If you’ve never seen the Citroen BX Group B road car, you’ve missed out.
The Lancia 037, Delta, Stratos and Audi Quattro are, to me, far more evocative and much closer to driving reality. Having the fortune to run a 1997 Subaru Impreza turbo for a year convinced me of that.
So I suppose I should also admit that I’ve never been to Le Mans. I don’t doubt the atmosphere and the spectacle, but I just could never summon up the excitement and engagement. Of course, when I see a contemporary Le Mans car in pieces – as I did when visiting Audi a couple of years ago – I’m riveted.
So, in a demonstration of galactic unfairness, it was me who was deployed by Autocar to take advantage of the otherwise empty passenger seat in the new Jaguar F-type Project 7, which made its dynamic debut at last weekend’s Le Mans Classic event.
Having taken nearly four hours to fight our way from Paris to Le Mans on the same Friday that the French schools broke up, I got to the entrance of the circuit to be handed a pit pass. We were then driven as close to the pits as possible before jumping into the waiting Project 7.
The single, sub eight-minute lap, was also Jaguar’s chance to shoot the Project 7 alongside the iconic D-Type that inspired it. It was quite surreal experience to be in the famous pit lane, especially surrounded by lovely old cars.
I also managed to make a run-and-gun video of the lap, which I hope gives race fans a taste of the reality. And after we pulled into the pits, I had to jump out the car and head for Charles de Gaul airport.
I have to admit, being driven around a race circuit in a cool car is a million times more riveting than watching other people do it. And I do know how ridiculously lucky I was to be there. Even if it was for just a few minutes.