In this week's automotive adventures, Steve reflects on the return of car launches amid coronavirus, shares his experience as an informal youth driving instructor, sings the praises of the Tesla Model 3 and more.
Launch events for new cars have big changes coming, reports Mr Editor Tisshaw, first in our team to tackle a post-lockdown event, the UK debut of the Honda Jazz. No trip to Tenerife this time, just an open-air meeting on a Bracknell industrial estate where everyone sat at a separate picnic table and lunch was a posh service station sandwich. “We probably had more time in the car than if we’d gone somewhere exotic,” says Tisshaw. “We were on roads we knew in cars with the steering wheel on the right side. Twenty miles like that is worth 100 on unfamiliar roads.” By the sound of things, we’re about to see an end to old-style ‘launch tourism’, and a good thing, too.
Our deserted railway car park now has another purpose. I went over to shoot some phone pix of my Vauxhall Corsa and the place was stiff with WFH dads teaching their 13-year-olds to drive the family traffic-jammer. Some jobsworth is bound to point out that this isn’t allowed, but it seemed to me an ideal use for empty Tarmac. Contrary to the publicity, kids love taking the wheel (their reluctance later is down to the insurance industry) and it’s helpful at licence time if your 17-year-old already knows how a clutch, brake pedal and gearchange work. In my experience, kids of either gender can drive perfectly well from 12 or so, as soon as they can comfortably reach the clutch. My own were competent five or six years before they took a licence test, and all the better for it.
The long-awaited start of this oddball Formula 1 season makes me agree heartily with the suggestion – voiced recently in these pages by Martin Brundle – that this is the perfect season to try some radical race reorganisation, such as reversing starting grids in a second event at a given circuit, to make the racing closer. I’m pleasantly surprised to see Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also likes the idea and I’m convinced we couch potatoes would love it. High time for F1’s governors, worthy people who seem somewhere stuck in the mud, to show some boldness.
Talking of changing stuff, several friends, formerly unadventurous in their choice of cars, have taken the plunge and bought a Tesla. Seems there are lots like them across Europe, too: the American EVs are selling out of their skins as people flock, post-lockdown, to do something different. I can absolutely see the argument, especially since fast-rising Tesla numbers mean this is no longer an oddball choice. The trend looks like it will continue. As long as out-of-town recharging remains uncertain, the Model 3 will be a car with no serious EV rival for performance-versus-practicality.