This week has seen Cropley bump into an 80's F1 car in an unlikely place, gives up his Christmas test car and says hello to an electrified version of an old friend...
How many times have you been inspired by a hole in the ground? Not often for me, so I was unprepared for the uplifting experience of a trip to Catesby Tunnel, a few miles south of Daventry on the A361, where a 2.7km-long, formerly double-tracked Victorian railway tunnel has been repurposed and expensively calibrated for vehicle aerodynamics testing.
As soon as you clap eyes on this place, its potential hits you over the head. Here is a secure, private location, temperature-controlled, perfectly flat and straight and with a modern Tarmac surface, where you can drive a car at speeds of up to 200mph in repeatable conditions. There will never be a breath of crosswind and your results will be entirely devoid of the usual corrections and drawbacks of tethered models in wind tunnels.
Small wonder so many famous engineering faces showed up for its opening – which was performed by a couple of Britain’s motorsport heroes, Mike Costin (co-founder of Cosworth) and Peter Wright (who discovered and perfected aerodynamic ground effect in F1 for Lotus).
For good measure, the organisers ran a Lotus 88 ‘twin-chassis’ F1 car through the tunnel, a satisfactory if ear-splitting event. My head filled instantly with the potential for road car testing: exactly how much better or worse, aerodynamically speaking, is a Porsche than a McLaren? Or, more importantly, a Volkswagen ID 3 than a Tesla Model 3? With Catesby Tunnel’s boffins, we hope to find out.