Now every week, the 'American' puts a car through its paces around the Ebola drome. He's no Stig, but he can drive. Personally, I'd like to see a winner-takes-all showdown between the American and Ben Collins with the winner staying on as the Grand Tour's official driver.... But I digress...

The thing is, how fast a professional racing driver can get a car around the Ebola drome doesn't necessarily tell you much about how fast YOU could get a car around the Ebola Drome.

For the last two years I've been pottering around in a 3.0 V6 AWD Jaguar X-Type. Not the fastest car in the world, but actually pretty quick. It handled and gripped well. You never really had to 'think' to drive it. You just turned the wheel, then slapped your foot down and it went where you'd pointed it.

Having just jumped into a 15 reg Ford Focus ST3, everything has changed. Turning the wheel and slapping my foot down now results in the car trying to torque-steer into the kerb while the wheels spin madly, shaving off a few mm of tread for every brief acceleration attempt. In short, it needs some thought and care to get the best out of it. I suspect with practice I could induce lift-off oversteer with the Focus, the ST3 rewards 'thinking' and 'driving'. It doesn't do everything for you.

It reminds me a bit of when I got my MX5. Not used to light-weight RWD cars, when I bought it, I ended up power sliding off every roundabout and around most corners. You had to 'drive' the MX5, the same way you have to drive the Focus ST3.

Now I've never driven my X-Type 3.0 V6 around the Nurburgring. However, I would venture that I could probably have gotten it around in under 10 minutes in the right weather and traffic conditions, without too much fuss. In the Focus ST3, I think I'd need more practice. When you see anonymous racing drivers on other shows or 'The American' on The Grand Tour driving cars at pace around a track - because they're so experienced, you can't actually tell the EASE at which the cars lap the Ebola Drome (Or other standard race track) They know how to handle these cars, how get the best out of them and are able to compensate for the cars shortcomings. They are able to get tricky to drive, fire-breathing monsters around the track(s) quickly without ploughing in a tree/parked aircraft/presenter/Sub-station/Old Lady's House.

If you take something like a Mitsubishi EVO {Whatever number they're up to now} and a similar weight to power ratio Caterham on a wet track, the Caterham probably CAN be faster in the right hands, but the EVO with all the electrickery turned on probably WILL be faster in MOST people's hands. Some cars do a LOT of the work for you. Some need less skill to drive fast.

I actually like the fact that you have drive the ST3 a bit more than the X-Type, it's more involving, more engaging. But what if you want a car that you CAN just turn the wheel and slap your foot down?

What I'd like to see (ideally after the Collins vs American 'Winner Takes All' showdown) is for the lap times to be scrapped and replaced with a new 'Slow vs Pro' laptimes board. Every car would be timed in the hands of the current Grand Tour Pro Racing Driver and then timed again in the hands of a non-professional driver who WOULDN'T know how to get the best out of the cars.

Then we could look at the DIFFERENCE between the 'Slow' and the 'Pro' times and understand how EASY a car is to drive fast.

I'd even volunteer for the role myself. My racing experience is strictly limited to go-karts and one occasion when I took my MX5 on a track day at Donnington Park GP circuit. (

I do play a bit of Forza motorsport on the console, but watching digitally rendered supercars zip around a track without feeling the actual forces on your body, knowing that you can crash them for free without risk of injury or death... It's different.

And yes! This IS a serious pitch! I DO think the difference would be interesting! It is definitely NOT, just a cynical, sly attempt to get myself behind the wheel of some seriously tasty cars! ;)

Martyn Stanley

[ICT] Irreverant Car Talk


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Comments (13)

  • I love the new celebrity head to head! I wish once a season they would invite two fans from around the world to do the competition. It would get everyone hyped and drive tribe would get a lot more populated! If this becomes a thing, count me in!

      3 years ago
    • Welcome to drivetribe Mircea! Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything I can help with! Cheers.

        3 years ago
    • Checking in Martyn! How are you?

        3 years ago
  • I like the ebola track.

      4 years ago
    • Yeah it looks a decent track doesn't it? Bit hairy though, quite tight in places and not much run-off. The surface looks a bit sub-perfect too! I'd love to have a rag around it mind!

        4 years ago
  • I reckon getting one of the hosts to do it would work, they've probably been around it enough to drive fairly consistently. They are talented drivers due to their experience but not so good that the average driver couldn't aim to match them.

      4 years ago
    • Maybe. I think Hammond is actually the best driver of the three with May and Clarkson being 'different'. Carkson is braver I think.

        4 years ago
  • The problem is that whoever did the slow laps would inevitably become faster with experience, so it wouldn't be consistent. It'd just be how someone who couldn't drive around a circuit learned how too. I hate the American though and not in an entertaining way, worst part of the show for me.

      4 years ago
    • I don't know, I think you're right, but I don't think practice without tuition would be THAT problematic. I suppose it depends on how long the series ran for.

        4 years ago
  • Slow could be James May

      4 years ago