After we have a solitary car accident, we are always asked to explain how the crash happened and we usually make a stab at making the whole thing sound heroic and beyond our control.
Once, on a press launch, a chap from Car Magazine stuffed an Audi 200 Turbo quattro Avant into a sturdy bit of Austria and was busy explaining to anyone who’d listen what had happened….
“I came out of the corner back there and felt the back go a bit so I balanced the throttle and fed in a dab of opposite lock but you know how it is with four wheel drive cars so I ended up with a some understeer. I eased off the throttle which sent the tail swinging the other way. I held that for quite a while but eventually I just ran out of road.”
It all seemed very plausible until you looked back at his tyre marks which were still as plain as day on the wet road. They told us he’d come round the bend, jammed on his brakes and crashed having done nothing with the wheel whatsoever.
My first crash was a mystery. I had passed my driving test just 36 hours earlier so I knew I was brilliant at driving. I’d had one pint of beer, not half a kilo of cocaine, and while it was a bit misty and damp, you wouldn’t exactly call the conditions treacherous.
And yet. One minute I was going along and the next, the wheels had come off my Mum’s Audi and there was a dead sheep on the bonnet. How did it happen? No idea.
Many years later, I was a guest of Daihatsu at their test track in Japan. They gave me a Charade GTti and I set off for a lap that ended in a ditch with a car cut completely in half.
What went wrong? No idea. All I can remember was the man from the company responding to my apology by saying “Don’t worry. We make one of those cars every 23 seconds”.
Then there was the Porsche 928 in Wales. Lovely day. Lovely drive. Crunch.
Afterwards, the insurance company sent me a form asking me to explain how I’d buried a £70,000 car in a crash barrier. Naturally, I made up some crap about understeer and oversteer and how I was swerving to avoid some disabled children…..
But only because there was no box on the form marked “I haven’t got an effing clue”.
The only accident I could explain was when I was grass track racing in my Scirocco in the middle of the night after a big party. And the reason I hit a tree was “a champagne bottle got stuck under the brake pedal”.
I never told the insurers that.