'We were doing 215mph' – The time I met the fastest commuter in the world
A McLaren F1 was his daily
Colin Goodwin has been a motoring journalist for over 30 years, starting out at Car Magazine where he used to have lunch most days with a bloke called James May. He has written in most of the UK’s magazines and newspapers. He likes anything with a spark plug and isn’t keen on electric cars – and don’t even mention ones that drive themselves.
It was lunchtime and we were doing 215mph.
The photographer, sitting to my right, and I exchanged concerned glances. Was the driver, sat to our respective elbows, up to the task of driving a car at aircraft speeds on a not deserted autobahn? Probably yes.
I could see Thomas Bscher’s eyes looking piercingly down the road, his throttle foot poised to cross over to the brake pedal in micro seconds in case a car ahead started to stray into our lane. Not unlike when Bscher drove the racing version of this McLaren F1 at Le Mans.
F1 designer Peter Stevens had told me that McLaren had had a car in for a regular service and when they downloaded data from its ECU discovered that nearly every time that the car had been used it had clocked over 200mph. It turned that Bscher – as well as being a successful privateer racing driver – was a banker who regularly had to commute from his home in Cologne to the stock exchange in Frankfurt. For this journey he used his F1 a) because he could and b) because he discovered that it took 20 minutes off his commuting time.
The car of choice for the world's fastest commuter
He was the world’s fastest commuter. I had to meet the guy.
And that’s how I came to be sat in a McLaren at such a frightening speed. It was, and still is, the fastest I’ve ever been on a public road. I have done a smidge over 200mph in a Lamborghini Diablo but there could have been a bit of Italian speedometer error in there. Felt bloody fast though.
But not as fast as 215mph. A spec in the distance very soon became a truck. Wisely, Bscher lifted off and braked so that we were only doing 175mph or so when we passed it. It didn’t take long to accelerate back up to the double ton.
There’s a misconception among those who have not spent much time on German autobahns that all traffic is thrashing along at 150mph. Occasionally you will spot an Audi RS6 or other high performance saloon hammering along at that pace but more often you’re in heavy traffic. There is a a stretch of autobahn in the north that is a road to nowhere (for some reason the road wasn’t completed) and that is almost always quiet. But autobahns connecting the big cities get very busy.
That day in 1996 was the last time was in an F1. I’d been in them before, when the car was launched in 1994, but no experience compared to that high-speed commute. The noise an the incredible sensation of speed. Thomas Bscher went on to head up Bugatti. Presumably he was able to knock even more time off the run to work in a Veyron – probably with a higher level of safety.
Here is Bscher speaking at the launch of the Veyron at the Los Angeles Motor Show:
If you've always wanted your very own McLaren but don't quite have the bank balance of someone like Thomas Bscher, why not treat yourself instead to a Lego 720S?