I currently find myself spending far too much time at the helm of Kelly’s new 1.2l Fiat Panda. It’s 8 years old, has an asthmatic little naturally aspirated heart paired with a sluggish automatic gearbox.
As a result, it's not particularly fast – I mean it’s really quite slow. So naturally, this means boredom ultimately sets in. That coupled with the mandatory school runs, drop offs and collections that mire adulthood means I'm often in a hurry too, but these are mere semantics.
See, just near my house, along an otherwise mundane slice of suburbia resides a section of tarmac that would inspire Herman Tilke himself. A sort of rising left-hand corkscrew, two lanes deep with gracious Armco railing along its brim.
I know it as intimately as you can imagine, every pockmark and the granularity of its surface from the nape of its apex to its cambered bowl. So, I have no qualms rushing a puny Postman Pat-like hatchling through it at maximum pace kissing the outside curb at maximum attack, scything through the exit with a perfect line, to the din of a little Panda engine.
I imagine this looks terrifying and impressive all at once from the outside, and that's only scratching the surface of what I like to call the Shame Game.
It comes down to luck. Or rather, the point where preparation and opportunity collide with each other, where the latter largely depends on timing.
Let me give you an example. Let's say you're the spiky haired pilot of a somewhat breathed upon VW Golf GTI. Your idea of motor sport involves shifting into S (for Sport) at the traffic light, then flapping the clutch paddles of your semi auto and flattening your right paw until the naturally aspirated Honda Civic beside you has been forcibly relocated to your rear-view mirror. You are by all means a driving god, right? You're probably the same chap who highway cruises at 180kph but when the road gets squiggly your left paw starts dithering on the brake pedal.
Imagine this same individual blasting down the tarmac that leads to my personal Laguna Seca styled corkscrew, slamming on the anchors then coasting nervously around the turn, just waiting for the road to unfurl itself before planting his foot again.
Now picture me neatly going from apex to clipping point and outward in one neat arc relegating him to my rear-view mirror in the process. I imagine that's a race tale that will never get told on his local internet forum, but chances are he'll go silent next time something indiscernible pulls up alongside him.
If you've gotten the impression that I fancy myself a hotshot behind the wheel, you couldn't be further from the truth. In reality all cars are inherently capable of impressing under the right circumstances and if you have a basic understanding of how to take a corner, then transforming anything from a humble hatchback to a panelvan, into something capable of humiliating faster metal can be easy.
In fact, it can be a beautiful thing.