Meaden, Porter and Kravitz

‘Too fast for the road’ has long been a badge of hon­our among su­per­cars, but it’s now a con­di­tion that af­flicts most per­for­mance cars. Meaden pro­poses a fix

Evo - - CONTENTS -

WHAT’S THE FU­TURE OF DRIV­ING? I DON’T mean ev­ery­day mo­tor­ing. I mean driv­ing. For plea­sure, in high-per­for­mance cars de­signed to go fast and de­liver a thrill. From where I’m sit­ting – fre­quently be­hind the wheel of one of the afore­men­tioned high­per­for­mance cars – I’m forced to con­clude the con­ven­tional view seems pretty bleak.

For as long as there have been cars, engi­neers have been mak­ing them go faster, but in re­cent years the quick stuff has gone bal­lis­tic. Which is great, un­til you ac­tu­ally drive one of them on roads that are in­creas­ingly choked by traf­fic, with speed lim­its en­forced by av­er­age-speed cam­eras and vans lurk­ing on bridges and in lay-bys. Add the sur­rep­ti­tious scourge of dash-cams and a wider shift to­wards anti-car sen­ti­ments and the life of a car en­thu­si­ast doesn’t feel like much fun.

Of course, reck­less­ness has never had any place on pub­lic roads, but I’ll ar­gue un­til I’m blue in the face that speed and reck­less­ness are not one and the same. Un­for­tu­nately for us, whichever way you slice it, the one unar­guable truth is you can’t jus­tify trav­el­ling at the speeds most of to­day’s per­for­mance cars will read­ily de­liver.

Wring out a Golf R on a coun­try road and you could very eas­ily be do­ing 100mph. Put your­self in a 720S and you could add an­other 50mph to that. More, maybe. Now imag­ine how that would sound when read out in court, or worse, writ­ten in a news­pa­per. Then try to imag­ine what you would say in your de­fence that doesn’t make you sound delu­sional or un­be­liev­ably ar­ro­gant. Even if you are ‘a skilled driver’ or were ‘trav­el­ling well within the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the car’ on a ‘ well-sighted, near-de­serted road’, there’s no de­fence.

Why am I writ­ing this in a mag like evo? Be­cause I am very close to the point where I think I’m done with fast road cars. Not be­cause I don’t get ex­cited by them, or be­cause I’ve stopped want­ing to drive them fast. I’m tired of know­ing that if I so much as scratch the sur­face of the car’s po­ten­tial, I’m risk­ing my li­cence, liveli­hood and pos­si­bly my lib­erty. If you can’t en­joy the cars, or fear the con­se­quences of be­ing caught if you do, what’s the point of it all?

I used to think track­days of­fered a solution, but now I’m not so sure. The Nür­bur­gring In­dus­try Pool has long been the most ex­clu­sive track­day club of all. And with good rea­son, for the Nord­schleife is an ex­cep­tional place to bat­tle-har­den a car’s dura­bil­ity. The up­side of this is the vast ma­jor­ity of fast road cars now make very ca­pa­ble track­day tools. The down­side is it pushes the lim­its of the cars fur­ther be­yond what’s use­able on the road.

So how’s this for a vi­sion of our driv­ing fu­tures: in­stead of de­vel­op­ing road cars that fewer and fewer of us dare to en­joy, why don’t the man­u­fac­tur­ers de­velop state-of-the-art sim­u­la­tions? F1 teams can cre­ate com­plete cars us­ing CFD and CAD soft­ware, and their sims are so ac­cu­rate that they can ar­rive at any cir­cuit know­ing pretty much ex­actly what lap time they will achieve. Imag­ine if car man­u­fac­tur­ers did the same, purely for our en­joy­ment? If they pooled their re­sources to co-fund ac­cu­rate ren­der­ings of the world’s best driv­ing roads, we could all go for a drive in what­ever we want, wher­ever we want, when­ever we want. Cru­cially, we could also drive as fast as we want, free from risk and post-drive para­noia. With es­ports gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity, the sim­u­la­tor hard­ware will con­tinue to de­velop in leaps and bounds, so in the next few years there’s the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing home vir­tual-re­al­ity set­ups that of­fer an im­mer­sive and un­can­nily re­al­is­tic driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Not cheaply, at least for a while, but given that hav­ing a fast car tucked in your garage isn’t ex­actly for noth­ing, that is un­likely to de­ter peo­ple like us.

Imag­ine sim sys­tems built and sold by to­day’s high-per­for­mance car mar­ques – en­gi­neered in part­ner­ship with world lead­ers in sim­u­la­tor tech­nol­ogy and cre­ated with the same ef­fort, in­tel­li­gence and at­ten­tion to de­tail they lav­ish on their high-end cars. The ex­pe­ri­ence would be truly next-level. One that mim­ics an epic jour­ney to lose your­self in, rather than a quick game or race. All of a sud­den you have Gran Turismo for grown-ups; Grand Theft

Auto with­out the gra­tu­itous mur­der and may­hem. Ask me if it’s likely to be as good as the re­al­ity of driv­ing flatout up the Col de Vence in an Enzo and I’ll tell you no, but that’s only be­cause my ridicu­lous job means I’ve been for­tu­nate to have ex­pe­ri­enced just that. Nev­er­the­less, ask me if I can see my­self rev­el­ling in the chance to drive a per­fectly ren­dered Col de Vence (or bet­ter still, a great road I’ve never driven) in an equally ac­cu­rate vir­tual Fer­rari (or any other car) – and all from the com­fort of my garage, sorry, ‘sim room’ – my an­swer is 100 per cent yes.

‘ I’m close to the point where I think I’m done with fast road cars’

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