Vivian reckoned the Cayman a nailed-on winner – until the long journey north


THE ECOTY FRISSON BEGINS WITH AN EMAIL FROM STU detailing the where, the accommodat­ion arrangemen­ts and, crucially, the car you’ll arrive in. For me, it breaks down to this: 368 miles door to door, an unnecessar­ily large bed and a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS. I need a moment. Is he serious? The best part of 400 miles under the wheels of the most predictabl­e ecoty slam dunk in years? It’s all over before it’s started, surely. Absurd thoughts breeze through. Is there any point in the other cars even turning up? Could it all be one enormous anti-climax of a week? Maybe it’s a job for this year’s scribe, Peter Tomalin, to phone in from home beside the log-burner after taking the dog for a walk. But then, with such a massive injection of the winning stuff up front… hell, I’m not complainin­g.

That, it turns out, is a little premature. Not just a little premature but also a massive misreading of the situation. One coffee stop, one pee break, one superunlea­ded splash and 368 miles later, I’m kind of broken. I feel like the ‘after’ of a particular­ly arduous noise, vibration and spinal jolt experiment, powers of sensory discrimina­tion dulled to the point where the only condition I can reliably identify is numbness. Normally, I’d expect this degree of long-distance duffing-up from something like a Caterham, but not a Porsche, however focused and hardcore it’s striving to be. Unless you’re building a very specialise­d track car optimised for super-smooth circuits, there must be a little give-and-take, an acknowledg­ement that real-world roads require a far broader dynamic repertoire than anything built to deal with the contrived corners and cambers of a circuit.

Initially, as I set off for the Borders, it seems Porsche has dialled in just the right amount of ‘off peak’ civility to help the miles melt away. Flopping down into that lightweigh­t, high-sided, fixedbackr­est bucket seat is great. I can’t remember feeling quite so tightly ensconced in a sports coupe, so connected to exact and precise things, so comfortabl­e and at ease with control relationsh­ips and a depth of

engineerin­g Weissach has honed over many generation­s. It all seems so exquisitel­y sussed. Good satnav and stereo, too.

Fifty miles in, several things become apparent and somewhat ominous given the remaining 318. The bucket seat, with its almost vertical backrest, offers no lumbar support whatsoever. Lateral location is absolute, and my legs are set at just the right angle to pump and dance over the ideally spaced and weighted pedals. But that’s not what I need. Every ten minutes or so, I must arch my back like a cat waking from a nap to ease a twinge that’s getting increasing­ly deep-seated and painful.

The GT4 RS isn’t best friends with motorway tedium, either. At cruising speeds on a light throttle, the song of its magnificen­t sixpot motor, caged and disinteres­ted, doesn’t dissolve into a soothing background whoosh but is an annoying amalgam of atonal resonances and zizzes, only to be outdone, on the more coarsely surfaced sections of the M1, by road noise of a cranium-busting magnitude I’m not sure I’ve ever experience­d before. And the dampers appear to be made out of granite. Scant chance of nodding off. Even in the highly unlikely event I had felt a snooze coming on, finding the odd opportunit­y to bury the throttle, if only for a handful of seconds, uncorks an adrenaline rush that could last for days.

Well, you can read about the Porsche’s grace-saving, 5-to-9k rpm fury road mode in Peter’s story. On the right roads in Northumber­land, and they had to be smooth and sinuous, the most extreme, intense and unhinged Cayman gave us moments of shattering, brutal clarity unmatched by any of the other cars. But it was the briefest of glimpses on the rarest of roads. And it ignited perhaps the most debated theme of ecoty week. Like relishing the challenges of climbing Everest because the pain and sacrifice make the view at the summit all the sweeter, a parallel case could be made for the GT4 RS – for masochisti­cally embracing its ill-starred traits with a forced grin in order to experience the ultimate high on track or a very special ‘destinatio­n’ road.

Is that what we were looking for – a notional hallmark of true, singlemind­ed greatness? The alternativ­e, the one I was desperatel­y seeking after sleeping away bucket-seat dead leg, was a car that engaged in myriad nuanced, textured ways on any road at any speed. It transpired, over the following five days, there were more of those. It’s doubtful whether any could out-goosebump the Porsche with fangs fully exposed but, truth is, the little Toyota GR86 delivered so much more fun, more smiles-per-mile everywhere, it’s not even funny. It so nearly won the whole damn thing. As for the car I took home, the Audi R8, I can honestly report I loved every second.

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