While I’m not an avid reader of the weekend newspaper motoring sections I do like to read what Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times and James May in the Saturday Telegraph have come up with. Both writers take an entertaining, sideways look at ‘motoring’ - not a word I’m keen on really. The opening three quarters of Clarkson’s column is usually about some off-at-a-tangent topic which he’ll then, almost as if by magic, manage to relate to the car he’s supposed to be reviewing. I say usually because I seem to recall him waffling on about cheese for the entire article once when he couldn’t think of a single worthwhile thing to say about a Vauxhall Vectra. Meanwhile May often whitters on about old Jaguars or his Porsche Boxter with the brown trim in his charming, affable young fogey style.
This week: Clarkson, in his roundabout fashion, reviews the Renault Clio Sport 197, a 2-litre hot hatch which supposedly includes air vents behind the front wheels and a ground effects inducing ‘diffuser under the rear bumper’ which are by products of their Formula One programme. Along the way we get treated to Clarkson’s views on Michael Schumacher (he’s a fan), Fernando Alonso (a fish nicker!), F1 and the dwindling appeal of the hot hatch. Cracking stuff.
James May on the other hand ruminates on torque. I remember Newton Metres and turning moments from school physics lessons but had never really fathomed what they were up to within cars. And now, thanks to James, I do. It’s just a shame he over did the Newton Metres with his two-foot long wrench.
“I’m not loaning it to Richard Hammond because he’ll ride it into a field and turn it upside down,” he said. “It’s the first bike you can ride without wearing muesli sandals and a beard. It’s Lance Armstrong and Frank Whittle in one.”
Oh, and his saddle is set far too low.
Despite their protestations to the contrary, I have a sneaking suspicion that certain nannying types are somewhat disappointed that Richard Hammond not only survived his 288mph jet-car crash but ultimately escaped with nothing more than a bout of depression. No brain injury, no lost limbs, no scars, no nothing really. Amazing.
Firstly, the author’s use of the phrase “penis extension” says more about her than it does about Hammond, his Top Gear colleagues or indeed anyone who’s ever had the temerity to enjoy accelerating or a well taken corner.
Secondly, apparently the fact that Hammond came away from his ordeal moderately unscathed is going to act as a green light to “impressionable” “boy racers” who are going to be mowing down innocent children outside primary school gates the length of the land any day now. (Apart from anything else, aren’t the majority of school children ferried the short walk to school in 4x4s with more armour than our servicemen in Afghanistan and Iraq get to dodge roadside bombs in.)
Watch out, there’s straw man lying in the road:
“Do you realise how annoyed I am that I’ve got no marks on me?” he [Hammond] jokes. “Absolutely nothing at all, nothing for the pub. There are people who fall off their trikes at the age of 4 who have better injuries than me.” Ho, ho.
I wonder how Elizabeth Davidson felt when she read that remark. Mrs Davidson’s daughter Margaret, a 26-year-old doctor, was killed instantly when Nolan Haworth, 19, slammed into her car at 70mph after driving like a joyrider and overtaking on the brow of a hill.
Wheras I wonder what one earth the connection is between Haworth’s actions and Richard Hammond. Yes, peer pressure and the influence of others can be powerful forces but ultimately the choice to act on them is the individual’s to make. “Only following orders” doesn’t cut it as an excuse. Haworth and only Haworth is responsible for his actions. As are we all for ours. I will choose free will.
But, of course, you become the po-faced party pooper if you suggest that, actually, Hammond should be hanging his head in shame for driving a car at nearly 300mph in the first place.
You are a po-faced party pooper.
Hammond wasn’t driving a jet car along the local by-pass for heaven’s sake. It was on a closed track on private land with safety checks having been done and with medical personnel on stand by. The crash was caused by a mechanical failure. One of the tyres burst. These things happen. An identical mishap felled a Concorde. Did that not have all possible safety proceedures carried out or do Air France like to kill its passengers, employees and unlucky people on the ground? Should Ayrton Senna, Donald Campbell, Andrei Kivilev and countless others be hanging their heads in shame for not staying in bed that day?
Imagine how much he has supercharged the fantasies of hundreds of teenage twockers by bragging that he walked away from the crash with little more than a chipped tooth and is now looking forward to regaling his mates with the story over a few pints. This is the ballsy stuff of Hotspur comic legend — but it is also irresponsible.
And that Douglas Bader was a terrible influence too.
What’s wrong with a bit of inspiring derring do? Not everybody is as content to cower neath the duvet as this article’s writer. Some need to push themselves to go faster, higher and further and good luck to them. To link their exploits to some reckless idiot who chose to put his foot down in the wrong place is a) unfair and b) disregards free will.
Finally, I have no idea what on earth a “twocker” is supposed to be.
I’ve got to do a piece to camera
Richard Hammond after his 300mph crash.