The cool way to outrun a Lotus Carlton

NOT long ago – well, before the nation’s descent into binge-watching Netflix boxsets anyway – I clocked myself doing 177mph through the suburbs of Kent.

What’s more, I had absolutely zero control of the vehicle, and yes, your honour, it was completely legal. In fact, I even cracked open a can of Diet Coke and tucked into a bag of crisps, happy that in about two hours’ time I’d be milling around in Brussels on my way to a car show.

The point I’m making is that there are loads of ways of going really, really fast without going to too much effort, and without troubling the poor chaps whose job it is to drive up and down our motorways in a borrowed BMW X5. You are, for instance, doing 1000mph right now without even thinking about it, because that’s roughly, depending on where you are, the speed that the Earth rotates. Not feeling it? Not to worry; just dig out your old PS3, stick Gran Turismo 5 in and notch up three-figure speeds to your heart’s content. You could even, seeing as you’re not supposed to leave the house anyway, go onto YouTube and stick on Claude Lelouch’s superb 1976 short film C’était un rendez-vous, which stars a Ferrari 275 GTB being pressed into action around some deserted Parisian thoroughfares. If you’re a petrolhead and you haven’t seen it, you need to. Trust me!

But what you definitely don’t need to do is to trek out to the M58, take advantage of the fact there’s barely anyone on it, and then press your right foot all the way down, which a worrying amount of people seem to have been doing on the nation’s motorways lately. Over the Bank Holiday weekend a chap was stopped for tootling up the M1 at 151mph – there’s some debate over what the car was, with the consensus being that it was a tweaked BMW M140i, but the key thing is that number. I’ll say it slowly – one hundred and fifty one miles per hour. That’s quicker than any high speed train in the UK, with the exception of the Channel Tunnel one that I took the other week. It’s faster than the top speed of an E-type Jag, beyond what all but the fastest of today’s hot hatches can crack, and only 4mph of what most of today’s supersaloons are electronically limited to. Oh, and more than twice the UK’s legal speed limit.

The last thing I want to do is come across as some Daily Mail-reading killjoy, but I’d much, much rather spend my lockdown saving up to go on a proper trackday. In fact, I’d go even further; a couple of years ago I took my MX-5 to the Nürburgring in Germany, where I spent a morning racking up three-figure speeds down the long straights and getting in the way of people with 911 GT3s. That’s much more fun than driving in a straight line, very fast, down a boring bit of grey motorway and winding the police up. Surely if you can afford an M140i, you can afford a weekend away in Germany once this is all over?

That or just hop on the Eurostar to Brussels. Quicker than a Lotus Carlton, and you munch on a bag of crisps while you’re at it!

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