Despite the Integrale’s prodigious ground-covering ability, the initial part of the journey turned out to be The Road To Hell (see what I did there?) as the route north up the M1 was hampered by the fact that a crane had fallen over somewhere around Carlisle and Health & Safety had seen fit to shut the quite useful part of the M1 where it interfaces with the M25 as a result. To add to the woes, all routes west out of London were blocked as a result of a bearded lesbian* thinking it would be ‘artistic’ to leave symbolic packages representing bombs all round Shepherd’s Bush in rush hour (*I’ve calmed down since, and so this is one of the more charitable interpretations of her character that I can now offer up).
Fortunately the Evo II scores over earlier examples of the Integrale in that it has aircon as standard – and try as I may, I find it impossible to get too stressed-out when the aircon is doing its stuff. The Evo II also scores over earlier examples in that it has a little twiddly wheel thing that allows you to adjust your headlights without leaving the comfort of your Recaro; however this proved a poor means of keeping me amused whilst sat in traffic, especially as it was broad daylight at the time.
Speaking of Recaros, I should just digress for a moment and mention that a few days prior to Silverstone a photographer chum borrowed the Integrale and did something clever with a digital camera and a fisheye lens and is currently stitching the images together on a computer (assuming he remembered to take the lens cap off) to make a sort of virtual flyby programme that will allow you to take a tour around the Integrale’s interior. The computing involved is so clever that it makes my foot hurt, but, as and when it’s done, I’ll see if I can find a way to post a link on this site.
Back to the matter of Silverstone, and once clear of impediments, the Integrale stormed its way to the circuit – although the admirable job the authorities have done of building dual carriageway from the M1 to the circuit gates does rather rob some of the fun I used to have as a youth tackling the cross-country route through odd-sounding places like Potterspury. Also Silverstone being a racing car person’s place rather than a rally car person’s place, did mean that there were no special parking laid out for the Integrale and I was forced to park amongst the Subarus and Mitsubishis in the ‘Less Than Six Consecutive World Rally Championships’ car park…
Once at the circuit, the F1 cars were stupefyingly fast. So much so that even Jenson Button looked quick. And THE NOISE!! Fantastic. Apparently top speeds this year are lower than last, and yet the cars are one-and-a-half seconds a lap quicker – it’s all being done round the corners. Standing at the turn-in point to Copse, the 90’ish degree corner at the end of the pit straight, it occurred to me that the engine note didn’t shift until the cars were virtually at the apex – and that’s off a flat out sixth gear approach. One can only imagine the size of the cajones required….
With my smaller, but no less precious to me, cajones I then enjoyed a spirited blast back to London, this time avoiding cranes, lesbians (bearded or otherwise), and any other form of road blockage, reflecting on the fact that although I also own a Renault, at no point during the day had it occurred to me that there was any sort of connection with Young Alonso’s machine (fair enough, he’d have looked pretty out of place in a Scenic with a roof box.)
But despite Lancia having long departed the World Rally stage, the symbolic connection with my Integrale lives on in my mind and I was dispatching other road users with customary impunity, cocking a couple of wheels in the air after one spectacularly misjudged high-speed passage through a roundabout; as ever, the Red Rocket taking it all in its stride. Woo Hoo!