Captain Scarlet

IMG_46191of1_4988bb9a20154-lightboxThere is almost too much to write about this month, but I will focus on a few Sunday morning drives I attended with some Pistonheaders. After Christmas, one generally feels rather worse for wear after consuming copious amounts of both food and alcohol. I personally gorged on so much that my trip from the computer to the lounge was a more challenging mission than Bruce Willis’ attempt to destroy the meteorite in Armageddon.

Nonetheless, all was not lost as I went out early on a frosty Sunday morning for a ‘run.’ However, this was not the type of run that requires you to wear lycra and sweat a lot, this was a Pistonheads breakfast run organised by yours truly. This run involved further unhealthy consumption; full English breakfasts all round, and a car park full of vehicles with an appetite for super unleaded.

It was dark, the temperatures were sub-zero and I was shivering my ‘nads off in Sainsbury’s car park wondering if anyone else was mad enough to join me on my escapade. Surprisingly they were. In fact more than twenty people turned up. Considering the conditions, it was hugely gratifying to see an Enzo-engined Ferrari 599 turn up, as well as a stop-sign-red Ford pick up with in excess of 700bhp!

I lead the convoy down the interesting route to Salisbury, the Suzuki giving all it had. Despite the conditions and the wide slab of Ferrari looming in my rear view mirror, my car gripped tenaciously and kept a good safe pace out front. I can’t offer greater praise than that of the other drivers, the owner of the Ferrari admitting, “that thing goes rather well, doesn’t it,” when we arrived in Ludgershall. Unfortunately we had to cut this run short due to the ice over the plains, but everyone had a stellar time. So much so in fact, that almost everyone took part again a month later.

Hoping for better conditions, we gathered again in the very same Sainsbury’s car park. However, God clearly wasn’t looking down kindly on our excessive carbon emissions, as he turned on his pressure washer in the sky. We looked like a strange bunch – ten cars assembled in front of a supermarket parked in a line, the owners communicating along the row through the tunnel of open windows. The turnout was still reasonably good – the 599, TVR Tuscan and Monaro VXR owners among the bravest.

Picture this if you will: a ribbon of tarmac draped over rolling hills culminating in a 90-degree left-hander, the road then spearing off round a hill. Slithering along the road is a metallic snake – the head a steel grey Porsche Turbo, its fat tyres biting into the road surface. In hot pursuit is that crimson Italian supercar, its V12 bellow tangible from half a kilometre behind. The body consists of a piano black Jaguar XK, royal blue M3 CS, shining silver Audi RS6 and a jet black TVR Tuscan, all flowing along the asphalt like sticks dropped into fast flowing water. The tail is clinging onto the body, and consists of a creamy ex-police Omega driven harder than in its previous life, a pure white Integra Type R, and me in my Ruby Suzuki, four-pot blaring, pistons punching at almost seven thousand revolutions a minute. Finally there are three cars filling my rear-view mirror: two brothers in their vivacious VXRs and another wannabe police vehicle, a white Volvo T5 estate. I was convinced I could see their gleeful eyes lighting up in my mirrors.

Another fantastic breakfast was devoured at the Three Swans in Hungerford, and all for just five pounds. This was a contrast to last weekend’s outing, where a few of us decided to pay Popham Little Chef a visit. We fancied testing whether Heston Blumenthal’s television antics have had any tangible effect on the quality of the food chain. There was an improvement, but it’s not hard to improve something that was effectively offering cow slurry on the menu. Let’s just say we’re not going back there again. The service was slow, the food was average and it was expensive to boot.

But enough of the fry-up reviews, as the Suzuki, the real star of the show, has been unflappable. I’m getting to grips with its exciting and sometimes downright lairy handling, and our bond has now reached Araldite levels of adhesion. Only today I was literally hooting with laughter muttering, “I’m such a child” continually to myself as the Suzuki encouraged me to do yet another drift in the snowy patch of airfield behind my workplace. It truly brought out the five-year-old boy in me, and I’m not ashamed to completing J-turns giggling and reverse doughnuts coughing on tears of laughter. I can’t wait to get behind that red-trimmed, slim-rimmed steering wheel again. Who would have thought that the car in question was a dinky little Suzuki?

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Robbie Birkhead