It was the car I used for the Cadwell sprint, and also the one I took a good few PHers out in at our Sunday Service, but it was the road drive there that was the most memorable. I took the roof off at Beaconsfield services, regretted it very soon after as the night sky expelled yet more miserable rain, and soon after was having the time of my life. The roads were empty, the roundabouts were slippery, the sun was rising and the Caterham was absolutely fantastic. Exploitable, expressive and exciting, I couldn't have wished for a better car for the journey. Sensational fun. Well, apart from that roundabout where I ran out of lock; I won't tell if you don't, OK?
I've previously recounted a small portion of this drive, but that experience was just one of the things that made it so memorable. It was a journey tailor-made for the Continental; an early start in London, a quick blast down to the Chunnel, and an afternoon spent cruising across Belgium, into Germany and to the 'ring. From navigating the narrow cobbled streets of Brugge, where we stopped for a spot of lunch - it was like a f**king fairytale - to travelling at three miles a minute on the Autobahn, the Conti GT was faultlessly comfortable, effortlessly composed and relentlessly eager to push on. When a detour forced us onto B-roads, the greater poise and agility of the V8 made hunting down and dispatching lorries a pleasure and, to cap it all off, the Nurburgring 24 hours was waiting at the other end...
The weekend was the basis of a double triple test. For starters, an Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio vs BMW M3 Competition Pack vs Mercedes-AMG C63 super saloon showdown, and then for the main course, dessert and breakfast the next day, a supercar tete-a-tete (-a-tete) in the shape of the Porsche 911 Turbo S, our-long term McLaren 570GT and an Audi R8 V10 Plus.
Getting to swap in and out of the three cars and drive them on road and track was a phenomenal experience, really allowing each of them to fully demonstrate their strengths - and weaknesses. The R8's V10 scream was music to my ears, but the dynamic steering proved somewhat uninspiring. The 570GT felt so much smaller than it actually was thanks to its great visibility, and the brakes were exceptional compared to the slightly over-servoed ones on the R8, but the noise was a little underwhelming. Meanwhile the Porsche 911 Turbo S could use launch control at every traffic light (I didn't) and nothing would go wrong. It just simply worked and worked and didn't struggle to keep up with either of its shoutier counterparts. At the end of the weekend the hardest choice was picking which one I would keep if I had the chance. Probably the R8; I like to be heard before I'm seen. [He certainly is in the office! - Ed.]
I was lucky enough to drive up the spine of Norway in March - a journey which ended on the famed Atlantic Road; an engineering exercise probably without parallel in Western Europe. But the memory isn't quite as colourful as driving the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio in the UAE last month. Partly because the Norway drive was conducted in a mix of driving rain and blizzards, and the Alfa certainly wasn't - and partly because the road leading up toward the peak at Jebel Jais is less a public highway and more a car enthusiast's wish-list. Smooth tarmac? Check. Two-lane ascent? Check. Huge, poster-worthy hairpins? Check. Reasonably quiet? Check. Doesn't actually go anywhere except to a massive, mind-bending panorama? Check. And the best part was that the road isn't completely finished, meaning that Alfa bribed or blagged its way onto the final closed-off stretch. The only thing missing? A Giulia Quadrifoglio, obviously.
What are the chances of the best drive of the year coming at the wheel of a Citroen? Slim, I guess, but this is all about the location and the event, rather than the car itself. The Citroen C1 race car is merely quite a giggle, underpowered by on skinny tyres that lend it an adjustable handling balance. But the Space 24hr race for C1s and Citroen 2CVs (and derived versions) is a total blast from drop of flag to wave of flag, a day later.
While I don't hold with the view that modern cars are getting too good, my most memorable drive of 2017 came in a car that stopped evolving about half way through the 20th century. The Morgan 4/4 has flaws big enough to be explored by people wearing helmets with lamps on them, yet despite being slower than a base spec modern supermini it won me over with its unadorned charm.
It was one of those perfect combinations of car and road. The Moggy's modest performance against some of the more obscure roads in the Cotswolds, having got up early enough in the middle of summer to have them to myself. It was properly timeless stuff, the Morgan feeling so much more exciting than the modest numbers on the speedo suggested it should. With lower limits and harsher enforcement everywhere, the obvious answer is to find something slow and thrash it harder.