The original idea was to set three diesel production car lap records, in three countries, in 24 hours. Knockhill Monday afternoon, Oulton Park Tuesday lunchtime and Anglesey before the sun went down on the same day. Simple, right? Not the case as it turned out, as the Anglesey lap was kiboshed just a couple of days before we were due to travel. So it would be two circuits, two record laps, two countries and 24 hours. Even simpler, then, and ample opportunity to see if the Insignia is good enough to lure buyers from their SUVs.
Cynical yet? Of course. In the same way this could have been a red Vauxhall hatchback lap record or lap record for people called Matthew born in December, the target is so tremendously specific that even pushing it around would claim the record. Indeed, as a friend so accurately suggested, an Audi SQ7 would surpass anything the mighty Vauxhall could lay down. And yes, Knockhill is further from London than Le Mans. Quite a lot further. But then David Leslie and John Cleland didn't have rapturous fans cheering them on in Cavalier GSIs at Le Mans now, did they?
Whatever, we arrive at Knockhill in reasonably good spirits, the afternoon dry at least and looking as exciting as it did on the McLaren P1 drive (one lap the Vauxhall should be quicker than, at least, limited as the hypercar was to 70mph). Still, once the car is cleaned and Luc is happy with his photography, there's precious little time left to actually, y'know, do some laps. And while it wasn't going to be a blistering circulation of Knockhill's 1.2 miles, it would be nice to give a decent account of both the car and, to a lesser extent, the driver.
Vauxhall makes big claims about the GSI's circuit suitability, equipment including Brembo brakes, torque vectoring all-wheel drive, a 'Competition' drive mode and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres. And while it won't be anybody's first choice for just one last lap, the big Vaux gives a better account of itself than you might imagine. In the more aggressive of the 'Flexride' drive modes, the GSI is assured and capable enough, dealing with Knockhill's bumps, kerbs and undulations well. There's still movement in the chassis, because this is a big saloon at the end of the day, but it's controlled and well managed rather than floppy and vague.
What you'll probably see as well is that I'm avoiding mention of a lap time. Well given it was timed solely on the Insignia's onboard stopwatch by yours truly and not a single other witnessed it, you'll have to just believe the 1:09 that we recorded. Hardly a rocketship, by any standards. And perhaps the most tenuous lap record yet. (It was actually stopped on 1:08, the extra second added in case the clock started late; interestingly this page suggests a Ferrari 308 did a 1:08.594 - so there.)
With the Brembo brakes feeling (and smelling) rather less confidence inspiring than they did on the road, we head to the nearby Dunfermline Travelodge for some well earned rest. We have Matt Prior in tow with a Subaru WRX STI now, with the plan to shoot that the next morning while still leaving enough time to get down to Oulton for my second 'record lap'. The best laid plans of mice and men, right Burnsy?
Still, we persevere (well, Luc does, Matt and I stay warm in our cars) and, with the photography done, I'm free to head to Oulton Park with plenty of time in hand. The weather, however, has other plans...
Heading towards Moffat to pick up the A74 the snow gets worse, to the point where road, verge and sheep all largely look the same. With 13 miles until the junction I stop and turn around, because it just feels too risky for what we stand to gain, even if that will be record-breaking worldwide internet superstardom. After what feels like the most treacherous three-point turn (that becomes about 11-point) ever executed, I'm on my back in the wrong direction, past those scamps with the Subaru and heading towards the A7 to meet the M6 that way.
So, disappointingly for my record-setting aspirations, there was nothing left to do but continue through the downloaded Desert Island Discs episodes and watch the miles fall - there wasn't going to be any more circuit heroics in the Vauxhall.
Still, I did get to Oulton Park, just about two hours later than I originally planned. With a sticker purchased for some sort of posterity and the tank brimmed - sadly the GSI averaged just 36mpg for the whole trip - the five hours or so home from Cheshire should have been a breeze.
Mercifully the M25 is clear of both snow and most of the traffic by the time I reach it, so the remainder of the journey is painless. To be honest, after the snow and a brief race against the clock, it's actually quite relaxing. Nothing to focus the mind like a spurious record attempt, it turns out!
With all that done, though (alright, half done is you're being picky), what can be made of this return for the Vauxhall GSI badge? While it may not be as deeply desirable to enthusiasts as some of its illustrious predecessors, this Insignia is a broadly talented and very capable car. At no point on our adventure (perhaps apart from when it was really snowy) did it ever feel out of its depth, performing with aplomb throughout. The biggest issue the Insignia GSI faces, it seems - beyond a rather ordinary diesel engine - is that cars of its ilk simply aren't what buyers are after anymore. However, should you not be part of the crossover clan, this big Vauxhall proves that there's still a lot to be said for a well developed D segment family car. So it's not cool, this GSI - but it is quite good.