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Roger Daltrey drives the Lotus T125

  1. Roger Daltrey has just thrown up a sausage. The Grammy and Golden Globe winning Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, with a CBE to his name, and a musical career spanning over 40 years, has forcefully expelled a key constituent of his breakfast.

    The reason? A hot lap in a 345bhp Lotus Evora GT4 around Hethel’s test track with factory driver James Rossiter at the wheel. A hot lap which leaves the 67 year-old legend with a pale face and an unsteady digestive tract. He climbs out of the V6-powered Lotus and takes off his helmet. The assembled mechanics and engineers shuffle nervously and stare at their feet. This is the Roger Daltrey; a god in the pantheon of great bands and a member of a group regarded as one pillar in the holy trinity of British rock.

    “Right, now I’ve got my bloody breakfast out of the way, let’s have a go shall we?” Roger bellows, in his trademark cockney drawl. Roger is smiling now. All is well.

    Words: Vijay Pattni

  2. I’m here to witness this leviathan of music design a special Lotus Evora that will be auctioned off for charity later this year; a one-off Evora with a design inspired by The Who, the proceeds of which will go to the Teenage Cancer Trust (of which Roger is a patron) and Childline. As a bonus, he got the keys to Lotus’s T125. You know the car - it’s the one Jeremy drove on Sunday’s show. The car that made him wince and moan and shout profusely; the 640bhp F1-spec racer that left a semi-permanent neck-crick.

    We’re here to see if Roger Daltrey - who regularly holds thousands of concert fans in enthral - can pilot something seemingly built to cause immense intestinal irritation and sweaty palms.

  3. Why? Because it’s the Lotus T125’s mission statement and raison d’être. This car was conceived with the notion of allowing mortals - moneyed and rich mortals, obviously - the chance to taste the stomach-shrivelling excesses of actual Formula One racing.

    The car itself is just part of Lotus’s ‘Exos’ experience, an exclusive club where members get one-to-one tuition, advice and the chance to race on circuits such as Paul Ricard in the south of France and the Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal.

    It’s powered by a 3.5-litre Cosworth GP V8 engine kicking out 640bhp with a 10,800rpm rev limit in a body weighing just 560kg; that’s a power to weight ratio of nearly 1,000bhp per tonne. Yes, an F1 car might rev to a ludicrous 18,000rpm, but this is supposed to be low maintenance and easily accessible. It even comes with a starter button and can run up to 2,800 miles before needing a service.

  4. Any notion of it being a half-baked and poor man’s Formula One racer is instantly abrogated when you fire it up. A whisper of smoke puffs out of the exhausts and a torrent of aural vengeance is unleashed from the Cossie’s V8; a kind of supernatural sonic retribution that would be familiar to comic-book superheroes or, perhaps, Zeus. It’s loud, guttural and magnificent.

    First, James Rossiter warms up the single-seat T125 with a few hot laps to make sure everything’s cooking. The aural thunder this thing conjures from that eight-pot is worth the price of admission alone and is surely one justification for creating a V8. Roger stands by the side, waiting patiently. James pulls in, leaps out with the enthusiasm of a young man, and ushers in The Who’s formidable stage presence.

  5. “Just take your time out there - take as long as you need, actually. Go slowly through the corners and once your wheel is pointing straight and you’ve got a bit of space, really put some pressure on. Floor it.” Sound, Top Gear-accredited advice, you will agree.

    Roger straps himself in and is quickly shown through the steering wheel. The T125 comes with a hand-operated clutch, so his getaway is a tad jumpy. But crucially - and we all agree - at least he didn’t stall it. Unlike Jeremy. He tentatively makes his acquaintance with Hethel’s test track and we all watch from the pit wall, as James lets us in on a little secret behind Roger’s earlier drive in the Evora GT4.

  6. “He was properly on the limit’ ”, the youngster enthuses. “He was barrelling into those corners, braking really, really late and then flooring it on the way out. Of course, he couldn’t hear me properly with that noise so I was banging on the dashboard telling him to ‘brake brake BRAKE’ ”. We laugh. Then James’ face drops slightly. “I think it’s because he didn’t have his glasses on”. We stop laughing. Roger isn’t wearing his glasses in the T125. And by the sounds of it, he is showing the Lotus why he has dominated the rock scene for almost his entire life.

    A few hot laps under his belt, Roger pulls in and looks like a contented gentleman. “Fabulous man, I tell you, it’s amazing how much concentration it takes’ ” he says, recounting his laps. “You really gain a whole new perspective of what Formula One drivers go through.” Was he terrified? “Nah, not at all. I wasn’t terrified of it but it does take some getting used to. The G’s around the corners are tremendous.”

  7. “You need to be fit in a completely different kind of way. You need to be a young man because you’d be surprised how much your insides get thrown about. It’s like having a custard enema.”

    Along the straights, it transpires he was hitting around 160mph. When we put it to him, he shrugs his shoulders and grins. “Well, it felt no different from the M25 eh?” He bursts out laughing, much to the relief of the T125’s mechanics, who are hovering over the freshly warm Lotus with interest. “The straights are the easy bits - going through those chicanes was bloody difficult. I mean, I’ve been around this track earlier today in the Evora GT4 [above] so it’s not that much different. It’s just an awful lot faster.”

  8. “With the poor eyesight that I’ve got, my difficulty is staying on the track. But no, I’ve got ultimate respect for the drivers that do this full time.”

    The T125 stint appears to have given Roger a new insight into road safety. “I tell you what, they should put everyone in one of these around a track to stop them speeding, not bloody speed cameras. That’ll stop people having accidents. Everyone’s watching out for cameras, no one’s watching out for the bloody road. Ludicrous. People brake for no reason at all. They say road safety? My arse.”

    A few nervous looks appear, so I break the tension with a simple question. Is he going to buy one? “Am I tempted to buy one of these things? I couldn’t afford one”, he laughs. “And anyway, I’d rather buy a hospital ward for the Teenage Cancer Trust.” Legend.

    Roger Daltrey’s specially-designed Lotus Evora will be auctioned off at the Classic Rock Awards, 9 November

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