Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: fast women

If you want to arrive at the Pearly Gates in soggy pants, you don't need to have died at the hands of a firing squad - just try climbing into a car with Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

I've been in an F-15 and I've done 0-60 in one second on a snowmobile. Next week, I shall land on an aircraft carrier and a day later, strapped into an F-14, I shall take off again. I know, understand and can cope with fear.

But I lost control completely after half an hour in a car with Tara. The bladder went, and round the back, I was touching cloth. That woman is easily the maddest driver the world has ever seen.

I wasn't scared to start with; It was the tail end of the rush hour, we were in the middle of London and it was raining. So even though she was using a Honda NSX, which we know to be tail-happy and skittish, I felt we'd spend most of the time doing 3mph.

But no. On Chelsea Bridge, she put her foot down hard in first gear and I felt the back starting to weave, the power straining the very upper echelons of the traction control's restraining bolt. Then we were into second, foot still hard down, heading for what was unquestionably a set of red lights.

The next time I opened my eyes, we were heading up Sloane Street at Mach one... and then we weren't. There was a squeal accompanied by a full-bore test of the NSX's anti-lock braking system. "Gucci's got a new window display," she wailed.

During the next 26 minutes we'd stop at red lights and, on each occasion, the driver alongside was scrutinised. If he was good-looking, there was some flirting then a race. If he was ugly, she'd skip straight to the race. And she never lost.

Throughout London that night a trail of BMWs and Porsches were left dazed and confused at the side of the road, their drivers emerging from the tangled mess asking passers-by, quietly, for hot sweet tea. They looked like they'd been victims of a tornado and in a sense, they had. They'd been TP-T-ed.

Now earlier in the day, I'd talked to various girls who have finally realised that there's no point spending a fortune on clothes and hairstyles if they are going to go out at night in a crappy car. So Katy Hill, from Blue Peter has a Porsche Boxster. Emma Noble has an MGF (while boyfriend James Major has a corduroy Rover 200). Dani Behr has a BMW 328 convertible and Julia Bradbury, from something called Channel 5, has a Mercedes SLK.

"I phoned all my male friends and they all said the same thing - we like a fit bird in a nice car"

I shot the breeze with all of them, about how these new sports cars are very definitely for the girlies, and how men today need to spend more if they want something macho. And all of them said that the biggest problem they faced on the roads was blokes trying to take them on.

And that struck me as odd. I mean, I'm a bloke and I never, ever feel the need to race a girl at the lights just because she's a girl. I phoned all my male friends and they all said the same - we like a fit bird in a nice car. It looks good. I therefore suspect that it is not men who take on women. It is the other way round.

It's like Kuwait. After the recent unpleasantness, people there walk around with their chests puffed out, telling their neighbours in the North that they have all sorts of new hardware and will take them on any day. Iraq, on the other hand, can afford to sit there doing nothing, and it's still frightening. Iraq is a past aggressor. Iraq is a man. And Iraq won't ever attack Kuwait again.

Men, in recent months, have also been strangled by sanctions. Turn on the TV and you'll find Playing The Field where a bunch of women bully their husbands, have affairs and play football. And then there's Real Women where the women are men and the men are hopeless. In both, sex scenes are all-women affairs.

We've now got women jet pilots, women boxers, and women like Madeline Albright and Mo Mowlam sorting out the world's trouble spots; and in the charts Take That and Boyzone have been replaced by All Saints and the Spice Girls.

I'm all for equality but it does seem at the moment that the pendulum has swung rather too far in the other direction. So, If TP-T ever comes alongside me at the traffic lights, she should be aware that I now have a supercharged V8 under the bonnet, that the Jag in question isn't mine, and that I will win.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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