Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: speed

A man from ITN has just been round to my house with a camera and some difficult questions about performance cars.

Some jumped-up MP is bouncing around the House of Commons, explaining to anyone who will listen that Top Gear magazine is the antithesis of common sense and that our obsession with speed is the root cause of all evil in the world today.

And now the M25 is to get variable speed limits which will slow the traffic down. How, pray, can you slow down something that is stationary?

The news is full of stories about Porsche salesmen being killed while demonstrating the power to potential customers and Fiat is criticised by RoSPA for using the line "No-one in Italy grows up wanting to be a train driver". This, they reckon, encourages us to drive fast.

While driving to Goodwood for the classic car meeting back in June, I couldn't help smiling at the Police notices. ‘Festival of Speed. SLOW'.

I have a letter in my in-tray from a doctor in Liverpool who says he is looking forward to the day when my daughter is killed by a speeding motorist. Here we have a man who obviously took the hypocritic oath.

Whenever I stick my head over the automotive parapet, I find the world is pointing a gun at my head. You can't move these days without being told that fast cars are the single biggest threat to man and that next to the Lamborghini Diablo, Cherno-byl and Bosnia are mere hiccoughs.

"Whenever I stick my head over the automotive parapet, I find the world is pointing a gun at my head"

There's been talk of introducing a points system to keep the untalented out of very fast cars, but who's going to pay for the 20,000 civil servants needed to run such a scheme? And do we really need a law to govern the tiny, tiny band of people who buy quick cars each year? Of course not.

But common sense rarely figures when the Government starts asking about the price of life. The people nod sagely, agreeing that the M1 should have speed bumps if it means one life can be saved. And no-one asks why the MPs are so bothered about human life on the roads but so unconcerned with it when there's a bit of war to be had.

It's ridiculous. The whole world wants faster planes, faster trains, faster communications. Speed, in the world of commerce, is considered vital. But somehow cars don't figure.

I'd like to think the Govern-ment is trying to slow cars down to make trains and buses look more attractive, but they're not that clever. They reckon a Citizen's Charter is all that's needed to make up for the pot of boiling soup some half-wit in a nylon bib has just emptied into your lap.

No. They're trying to slow cars down because lives will be saved. They know that if they get us all to ease off the gas, road kills will be cut and they'll look good come the next election. Well, I'm sorry about this but life is a dangerous thing with an almost constant risk of sudden, violent death. Do they ban carbon fibre fishing rods because someone catches one on a power line? Is it illegal for fat people to play golf? Hey, let's ban matches so children can't play with them. And what about loose carpets? I may trip over at the top of my stairs and break my neck. I may fall off a ladder, so let's put all ladder manufacturers in prison. And everyone who makes toasters should get 30 years because they, for damn sure, can be lethal.

The same goes for canoe manufacturers, people who organise bungee jumping, the makers of boxing gloves, parachutes and everyone else in the leisure industry. Skiing holidays need to be outlawed too.

Every weekend, hundreds of thousands of people do dangerous things because it gives them a sense of excitement. Some pay the ultimate price but they knew the risks and they were prepared to take them

Well, people know the risks in a car too. Some people do drive too fast and some die. The trouble is that some of these people take others with them. Well I'm sorry but shit -happens. Way before the car came along, bears used to eat your children. And way after the oil has gone, Scotty-style beaming machines will go haywire from time to time.

We should never lose light of the fact that life is only precious so long as it's fun. If you take away the fun you lose some of the tragedy, but the excitement goes too.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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