Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: vanity

Tiff doesn't want you to know this, and after telling you I'm probably going to need another boyfriend, but last week, at the Pembury race track in Wales, he stuffed a Honda NSX.

When Quentin and I heard, we exchanged glances and immediately guessed what had happened. Tiff, we reckoned, was too vain to wear his glasses on TV, but without them he's something of a mole. He was just trundling along, flashing his boyish smile at the camera and quite simply, never saw the corner.

In fact, the truth is somewhat different. You see, I've now seen the footage, and Tiff saw the corner just fine. He was sailing round it with a fair bit of understeer which he tried to correct with a little flick - a little soupçon to upset the back end.

It worked, too, but the rear just snapped round, lunging Tiff and £70,000 worth of supercar toward the end of the pit wall. Now, if you hit the end of a wall sideways, at 80mph, you're dead. It would have been Goodnight Tiff. But, amazingly, the car slid into the pit lane and had scrubbed nearly all its speed off when it hit a bank of tyres at 30mph or so.

Tiff says the accident happened in slow motion and that he had time to sit there wondering what on earth had gone wrong. I mean, being a racing driver, the accident obviously wasn't his fault...

And much as it pains me to admit this, I think he's right. It isn't that he's old and blind. It's the NSX. I think there's something wrong with it.

You see, back in the dim and distant past, Derek Warwick tested one of these cars for us... and spun off. In the Nürburgring story we ran, back in the Autumn, the only car to leave the track with Barry ‘Whizzo' Williams at the helm was the NSX. And now I'm hearing rumours that Mark Hales, another seriously good race driver, recently stuffed one.

So that's the NSX off the list then. You see, here's my problem. Last night while my wife and I snuggled up in front of Kavanagh QC, she leant across and, out of the blue, said: "So, are you going to keep the Ferrari then?"

"I have to admit I’ve been going through a Lancia Stratos phase, but I fear I’d use that even less than the 355"

This is the equivalent of a salesman with his foot in the door just before he barges into the living room and spreads brochures all over the rug. Right now, she's wondering why I keep a car that I hardly ever use. Pretty soon the wondering stops. And the recriminations start.

To be honest, I've toyed with the idea of changing it, but for what? Certainly not an NSX and, much as I was impressed by the sports exhausted Diablo we featured last month, I'm not a has-been rock star.

I have to admit I've been going through a Lancia Stratos phase, but I fear I'd use that even less than the 355. (He strokes his chin...) I've also thought about the Jaguar XJ220.

I'm sure you know by now, that the new left-hand drives are up for sale at an Essex dealer for the sum of £150,000 each. You can, however, acquire a lightly used right-hooker, I understand, for a mere £85,000.

At seventeen foot long and seven foot wide, you have to admit that the 220 is an awful lot of car for £85,000. I had to admit it too, which is why last week I found myself in Wales driving an XJ220 for the first time, in anger.

I'd been told it was heavy and cumbersome but when you bury the throttle, the power is sensational. This is noticeably more accelerative than a Ferrari F50 and, as we all know, much faster at the top end.

It's also a stable high-speed cruiser. You may have noticed in recent years that in race trim, the McLarens have sprouted elongated tails - which makes them more steady at 220mph. But the Jag comes with a lengthy back end to start with.

I have to admit, I was falling madly in love with this previously unloved hypercar - until I needed to brake hard, that is. In the nick of time, I heard a little voice in my head. It was Tiff saying the XJ220 would be a lot better if only it had brakes.

And so, when I stamped on the pedal, I was half ready for what happened. And what happened was nothing. Honestly, it was amazing. I had both feet on the pedal and I was still doing 100mph or more.

I was still doing 100mph when I got home and saw the Ferrari just sitting there. Swap it? You must be joking. I'd rather lend it to Needell.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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