Hammond vs VXR8 Bathurst S
This VXR8 is called ‘Bathurst' after the legendary Australian race of that name. Try to imagine the British Touring Car Championship marrying Mad Max, and producing offspring that in turn sets up home with the Heavyweight Boxing Federation and Shark Fishing and you'd be getting close to Bathurst.
It's kind of a tribal thing, with the huge crowds divided into two distinct groups. There are those who love Ford, and those who love Holden. I don't mean love, as in ‘prefer' or ‘favour'; I mean love as in ‘defend to the death and hate until your own demise those who profess their love for the other side'.
You never change your mind, you are born and you adopt whichever of those two tribes was championed by your father, and that is that. For life. Families have been broken up by it and skulls smashed in the disupte of it. This is, indirectly, a Holden. So in the Southern Hemisphere, there will be those who love it already, and those for whom it is the four-wheeled incarnation of the devil himself.
I've met a genuine Bathurst legend, in fact I spent a week working on stage with him on the Australian leg of our Top Gear Live World Tour. He's not exactly the type to show an interest in soft furnishings, if you see what I mean. I doubt he's ever consulted a ‘colourway' for ‘inspiration'.
He's called Greg Murphy - anyone prepared to take on a 6.2km stretch of legendary Australian racetrack lined with baying Aussies and Kiwis, all in beer-soaked t-shirts, shouting obscenities at the bulk of the field and offering to mate with their favourite drivers, tends to bear a manly, rugged sort of name and attitude. No one at Bathurst has ever written ‘Lancelot Raffish-Cuffs' where the form says ‘NAME' at driver registration.
Greg's a Holden man. He has won at Bathurst in them four times and holds the all-time lap record, a feat he achieved in 2003 and for which he has since been treated like a god by his countrymen. Which means they throw beer bottles at him in the street and make terrifying baying sounds when he walks on stage with two idiots from a telly show. I asked him how it felt to compete at Bathurst. This was his reply:
"There is nothing like having a 100kg woman wearing a Ford singlet, with a Ford tattoo, screaming, ‘You're a [something rude], Murphy!' across the fence at you 10 minutes before the start of a race."
Hmmm. I don't imagine the Prescott Hillclimb will ever volunteer to host Bathurst 1000, but it sounds brilliant.
"I just belted around in it as best as I could, grinning, whooping, shouting and laughing at the whole glorious experience"
The Bathurst S Edition starts as a standard VXR8, the V8-powered Vauxhall that was better known to us as the Monaro, and adored by some for its sideways lariness and down-home simplicity. Naturally, I loved it. But it's been made a lot tougher. The mighty 6.0-litre V8 is now attached to a Walkinshaw 122 Supercharger, and belts out a massive 562bhp. That's Lamborghini territory.
What takes it beyond Lamborghini territory and into another world entirely though, is the astonishing 527lb ft of torque. As a result, the slightest dab of the throttle means the Bathurst S squats, bellows and charges at the vanishing point in unbelievably quick time.
You can also option a Bi-Modal Exhaust, which raises power by 10bhp, and when you punch the ‘Bi-Modal' button on the dash - and you better had punch it, because this is not a car in which to ‘flick' or ‘touch' switches - will switch from ‘Street' to ‘Optimum', basically upping the exhaust noise from 92dbA to an immense 102dbA.
The tricksy suspension, improved with stiffer springs and lots of user-adjustment on board, is another fine reason you can hustle this thing about at serious speed. Plus, the brakes have been uprated (six pots at the front and four pots at the back) and the engine mapping has been Walkinshawed. Hell, you can even specify 20in wheels.
Me, I just belted around in it as best as I could, grinning, whooping, shouting and laughing at the whole glorious experience. I could have quite easily consumed a tank of fuel in it without ever leaving my drive. All very lovely. And it only costs £45,000, which is pretty incredible. Smashing, job done.
And then there's the noise. My God, the noise... the bloody noise. I can still hear it now; I will always be able to hear it. When I am in need of a lift, of a surge of testosterone and feel-good endorphins, I shall play it in my head.
The metallic, bitter whine of the supercharger shrieks above the basso ruminations of the big V8 to makea noise like Sid Vicious screaming obscenities down a vacuum pipe accompanied by Thor, completely pissed and playing timpani using dinosaur-bones as drumsticks. It's the single manliest thing anywhere, ever. And it works like a combination of Red Bull, 80 per cent proof vodka, raw steak, Red Savina chillis, hardcore pornography, full-contact martial arts and bull fighting. I fear I may have made a postbox pregnant simply by driving past it.
I got out of the VXR8 Bathurst S with so much testosterone pulsing through my veins, none of my dogs would go near me and my wife's horse ran away with its tail between its legs, yelping. I felt like I could shout louder, spit further and arm-wrestle a bear. I had hairy eyes. It really was that good.
In what I can only imagine was an attempt to make themselves sexy and virile, James and Jeremy drank vodka laced with snake's blood at a bar in Vietnam last year. The misguided fools. All they needed to do was spend 30 seconds in the VXR8 macho-nator to put enough lead in their pencils to keep them happy and horny for centuries.
Now watch an old clip of Clarkson hooning around in the VXR8: