This picture is what Top Gear's 2021 Speed Week is all about
Sliding a slow, strange car through the rain one-handed? Yep, this is what Speed Week is for
Above, a picture. Here, a thousand words. For your sakes less, hopefully. But this is my favourite image from Speed Week this year, the picture that for me encapsulates the event. So I wanted to tell you about it.
Speed Week is fraught. Don’t feel sorry for us, as you can see from this pic, I’m clearly having the time of my life. But with 26 cars to martial for stories, films and imagery, there’s more moving parts than a clock shop. We have A Big Spreadsheet that runs the timings, people, cars and plan for the whole event. This level of organisation… it’s decidedly un-TG.
But sometimes you get in a car and just think ‘this is brilliant. I know it’s not part of the plan, but we need to capture this’. Spontaneity, in other words. Something we are good at here at TG.
Step forward the Dowsetts Cars Tipo 184. So there I was, perched in this fabulously exposed cockpit, legs akimbo, arc of metal over my right thigh threatening to sever various tender bits of anatomy as it carried gearbox movements from lever to mechanism, and convinced that nothing, nothing else here understood what driving amusement was half as well as this hacked about Mazda MX-5 kit car. Well, apart from Prodrive’s BRX Hunter. Because that thing is MAD.
Plus it was hosing down and those open front wheels were doing a fine job of directing gallons of water straight at my face. Especially with a good bit of opposite lock on. I could barely see where I was going, but I hadn’t laughed as much in ages.
Naturally, this needed to be captured. It wasn’t part of the plan, but things like this are what makes Speed Week special. So I went and found Mark Riccioni and told him that the Tipo 184 was so well balanced and friendly I reckoned I could slide it through Hammerhead one-handed, while he shot out of a tracking car ahead of me.
You’d imagine any sane photographer would run a mile when I bowled up, soaked through but grinning like a loon and told them to grab their harness and lens because I’ve got this great idea… but no-one familiar with Mark’s car collection has ever accused him of making sensible decisions.
Most modern stuff is pretty savage to slide – wide tyres and big power cause cars to snap into oversteer if you don’t get the entry just so. But the Tipo 184? I trundled into Hammerhead in second gear and once I could feel the front was hooked up, opened the taps. Made sure my legs were spread so as not to interfere with throwing lock on a helm the size of Captain Jack’s once the back started moving...
The Tipo sat happily at an angle, engine roaring, spray flying everywhere, while a couple of car lengths ahead I could see Mark Riccioni chuckling behind his Sony. I knew it was going to look awesome. Sticking a thumb up seemed appropriate.
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