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Behind the scenes on the coolest picture of the year
Here’s how we pulled off the world’s fastest traffic jam in one photo
That’s a pretty sensational photograph, isn’t it? You’ll never see another convoy like this. The world’s fastest electric car, an ultra-rare hyperPorsche and the greatest supercars, hot hatches and track specials money can buy in 2019. It’s probably my favourite photograph of the year.
Every year at our performance car test, we order our runners and riders into a goliath super-unleaded snake, strap a hardy photographer to a Land Rover, and chase him around a circuit. The result is this eye-popping image – the group tracking shot. It needs a better name, really. The Megatracker. The Hyper-pede. Suggestions welcome below…
Yes, we really do get all the cars there at the same time, and yes they are all moving. No photoshop trickery here. You’ve got to trust the guy in front. And behind. And sometimes, above…
This year, I tactically bagged the baby blue McLaren 720S Spider. With the roof off, there’s maximum exposure to the magnificent cacophony of noises the fleet emits as it follows the camera. The shrill whine of the shapeship VW ID R, almost drowned out by the flatulent Porsche 935’s impatient chuntering. Somewhere over my left shoulder, the Ariel Atom’s wastegates are doing overtime and beyond that, the Hyundai WRC car lollops in and out of the corner of my eye, blaring a monotone and occasionally letting off military-grade backfires.
And what a view up front. Battle of the wings. The other-wordly downforce-hungry shape of the ID R, and the classically retro Porsche, each throwing shade over the McLaren on Portimao’s inclines as their enormous aero aids blot out the sun.
The brief for us drivers is pretty simple: maintain a constant speed, don’t brake (as the concertina effect will make for a very expensive meet’n’greet of bodywork three rows back) and try and stay level through the corners. So, the car on the outside has to accelerate harder to make up the distance, but not so much it collects a priceless racing prototype. Oh yes, there’s some science to this.
Sometimes, there are curveballs to deal with. Back in 2015 we shot Top Gear’s Speed Week at Austria’s Red Bull Ring. Red Bull, having too many toys and too much money on its books, sent a Toro Rosso-liveried Apache helicptoer gunship along for a play. I was busy trying not to nerf the Ferrari 458 Speciale into the back of McLaren’s prototype P1 GTR when I felt the Speciale squirm and wriggle. Puncture? Earthquake? Nope. The wind tunnel-crafted bodywork was being assaulted by the downdraft from the helicopter hovering twenty feet overhead. Gulp.
Back to 2019. In the rear view mirror, a riot of colour, furious LED eyes and teeth-bared grilles. Sun glints from the Aston’s broad haunches. The GT R Pro hoovers up the track, looking for all the world like it’s driven here straight from an FIA GT3 grid. It’s very distracting. Another WHAP-BANG from the rally car jolts us all back into concentration.
Flying in close formation with this eclectic mix of cars that’ll never meet in the same space at the same time ever again – it’s the most exciting piece of 25mph driving possible. And every year, it’s my favourite shot of the year. Hope you like it as much as we do.