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Speed Week '18: TG's guide to Circuit de Charade

Speed Week cars, assemble! Here's a quick guide to the track

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Welcome to Top Gear’s Speed Week. The 14 best performance cars in the world have descended upon a mildly terrifying Seventies-spec F1 circuit, for several days. There will be ‘enthusiastic driving’, there will be a well-stocked tyre truck close to hand and there will be industrial quantities of home-made sandwiches…

“Good line-up of cars, boys, good line-up of cars,” says Chris Harris, rubbing his hands as he walks the pitlane. That’s something we can all agree on – amazingly, it won’t be the only thing, either. More on that much later.

Yes, this year’s Speed Week shoot-out contains some absolute humdingers, covering every price bracket, power level, engine layout, body type and so on. It’s a fantastic group containing some proper battles. Any trends? Well, the rise of the SUV has breached its final barrier – we’ve invited three along to fight it out, one of which has captured Harris’s attention immediately. The Merc-AMG G63 has that effect.

More excitingly, we’re able to conduct the ultimate hardcore supercar test, as the twin-turbo triumvirate of the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Ferrari 488 Pista and McLaren 600LT go head to head. We have lightweights: the Alpine A110 needs no introduction, but race-car manufacturer Dallara has brought along its first-ever road car, the Stradale. There’s the BMW M2 Competition, Aston’s new Vantage and the Ford Fiesta ST… and best of all, each car has made it here safely, the majority having been driven across swathes of Europe (you can read the individual team drive-downs below).

Team Italy: Ferrari 488 Pista and Lamborghini Urus

Team GB: Aston Vantage, McLaren 600LT, Lotus Exige Cup 430 and Ford Fiesta ST

Team France: Bugatti Chiron and Alpine A110

Team Germany: Mercedes-AMG G63, Porsche 911 GT2 RS and BMW M2 Competition

Watch: the full 14-car Speed Week line up 

Here, by the way, is the Circuit de Charade, tucked away in the volcanic hills to the west of Clermont-Ferrand in France. It used to play host to F1 in the late Sixties and early Seventies, and still has that period feel. There’s an aura about it. And provided you lack the imagination to see what would happen if you had an off absolutely anywhere here, it is mesmerisingly good to drive. We’ve been here before, back in 2013, when the last Ford Fiesta ST was new and did rather well. A repeat perhaps?

Stay tuned for excerpts from the shakedown next week…

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