An Ode to 2 great cars - Nov 2016

 

Over about 2 years I did over 10k miles in the Mk1 GT3 and most of that mileage comprised two enormous European road trips all around the Alps. I had alot of fun in the Mk1. It''s a stunning looking machine and a fine drive as well. The steering, feel and feedback was never less than sensational, the engine was full of pedigree and she was an absolute joy to drive fast on the more technical roads.

On balance though, the Mk1 was far from perfect and was lacking in a few key areas. First of all the feel of the gearshift left a lot to be desired and the gearing was a little over long for road use. Secondly, the brakes really were not very good at all and simply not commensurate with the performance and speed of the car. Finally, the performance or acceleration, was not commensurate with the ability of the chassis and the mechanical grip on offer. It's no surprise that these last 2 points were rectified in the mk2 version which had much bigger 6 pot calipers and a fair amount more grunt through the rev range. The looks though ... what a beauty the Mk1 is, seeing these pictures now has me questioning my decision.

Truth be told some of these shortcomings can be fixed with some modifications and they weren't the sole reason for me selling the car but they certainly did contribute. I suspect that if it has been a 996RS then there is simply no way I would have got shot of it.

I am not certain if my time is truly done with the 996 GT3. I think I probably still have it down as the greatest watercooled GT/RS car that Porsche have ever created; it simply has so much feel and connectivity especially when compared against it's more polished relations in the 997 range. So maybe one day I will return but one thing is certain, if I do it would have to be an extensively modified Mk1 or an RS.

 

 

The other car we have to say goodbye to is the F10 M5. Stolen straight off my driveway at 4am in the morning I really had no choice in the matter ! The M5 was a beast of a car, a true 600bhp+ super saloon with a generous dose of luxury and equipment and one of the most amazing drivetrains the world has ever seen. Was it fun ? Well here's what I wrote back in 2015 to someone who was struggling to decide whether to buy one over a 991 GTS:

 

"The subjective feel of the car won't be up to a good sportscar of course. It does not have the intimacy, the precision, the delicacy nor the "instrument-like" quality of a good 911 for example. It's heavy, very large, a little blunt and lacking in real feedback but for a weighty modern car of this type my feeling is that it manages pretty well and BMW have been able to engineer quite a bit of character into the car, especially so in the drivetrain.

Your first few squirts in sport plus will likely be fairly eye watering. The box and engine are quite breathtaking and the rate that the thing gathers momentum is something you never tire of. There is also something very intoxicating about a heavy car accelerating very quickly. Although weight blunts performance figures you are distinctly aware of the vast levels of torque and BHP which would not be present in a lighter but perhaps accelerative car. Stamp on the throttle at 70 in auto and the speed with which it drops a few cogs and hyperspaces on toward 130+ in just a few passing seconds seems as urgent and ferocious as anything this side of an MP4 12c. Of course most of the time this level of performance ends up being more of a limiting factor than anything else and arguably the F10 M5 suits drivers who like to pilot a car well inside its absolute performance envelope. It needs a huge huge road to truly make it come alive and move around and when you do find that road and start to string a few bends and straights together with maximum throttle, braking and grip then you are going far far too fast than anyone should ever really go on any public road. The A to B pace of the thing, at least in the dry, is completely insane.

Would I have one as an only car or sole 'weekend car' ? Definitely not. Yes it's an amazing machine, an opulent daily drive and a highly pleasurable driving environment but it doesn't ever get remotely close to nailing the 'special drivers car' thing. It's a flagship barge based on a mass production platform and one should manage expectations accordingly. It's a fairly excessive way to do the daily or the long distance duties whilst your other weekend toys are resting in the garage on their trickle chargers. To put it another way, you probably wouldn't really ever set your alarm for 6am to leap out of bed and then finely thread the thing down to the south coast and back one Sunday morning. It just doesn't have that level of nuance and involvement.

So opportunities to really stretch the beasts legs or trascend its limits are few and far between and many journeys can be a fairly sober lesson really in restraint. I tend to offset that though by using the gears a lot, enjoying the sound, the whip cracks on upchanges and and downchange blips and kicking the tail out here and there for giggles; it definitely is fun to potter around in. Moreover, the car has a ton of presence, some special character in its DNA and is a hugely desireable halo object to posess. These things, and the mere fact that it's an M5 and is about the most masculine machine out on today's roads perhaps become a bigger part of the ownership pleasure than the out and out driving. It is fun though, for sure."

Another case of unfinished business for me then. I never got the chance to take it to the circuit or an airfield and having a day using all that power and old school M dynamics to destory a set of tyres was something I had planned from the get go. I probably would have taken it to somewhere like Austria as well to see just how it fared on the big empty roads you get out there. It would have been a complete riot at the ring as well with all that torque.

 


The Jackals Racetrack http://www.jackals-forge.com/lotus 1998 Richard Morris