Ever since I’d learnt to pronounce the word ‘car’, I became very passionate about all things on four wheels and latterly motor racing and all things two wheel related!
Thanks in part to my late grandfather, Saturdays were spent listening to him recount the articles in the motoring section of The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
We didn’t have the same taste in cars mind, he was an avid Lexus owner, while I was more into my Mercedes Benz…albeit not a owner, well just yet!
So imagine my delight at winning a competition and being invited down to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, to be driven up the famous hillclimb in the Lexus Supercar, the LFA.
I’d been to the festival a couple of years back, but somehow knew this experience was going to be slightly different after being told I would be treated like a VIP.
So off I headed down to Sussex, I should maybe mention that I was flown down to London and put up in a hotel by the Thames overlooking the Houses of Parliament, while being filmed by my own film crew. For someone being more used to being behind the camera and always doing things on the cheap, this was really out of my comfort zone.
For those of you that haven’t been to Goodwood, it is a definite must for any petrolhead. Not only does it ooze high-octane fun, but all the racing legends past and present turn up to take part in this motoring garden party. You can get close up to cars and bikes: mingle with the stars whilst soaking up the smells of the methanol fuel.
Current F1 World Champion Jenson Button wowed the crowds driving a turbocharged V6 McLaren-Tag MP4/2C up the hillclimb, a car nearly as old as him, while the only two and four wheeled World Champion, John Surtees got a round of applause from the fans as he parked up the Ferrari 158 he was driving. For a man that has had to experience his son Henry being killed racing last year, he is the true British racing gent, polite, humble and made time for every person that came to chat to him.
Adding some pizazz from across the pond was World Rally star, Ken Block. Known worldwide for his Gymkhana videos, I overheard the king of slide being told to not do anything too over the top in his Ford Focus RS WRC as he exited the assembley area. But the showman couldn’t help himself and infront of the huge crowds showed why he is adulated the world over by doing one of his smoke burning doughnuts!
The bikes weren’t too be outdone by the cars and a whole host of current world racers took to the track including British stars, Leon Haslam, James Toseland and Leon Camier. Italian legend Giacomo Agostini also entertained the fans aboard an MV Agusta 500, a bike which won him seven consecutive world titles.
Add some hair raising displays from the Red Arrows and a couple of Apache helicopters to the mix and it was a definite feast for the eyes.
But apart from all the entertainment, I was there for one reason only and that was to experience the Lexus LFA.
I must admit, when I first saw it, as aesthetically gorgeous as it looks, it didn’t take my breath away as much as the Mercedes Benz SLS AMG or the Bugatti Veyron. But in its understated looks it hides what lies beneath.
So here’s the technical jargon. The 4.8 litre V10 has caused quite a lot of fuss since its arrival on the world scene. It has a top speed of 202mph, does 0 – 62mph in 3.7 seconds and how many cars produce an exhaust note tuned by the music division of Yamaha? Obviously don’t expect to hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony playing from the exhaust, but what you will experience from this carbon fibre built supercar is a sound inspired by the F1 cars.
So after having a look around it and jumping into the passenger seat, it was time to head down to the assembley area before my dalliance on the circuit.
Japanese SuperGT driver and supercool 50 year old, Takayuki Kinoshita was to drive me up the hillclimb. He didn’t really speak much English, but from our broken English conversations it was his first time at Goodwood and he even drives a Mercedes Benz SL500 back in Japan and not a Lexus! I loved how he was taking photos of the satnav in the LFA showing the distance between Goodwood and the Nurburgring.
Sat in the low slung cockpit the interior is typical Lexus, superior high quality finish, a touch of 21st century gadgetry in its LCD panel and seats that make you feel so cocooned I felt it had been designed for my frame.
Just to add to the whole experience, the exhaust sounds are channeled into the cabin, so make you feel like you’re at home encased in 3D surround sound rather than in a supercar. Even Hollywood movie scores don’t come much better than this.
Once parked up waiting to go out to the track, I was surrounded by some of the world’s most expensive cars. Bugattis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis were all waiting alongside and this was definitely supercar heaven!
We seemed to end up waiting rather a long time and then a Mercedes 4×4 appeared and out stepped F1 racer, Lewis Hamilton. OK seeing him, I didn’t mind the wait! He jumped into the new McLaren MP4-12C, not a patch on the LFA I might add, and headed the supercars down to the start of the hillclimb. After some showboating from the former F1 Champion, it was our turn to arrive at the start line.
Was I nervous? Maybe just a little bit, but also very excited. As much as I am passionate about all things that involve engines, plenty of speed and are thrilling to watch, I have never been out on a circuit.
Takayuki asked me if I was OK, something he was to repeat during the entire duration of the hillclimb and I was definitely OK! Off we went, my body thrust back into the seat on every gearshift. There was a beeping noise from the rev limiter every time Takayuki went up through the gears on the paddleshift, but my ears were more attuned to the musical inspired exhaust sounds emanating through the cabin.
Now the climb may be 1.16 miles in length and rise 300ft, but the tree lined roads went past in a blur, as did the hay bales and crowds. Was I scared at any point? Maybe slightly, when the flint walls suddenly appeared and we seemed to be approaching them rather too quickly. But fear not, I was in good hands.
Then we sped across the finish line and that was it. It took just over a minute, but it was one of the most exhilarating experiences ever.
Lexus have produced a supercar to rival all its main competitors. It may be costly with a hefty price tag of over £300,000, but with only 500 being made and they have already being snapped up, the Japanese marque definitely has a legend on its hands in the luxurious, fast and automotive treat that is the LFA.