Behind the wheel with LG at Silverstone
On the starting grid – Porsche, Lotus and Aston Martin
Be in no doubt that the good people at LG mean business. The 2009-10 range of LG LCD and plasma screens is outlined in exhaustive detail here, but if a product launch is worth celebrating it's worth celebrating at least twice.
To that end, this year's (extremely) proud partners of Formula One invited a disreputable gang of journalists to Silverstone in Northants. In evidence was LG's TV Trailer, which will be touring the country over the course of the year (and no doubt bringing some flatscreen enlightenment to a town near you soon).
Also in evidence, and in some ways more compelling, were Lotus Exiges, Porsche 911s, Ferrari F360s and an Aston Martin Vantage. LG had somehow come to the conclusion that letting a gang of excitable writers loose in a selection of expensive machinery on what is still a FIA circuit wouldn't have any kind of adverse effect on its no-claims bonus.
The conditions for driving – a warm and sunny spring day – were ideal, but those same conditions make wearing a fireproof jumpsuit a trial all its own. Especially as a jumpsuit is so grabby around the honeymoon area.
Can you spot our man? Hint – the others have got more hair
Squeezed into flame-retardant jumpsuit
Undeterred (and ignoring the otherwise-personable racing instructor Andy Shultz when he suggested your snake-hipped correspondent might require the XXL), I squeezed into the bright-red, flame-retardant overalls and scoffed the complementary bacon roll. The Lotus Exige may be the least powerful car on offer today, but it's not to be tackled on an empty stomach.
I have colleagues at Autocar, WhatCar? and the like who can do far better justice to describing the little Lotus's eager, direct steering, ferocious levels of grip and wasp-in-a-bottle engine note.
These are the same colleagues who would have been able to relax their wrists and biceps at the wheel, rather than hanging on with grim determination, and would not have exited the car a) bathed in sweat and b) horizontally.
That's why they work where they work and why I work here. Suffice to say that my six-or-so laps in the Lotus passed in a delirium of too-fast-in, too-slow-out cornering and horrible confusion between third and fifth gears.
A better showing in the 911, though, as my knowledge of the circuit (or, more precisely, a vague idea of when and how hard to steer) improved. It's a beautifully made thing, the Porsche, and if you're careful to finish all your braking before you start your steering it's a frighteningly rapid car.
Simon did better in the Porsche 911 than the Lotus Exige
Porsche 911 as unpredictable as Oliver Reed
Brake and steer at the same time, though, and the 911 is just frightening – it becomes as unpredictable as Oliver Reed and about as volatile. Suffice to say that by the end of half a dozen ragged laps I'd managed to sweat through my second fire-proof balaclava of the day. Perhaps I'll grow cress in it.
LG and Silverstone saved the best for last with the Aston Martin Vantage and, luckily, I'd saved my best until last too.
Familiarity with the track, plus the Aston's seemingly limitless grip and willingness to turn into a corner meant I was able to relax a touch at the wheel, string some bends together and have the presence of mind to listen to the V8 bellow too.
Seven brisk laps later, there was almighty stench issuing from the Aston's brakes that I was happy to interpret as an indication of my bravery and pizzazz.
Details of the Tour of the TV Trailer (or the LG Fun Bus if you prefer) will follow as soon as they've been formalised, and our July issue should feature a First Test of LG's LF7700 Freesat-enabled LCD TV.
By that time, my need to kiss the apex of the bends on the M25 should have receded a little.