In today’s version of Friday Funday, we’re taking you where Formula One is headed for the weekend- the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola where the Stig set a blistering lap time of 1:56.599 in a Ferrari 458 Italia in Series 18, Episode 1 of ‘Old Top Gear‘.
Jeremy, James, and Richard were required to beat the Stig’s lap time in their mid-engine supercars after a gruelling practice session. May expects his McLaren MP4-12C to be the winner whereas Clarkson, who thinks his Lamborghini Aventador is made of shavings of a six-foot bone in a Sperm Whale’s penis, claims his Aventador was the best.
Hammond on the other hand had been pretty noble by driving a Noble M600- a handmade Supercar built in Leicestershire and claimed his supercar was the fastest. The Top Gear Trio pause their Italian road trip and enter Imola to take on the Stig.
Clarkson calls Imola one of the most dangerous tracks on Earth as he recalls some serious moments from history. He even mentioned Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994.
“One of the most dangerous tracks on Earth. It’s narrow, fast and ringed with unforgiving walls and trees. Nick Heidfeld, Giancarlo Fisichella Kimi Räikkönen… At some point in history, every corner here has claimed the ego of a big name.”
“And some corners have claimed even more than that. After Senna’s death in 1994, changes were made to the track to slow the cars down, but even so, if we were going to beat that Ferrari, we would still be going through the first bend at nearly 200 miles an hour.”
The night before the challenge, all three spent some time alone with their respective cars, briefing them about the battle that lay ahead and filling them with the courage to fight.
Clarkson called his Aventador Juventus and said it was to take on Woking Town and Leicester City and that everybody in England would support it because the other two are the underdogs.
Hammond encourages his M600 that they’d be doing this the old-fashioned way- entering the battlefield without sophisticated computer wizardry, clever suspension, and four-wheel drive.
May on the other hand instills his MP4-12C with confidence that it is made by McLaren. It has the best race pedigree and sophisticated gadgetry. May adds that he just needs to be humoured by the car. He asked his car to remember that he is Captain Slow, or Mr Slowly as the Italians call him.
When the action begins the next day, one can hear a lot of tyre screeches in the first lap with Jeremy going off the road slightly. But, when you watch Hammond going fast in a car without electronic protection, you do fear for his life.
James as usual was complaining of some ‘wee coming out’. But, all three took the challenge very seriously. After a few laps, their times hovered around the 2:05 mark- almost 9 seconds behind the Stig’s record which, in the motoring time unit is 9 years.
When they headed out again, James’s McLaren could finally be seen with the spoiler being raised while breaking, a sign that he was going fast and braking hard. Watching Jeremy’s Aventador go around Imola was a sight to behold. It looked like an Orange stealth fighter that was screaming down the track with Blue flames coming out of its afterburners!
Hammond was seen pushing hard too but as you’d expect, he lost control for a moment and then went straight into the gravel section in an attempt to recover the Noble. Soon after, the Aventador’s brakes glowed Red so they had to stop for a while to allow the discs to cool down and Hammond removed all the gravel from his front bumper.
They then attempted a final run to beat the Ferrari 458 Italia’s lap time. You’d never see the three focus so hard on a challenge but in this case, they did their best to ensure they maintained the correct lines and never spared a second to floor it when exiting corners. Even James May got the track fever!
After their attempt, the scene cuts back to the studio where Jeremy admits how scary it was to go fast around the track. He adds:
“As you go past the pits, the track is not straight. It’s a curve and you daren’t lift off, ’cause the crews, they can hear the engine note change, so you have to keep your foot hard down.”
“All three of us doing over 200 (mph). That’s faster than a Formula 1 car was going through there. They could only do about 180.”
Hammond’s hilarious reply was: “I don’t know, ’cause I had my eyes shut. It was terrifying.”
The Trio then revealed their lap times which were:
Richard Hammond : 2:03.3
Mr Slowly : 2:06.4
Jeremy expressed that it was difficult for him to not look smug because his time was 1:59.1!
Despite it being a short clip, we leaned forward watching all three of them race through Imola.