A Former Motoring Editor at the Telegraph, Erin combines a bike licence and race licence with a love of high-speed cars and penchant for embarrassingly low-speed crashes. Now she has two sons, she’s largely put her leathers to one side, preferring the cut and thrust of automotive industry debates and wondering which cars have Isofix…
So here’s the thing about driving: it is both the best and worst thing you can do in your spare time. I’m lucky; apart from a weekly commute down to Goodwood from London, which is no bad thing on the A286 (especially in a spirited car should the opportunity arise) I don’t have to grind my way into work every day by car. I don’t have to watch as people move too slowly, too quickly, too stupidly or too aggressively for my liking. I don’t have to sit at the wheel, knuckles whitening, teeth grinding, headache worsening, wondering whether the shortcut will work, or the queue will move.
Driving remains, for now, largely a pleasure. And that doesn’t necessarily mean zipping round country lanes in a sports car on a Sunday afternoon: even the M25 turned into a joy at the weekend, weirdly.
It took me under two hours to drive from Winchester to Southend, via Leatherhead. I was so worried about being early that I pootled along in the slow lane, in a CR-V I was testing from Honda, at a steady 68mph most of the way, and still couldn’t find a traffic jam to get stuck in. Just sat back, listened to Radio 4, watched the clouds scudding over the QE2 bridge, enjoyed the comfy leather seats and marvelled at a largely empty motorway. Marvelled even more at not having the kids in the back seats and having to listen to The Bare Necessities for the 15th time in one journey.
Those are the times – and here petrolheads will suck in air sharply through teeth – I like driving the most. I have a race licence, I ride motorbikes and I drive high-performance supercars. But driving for me, at its best, is a leisure activity, not a sport. I know, I know, and I’m sorry, especially to be announcing this on the Road and Racing site of the world’s best motorsport event. But there it is.
Driving is not about getting from A back to A on a circuit; it’s about getting from A to B. And not as quickly as you can, but as pleasantly as you can – those who go karting will know how mutually exclusive speed and pleasure are, the latter replaced more often by pain, I find.
Driving for me is always about the freedom, the independence, the isolation and the sheer magic of working a metal box with your hands and feet to take you anywhere you fancy going. It’s similar to how I felt when I first used satnav – the joy of just driving until you lose the road then typing in your postcode to take you home. It’s like when you’re a child at school and allow your best mate to lead you round the playground with your eyes closed. That giggly feeling of trusting and letting go.
I get the same feeling on a motorbike too – that moment where you twist the throttle, lift up your feet and set off. The magic peaks at a speed of about 20mph; the rest is just riding, but in that split second of lift-and-go, I feel borne away, taken on a metal horse towards the horizon.
I realise I’ve gone a bit Disney. But there it is. Driving: leisure, sport or just a world of pain? Discuss.