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That’s me in my old Esprit at Autobahn Country Club

I get no kick out of modern supercars. Sure… …I get it. A zillion horsepower. Performance numbers quite beyond my comprehension. Post space age materials. It’s all super impressive. But not for me…

I think it’s the gadgets.

Traction control. Stability control. Semi auto gearboxes. Computer controlled torque. Active handling. Adjustable differentials. Launch control. My god, modern cars do everything but drive themselves, and if the news is to be believed, that’s next.

I blame the magnificent Porsche type 959 for all of this.

I think the electronic nannies are fine in a daily driver. Basic transportation ought to be safe, reliable, and as fool proof as technology can make it. Most of the time as we transit from point to point we are elsewhere in our minds so we need the help. Another consideration is that the vast majority of us don’t really care about being good drivers. Mini vans should be lousy with electronics.

Not so when we are driving for sporting purposes.

Apparently I am in the minority here, but I believe when driving is to be considered a sport, the control relationship between man and machine is elemental. This is simple, really. You have throttle, brake, gear change, and steering input. That’s pretty much everything you can do to manipulate an auto. The art of Motorsport is doing it well. So, I ask, how does the driver of an all wheel drive semi auto clutch less car loaded with more nannies than the Broadhurst School and Nursery in Hampstead know if he’s good or not?

*spoiler alert*

He doesn’t.

Modern supercars are appliances for speed. They are fast IN SPITE of their drivers, and I find that loathsome on a molecular level. What’s more depressing is that people are so lazy they don’t seem to realize it.

This is actually reinforced by car magazines, another thing I detest. In fact, in December there were several car mags that did “best sports car” articles, and not a one of the cars previewed was under 3500 pounds, and more disturbing to me, not a one of them actually allowed you to drive it. The track day reviews are almost as pointless as roller coaster races for all the autonomy a driver has on a fast lap.

The pleasure of driving an Esprit, an older Ferrari, or a proper type 911 Porsche (before they became denatured) is in managing a beast at its limits. If you get it wrong (extremely hard to do in one of my beloved Lotuses, but quite possible) you go for the bushes. That’s an incentive to learn how to drive within the cars, but more importantly, your limits. It can get hairy, but you learn what makes one of those cars special. There is, nothing, between you and your mistakes.

My local Lotus club is to the rafters with hippies, nerds, engineers, odd balls, and the like, and every one of them will remorselessly punish a lesser driver in a better car without so much as a frowning moment, because they can drive . It’s a skill you pick up in a car you can get snakebit in. I have many laps of tuition with them attempting to pass this on to me as well. It’s what they do in Lotus Clubs. They drive hard, and well. Motorsport is the foundation of the culture.

Lotus seems wonderfully reluctant to march toward the nanny state of things. The V-6 Exige is the first one thats actually made it to production offering stability control, and it desperately needs it because it develops almost a hundred horsepower more the frame was designed to accept (that is mind blowing to me. I couldn’t handle 189 bhp on the track in my Exige and they are up to 350…). I should also mention that it took something like 60 years for Lotus to offer a clutch-less transmission, and they are still a minority offering (cue deserved snickers from my Esprit brethren).

The Elise and Exige were wonderfully unique cars in the modern world. As close to elemental as allowed by regulation. I don’t believe you can call yourself a car guy until you have enjoyed one of those. I owned an Exige for almost seven years, and there are things about it I shall always miss. Mostly, how honest it was on a race track.

Speaking of honesty, I believe, In fact, that the reason a cup holder in an Exige looks like a jock strap is reflective of the factory’s opinion of the type of driver who demanded it. I, for one, agree with the lads from Norfolk.

I don’t really care what the performance numbers are, or how the computers can trick you into thinking that a modern car is agile and nimble. I just can’t be bothered with a 4000 pound sports car. The physics actually offend me. So does a safety net designed to both extract performance I don’t deserve from a car, and then protect me from it.

I mean, really… …400 horsepower in a sedan? 900 horsepower in a supercar? The difference for most drivers between 300 and 400 horsepower is how long the traction control light blinks. It’s such a waste.

I get it. There will be times when someone goes flying past me in a 599 Ferrari or some otherAutobot and they won’t actually be driving, but if I am in a my Lotus, I will be, and, in my book, that counts.

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