They gave me the keys to a Lamborghini. They said it was the LP640 and that it would easily do 200 mph. And I thought: Where can I take this car? Where can a Lamborghini work the way it was intended to work?
Certainly not here in England. I love the place to the point that I never want to live anywhere else, but there can be no doubt that this weenie island off the coast of Europe no longer has the infrastructure or the temperament to cope with a 640-hp Lamborghini. Driving big metal here is frustrating; it's like being given a gasoline-powered radio-controlled car capable of 50 mph and then being allowed to run it only in your kitchen. In the U.K., supercar ownership has become urbanized. Forget all those romanticized notions of Ferrari F40s scampering over expansive moorland blacktop--the world has changed, and an Enzo's natural habitat is now London's Kings Road. Consistent engine cooling under stationary conditions is a more pertinent denominator of required dynamic competence than cam phasing above 5000 rpm. Fast cars are pilloried by a political and social ethos that is no longer willing to accept beautiful, powerful machinery as an expression of man's creativity.
What a shame. We took possession of this remarkable machine in England, and yet the land of warm beer won't figure in the proposed timetable beyond being the port of embarkation and, should all go to plan, return. That's right, there was a plan. It involved a poorly detailed map of Europe and a jumbled collection of memorable places where legal loopholes and space had in the past permitted high speeds. There was hope that they still would. We wanted to let this car unwind in the manner we've always hoped the owners of such machinery would do themselves. We wanted to cover significant distances with significant numbers showing on the LP640's revised speedometer markings (the ones that now read to a stupefying 220 mph). We wanted to exceed three miles per minute whenever the mood took us.
Photographer Barry Hayden and I headed east, boarded a train that travels through a tunnel under the English Channel, and emerged on the other side. Ten miles out of Calais, the twelve-cylinder thrumming along at 2500 rpm, we realize that there's one immense problem with this proposal. We're in a right-hand-drive car, and passenger Hayden is a little short of hearing in his right ear. At the same time, thanks to a TVR Tuscan's self-jettisoning targa panel, I have specific hearing difficulties pertaining to my left ear. Twice in ten minutes I find myself questioning Barry's sanity as he blurts seemingly unconnected words through the swirl of tire, wind, and induction noises that characterize a cruising Murci. Unless he shouts, I can't hear him and vice versa. This doesn't bode well for a five-day sprint through mainland Europe, but despite enjoying Barry's take on life, a 6.5-liter Lamborghini V-12--one whose engine block can be traced back to the first Countach prototype of 1971--is an ample substitute for conversation.
The route we'll take is lengthy. Each leg terminates in a driving environment perfect for this car. First up is Germany and a special stretch of autobahn on which we hope to reach some big figures. Then we'll head south past Frankfurt into France, to Grenoble and perhaps the finest driving road in Europe: the Route Napolon. We'll drive its entire length and drop down onto the Autoroute du Soleil just west of Cannes--where supercars migrate for the summer months--before sprinting to northern Spain and experiencing a stretch of tarmac not usually associated with speed.