Our car - Leon to the Limit 2: Limit Harder
My distinct lack of sequel-naming talent aside, it seemed as though, against our will (untrue) the Leon and I would have to team up one last time (improbable) to once again take on the Everest that is the Car Limits driver training course. But this time, it was personal. And Wet.
To clarify, as you'll most likely remember from the original scintillating and record-breaking blockbuster that was 'Leon to the Limit' - and if you don't remember, click here and quickly absorb some context otherwise you'll be completely lost. I mean, come on, you wouldn't expect to be able to follow the plot of Transporter 2 having not seen the original, would you?
So last time round I got the wonderful opportunity to push our trusty Seat Leon further than I would ever dream of doing on the road, on the safety of North Weald airfield in the trusty hands of Andrew Walsh's advanced driver training course. Andrew Walsh is a former Benetton F1 test driver and has won more national racing championships than I've been on racetracks.
The first time was more reconnaissance to find out what the course entailed, a filming recce as it were. Today was the real deal, we were filming the XCAR feature and for that to happen one golden law of life needed to rain down from above. Sods law. The first time, not a drop of rain from beautiful sunrise to a somehow more perfect sunset. No prizes for guessing what happened. Mainly because I've already mentioned it in the sub head.
Rain, and lots of it. Although the Producer in me was heartbroken, as there are many things that rain hinders, it makes things fiddly and in the same limited period of time the film will never be quite as spectacular visually (plus try to get any Gopros with more than half a second of useful footage on them). However, as a driver, it provided a lot of fun. The vast strip of patchwork tarmac stored a collection of pools for me to slide over at high speed in a state of constantly changing stability. Heavily breaking and steering amongst these drastically unpredictable conditions really gave me a feel of what the car was capable of, and this alone doubled my improvement I'd experienced on the course first time round.
Whereas the high speed corner last time provided a hint of adrenaline (the excess runoff means you're well aware there's no danger) this time the runoff contained cameramen and equipment, and hurtling towards them at 80 miles an hour I was aware that I would be turning, but seeing someone closing in on your bumper with spray and poor visibility seriously restricting vision was absolutely terrifying and gave a nasty real world feel to proceedings.
Despite the stop start nature that can be slightly laborious when filming I had an even better experience and chucking the Leon around in the wet was close to perfection, lifting off whilst cornering to give the rear a bit more turn, the pools of water giving the slide extra momentum; hours of fun. I said almost perfect, because the concern I voiced first time around if anything was doubled. You can't fully turn stability control off, and in something that's supposedly a bit sporty, I found that this tinge left a taste of unfulfilled potential. I don't care how hard it is to turn off, make me press a certain sequence of buttons for a certain period of time in a way that resembles the most complex videogame cheat if you must, but it staggers me that this car, a blood relative to the Golf GTI, will not let the driver have full control.
It was one of those 'this would be just perfect IF' moments. You'd launch the Leon into the corner and feel the brakes being applied when that was the last thing you wanted to happen, and without the handbrake close to impossible to spin. It was only trying to help, and in an accident may just save your life, but once again it felt I'd only learnt the car's limits, not my own.
But still, I assume I won't complain when I slam on the brakes forgetting everything I've learnt on the road when there's an accident up ahead and ESC saves my ass. I'll probably claim it was all me though. We'll never know.
|Engine||2.0-litre turbo diesel|
|Torque||280 lb. ft.|
|0-62 mph||7.5 seconds|
|Top speed||142 mph|