Celebrating the awesome Lexus LFA


Celebrating the awesome Lexus LFA

Jeremy Clarkson has recently embarked on a Lexus LFA love-fest. Not only did he claim it was "the best car I've ever driven" on the front cover of this month's Top Gear magazine, he also made sure it took pride of place on the show this Sunday.

Clarkson rarely pours so much positive criticism on a vehicle but when it is as good as the Japanese firm's rare hypercar, it is completely understandable.
> Only 500 models were built and the last LFA to roll off the production line was given a heroes' send-off in December last year.

But the LFA isn't a car that is easily forgotten. Read the gripping account of a chance meeting with the LFA below and it soon becomes clear as to why Clarkson went quite so mad for the Japanese beast.

There's only one in Europe. All 500 are sold out. And they put me behind the wheel...

Two words send a shiver down my spine: You're On. They arrive via direct message on Twitter from Lexus PR chief Scott Brownlee and I know immediately what they're referring too – the Lexus LFA, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, with me at the wheel.

Cue involuntary sweating, palpitations that have nothing to do with the morning's caffeine intake and quite a bit of disbelief.

This is closely followed by a morning on YouTube watching several rather expensive automobiles being completely rearranged on Goodwood's infamous hill climb.

In hindsight, that probably wasn't the best way to calm my already frayed nerves.

The sheer magnitude of the stroke of luck I've somehow managed to pull off takes a while to sink in. This is the very same LFA that Top Gear's Hamster has thrashed around their track. It is the same LFA that The Stig has wrung to within an inch of its life to set the programme's fastest ever wet lap, and it is the only LFA in Europe. Not only that, but I am to be the only UK journalist to pilot the LFA up the Goodwood hill climb at the Festival of Speed and one of only three hacks being put behind the wheel that weekend.

Then there are the figures to worry about. Those Lexus fans among you will already know the LFA costs a staggering £330,000. There are only 500 of them being built and they're all sold. It produces an ear-piercing 552bhp from its V10 engine and can rev to a stratospheric 9,000rpm. Oh, and it'll top 200mph and crack 60mph in just 3.7 seconds.

Lexus LFA

Lexus LFA

Those figures soon find a quiet, dark corner in my brain to hide as just a few days later I'm sat on the hill climb startline watching a £1.2m Lamborghini Reventon Roadster – being driven quite angrily by a very young, very rich, and very lucky son (it was his dad's) – squirm and slither as it distributes its rubber on the tarmac in front of me.

Tucked in tight to the red leather sports seats in the left-hand drive supercar, all that's going around and round in my head are those images from the web of expensive supercars being wrapped around hay bales and stone walls.

Traction control clicked off, paddle-shift gear change set in super-angry fight mode, and a blip of the V10 in neutral sends a shiver down my spine. The LFA really does sound ferocious. Touch the throttle pedal in neutral and it barks like a racing car.

It's a high-pitched shriek, like a startled scream, and every time it brings an evil grin to my face.

In the days leading up to this event I've be studying the track to try and work out which way it goes. Not only have I never been up the famous hill before, but the only time I've driven the LFA before now is the two-minute quarter mile-ish drive down to the startline.

This explains why I am currently softening the leather handgrips on the carbon-fibre steering wheel with sweaty palms... A marshal pokes his head around the passenger side of the windscreen and waves me off.

I give it a full pedal-mashing start to try and make it look like I know what I'm doing and two eye-blink gear-changes later I'm at the first right-hander. The LFA angrily blips the V10 for me on the downchanges – further helping me bluff my way as a 'proper' driver in front of the thousands watching – and it hunkers down into the first rubber-strewn arc of the hill.

Celebrating the awesome Lexus LFA

Even with a ham-fisted hack like me at the wheel, this Lexus is positively explosive – it fires through up-shifts with mind-boggling speed and feels every bit as rapid as its performance figures suggest.

In seconds I'm hurtling along in front of the famous Goodwood House, under the bridge and rapidly approaching the left-hander I'd been warned so many times about. Already this morning someone has stacked some automotive exotica into the hay bales here and I am not prepared to be the star of a smashed-up-supercars-blog rogue's gallery.

So when I spot a three hundred metre board signaling a left turn, then 200m, then 100m, I'm already hauling on the anchors before I realise I'm about to cock up in the highest order.

Those boards aren't signaling the arrival of the left-hander – they're highlighting a SERVICE road.

What. A. Div.

I try and make up for it by knocking it down a few cogs and roaring off – I can always pretend I was showboating, as it is the Festival of Speed after all. But the fact of the matter is, I've been a complete numpty.

I just hope no-one notices.