AOL Cars masters the Top Gear track


Wearing a brilliant black polo shirt and a comfortable pair of charcoal chinos, I thought he was there to keep the cars shiny. Little did I know the man waving me into the parking slot was the reigning Scandinavian Touring Car champion.

Complete with a chiselled-jaw, brilliant blue eyes and impossibly funky hair, he strode towards my now parked Volvo, opened the driver's door and offered his hand to shake.

Impressed by his friendliness, I shook it. The puzzled look on my face was obviously apparent. Cue a Volvo PR urgently running over to my side whispering in my ear: "It's Thed Bjork – reigning Scandinavian Touring Car champion."

Beaming, the Swede said, in unbroken English: "Welcome to Dunsfold, home of the Top Gear test track."

Fresh from winning last year's championship in a Volvo S60 Polestar, Bjork has competed in every type of motorsport going; sports cars, Le Mans, Indy Car – the lot.

We chat. Embarrassment over and Bjork now dressed in his sharp-looking corporate racing overalls, beckons me over to the Volvo I had arrived in.

"James," he says with charming Swedish curtness, "I'm going to teach you how to drive this track."

Jabbing a thumb in the direction of the waiting Volvo, he adds: "But, more importantly, I'm here to teach you how to get the most out of our new car."

AOL Cars masters the Top Gear track 1

AOL Cars masters the Top Gear track 1

The hot wheels in question are those attached to Volvo's super-exclusive new V60 Polestar. Limited to just 750 units around the world, only 125 are coming to the UK and represent the closest you and I can get to a Volvo racing car for the road.

Polestar, Volvo's tuning partner, has been applying its craft to the sensible Swedish firm's motors since the mid-1990s. It's the equivalent of BMW and its Alpina division – hotting up run-of-the-mill machinery for wealthy enthusiasts.

The V60 Polestar is the first proper collaboration between the two companies, though. There have been a couple of concepts, such as the yobbish C30 and S60 Polestars which was lauded over by Clarkson and the Top Gear team a while back, and a series of Polestar power upgrades available to models that your local Volvo dealer will gladly fit for a small outlay, but nothing quite like this.

Using Volvo's throaty 3.0-litre straight-six T6 engine as a starting point, Polestar has replaced the already more-than-capable turbocharger for a new twin-scroll unit and overhauled intercooler.

Adjustable Ohlins shock absorbers now feature, as do a set of dampers that are shared with the Lamborghini Aventador. There's a racy-sounding exhaust, a special bodykit and a tarted-up interior.

But it's that engine that dominates the whole experience.

"With 346 horses under the bonnet we will have fun," says Bjork with more than a mischievous smile on his face as we pull up to the start line. "Push the gearlever to the left, turn the ESP off (the electronic stability programme) and push down on the brake pedal and accelerator as hard as you can," he says calmly.

"We're spooling the turbo up for the launch control. When you're ready, throw you foot off the brake and we'll be off."

"Off" is an understatement. We fly. The estate car's rear end hunkers down and we race up to 80mph. A slight shuffle of the nubuck and leather steering wheel and we're through the slight right hander called Crooner Curve.

"Brake hard and in a straight line for this left-hander," barks Bjork. We're heading at a completely acute angle to the corner but I follow my instructor's outstretched finger.

AOL Cars masters the Top Gear track 2

AOL Cars masters the Top Gear track 2

"Head there and... brake NOW." We turn in and the tyres chirp away. There's an encouraging amount of feel through the steering wheel. But I have little time to think about that as I need to straighten the car up and a prod of the throttle launches us towards Chicago.

"Turn in.... HERE," he yells. I twirl the wheel and the front-end loses grip. Nose-on understeer is a traditional Volvo trait and this V60 with some racing car magic sprinkled on it is no different.

Now it's the big one. Hammerhead. "Floor it," says Bjork. "Faster, faster... the throttle is the right pedal, yeah!" he laughs.

We touch 134mph before Bjork chips in with: "See that tyre on the right in the distance? That's where you should be braking. But we'll go on for a few more metres."

"Will we? Really? It's coming up pretty fast," I say to myself. Past the tyre and I can just about to see the painted "corner" up ahead. I say corner as the first part of Hammerhead isn't a real corner created by the topography but by someone with a paint brush.

"NOW," yells the champion. We lunge forward and 140mph is scrubbed off with ease thanks to the enormous ventilated discs and six-pot calipers.

Somehow we reach Hammerhead with some dignity. Left, right and then its back onto the loud pedal.

The front end snaps away from the apex and the straight-six puts all of its power through the front wheels. We drift. The engine howls but not until the turbo chirps and sucks in what sounds like 70 gallons of air. "Whoooooosh" and "yooowwwllll" fill the cabin.

A dab of the brakes and we turn into the Follow-Through. The tyres grip and then we're thrown into Bentley. "See the kerb?" says Bjork. "Hit it".

We clout it and the car jumps slightly into the air. A tug of the wheel sees us onto the straight before Bacharach... 110mph screams the speedo.

"Now brake, hard. HARD." Again we hurl forwards. Bacharach is the corner that seems to catch every celebrity out on Top Gear. But Bjork won't let me mess it up. "Turn in now. Hold that line. Gooood," he utters.

But now we're heading into Gambon. "This is easy. Turn now. No fuss – it's easy." And it is. But the ride is over and I've done a lap of the Top Gear test track unscathed.

We pull up with the car hot and stinking of clutch and rubber and me of sweat. "Ever fancy being The Stig?" I quip.

"No – it would be far too boring," he says, a lot more seriously than I was expecting.