Missing the greatest group test ever – evo Archive

When evo assembled one of its greatest group tests ever, the launch of a diesel Alfa Romeo meant a disgruntled Henry Catchpole had to miss out

‘…not quite worth flying all the way to Italy for.’ That was how I finished a short, 250-word first drive on page 63 of issue 100. Now, usually I would jump at almost any excuse to fly to Italy. Pizza, gelato, the Dolomites, not to mention the automotive products of the Emilia Romagna; what’s not to like? So, I’d better explain.

Things are more organised than a calendar in a filing cabinet under the present leadership of editor Gallagher, but it probably won’t surprise you to know that it wasn’t always thus. Nevertheless, even the evo editorial team of fifteen years ago couldn’t fail to start planning ahead for a feature or two to celebrate the first century of the monthly magazine dedicated to the thrill of driving. And the cover story was a corker: The Greatest Group Test Ever!

The mouth-watering line-up, in alphabetical order, was as follows: Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari F40, Honda Integra Type R, Honda NSX-R, Lancia Delta Integrale Evo 2, McLaren F1, Nissan Skyline R34 GT‑R, Pagani Zonda C12‑S, Porsche 911 2.7 RS and the then current Porsche 911 GT3 (997.1). The ten greatest driver’s cars as voted for in an online poll of evo’s readers. The Carrera GT came in at no. 11 in case you’re interested. 

> Driving through Skid Row in a BMW Z8 – evo Archive

Anyway, with so many cars in this incredible test I felt fairly sure that I would be allowed to make the trip to North Yorkshire and join the rest of the editorial team. I’d been at evo for two years by this point, so I’d graduated from the purely kettle and mugs level of responsibility and a bucket and sponge was well within my wheelhouse. With those sorts of cars in attendance, the chance just to sit in the odd passenger seat would, I’m sure you’ll agree, have been enough.

But Harry Metcalfe, then editorial director, said ‘No’. Or rather he sent me on the launch of a diesel Alfa Romeo GT Q2, which was tantamount to the same thing because it was taking place slap bang in the middle of this ‘Perfect Ten’ test. The Q2 part of the name was the only new bit of the car and, in case it’s slipped your mind, referred to the addition of a Torsen limited-slip differential between the front wheels. So, I flew to Italy for a diff in a diesel. He might as well have sent me to Coventry.

In the days afterwards I heard Jethro talking about the McLaren’s V12 for hours on end. Others told tales of wide eyes and nervous laughs in the F40, moments of almost divine inspiration in the NSX‑R and how lovely a 2.7 RS is. It was all Lord Mexborough this, Bugatti Veyron that and ‘There I was in the Integrale with the Pagani in my mirrors…’ 

I’m generally an affable, equable sort of person. Geese go un-booed when I’m in the vicinity. But on this occasion it pains me to confess that I was possessed of a certain jealously. I was a veritable shade of Viper green with envy, which was as unbecoming on me as it would be on a Cayenne. As a result, when I came to write my small sidebar of a review in the Driven section I might have been feeling a little miffed and, although I gave the Alfa’s greater traction a fair review, I couldn’t restrain myself from signing off with that slightly tart line that almost certainly (thankfully!) went totally unnoticed by the person it was written for. And everyone else, until now. 

Suffice to say, I’ve been lucky enough to more than make up for that missed test in the subsequent 200 issues. And I bet most of those who did get to go can’t claim to have driven a diesel Alfa GT Q2. 

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