August 2011 Issue of 4×4 Magazine
Understandably perhaps, if you are not directly involved, it’s a little difficult to know exactly what an editor of a motoring magazine actually does. Quite often, the first question an editor gets asked is “so what have you been driving then…?” Usually, it’s a great question, especially when asked by a fellow enthusiast who really wants to hear, and wants to develop the conversation and talk four-wheel drive. But not this month…
Asked, “what have you been driving lately?” and my answer would have been short, sharp, and admittedly, it would have been answered through clenched teeth. What have I been driving? Simple: my iMac computer.
And before anyone shouts at the page, this writer is fully aware that writing for a living beats what a lot of people have to do to earn a crust. And writing is a passion, but I have to admit that you can get a little stir-crazy stuck in front of a computer screen, especially when you are subbing and editing stories about other people driving 4x4s, often in fabulously interesting and challenging places!
Interestingly this month, however, there were a couple of trips away from the desk that link together in what may at first appear to be somewhat incongruous; how about Ayrton Senna, and a new VW pick-up. Connected? Funnily enough, they are, at least for me. Firstly, like many commentators I would urge you to go and see the new film Senna. As many have said, it’s more than just a film for nerdy Grand Prix fanatics. It helps to have some knowledge of the subject, but anyone interested in motoring should see the film and if you are a motorsport fan of any kind whatsoever, then it’s a must. For me, motorsport is a big interest, I have dabbled in club motorsport and have written about it and met a lot of fast and famous drivers and, although I never met Senna, he did a feature for a sister magazine of this one back in the 1980s. At the time Senna was racing for Lotus in F1, and his talent was obvious. The then editor of Cars and Car Conversions, the late Russell Bulgin, knew Senna and called him up saying; “Fancy driving some rally cars off-road?” I always thought that it was such a surprise that Senna actually said yes, but having seen the film, I can understand completely. Senna was a pure racer, a driver. Being the best he could be was what mattered and the steps to get there took him in different directions and so why not drive a bunch of club rally cars, through the forests, in Wales? Can you imagine that happening today, where all the drivers are so controlled and cosseted by massive corporate marketing and PR machines? Not for Senna. He drove to Wales, wore his Lotus overalls and his famous yellow helmet and he proved to be as sensational off-road as he was on track. He drove the cars, very quickly, had a sandwich and cuppa with Bulgin and ace photographer Norman Hodson, and then got back in his car and drove back to London. Wouldn’t happen today.
Oh that Senna could still be with us. If he were, however, what on earth would he make of the new VW Amarok, that allows you to descend down a muddy slope, in neutral? It was the VW Amarok that I managed to leave my office for a touch of off-roading, and it’s an impressive piece of kit. The Amarok already has its own motorsport history, as a fleet of them were support vehicles for the last Dakar Rally (pictured below). It got me thinking. Senna would have been in his 51st year had he not have been so sadly lost. Too old for F1, certainly, but not for something like the Dakar. There’s a purity about that as a motorsport event. It could have appealed to Senna, given that he’d smiled so much on that day in Wales, off-road driving had an attraction, and he’d have been in a top team, like VW. Just got me thinking. One thing’s for sure, however, he wouldn’t have been driving down a sand dune in neutral…
Nigel Fryatt, Editor
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