Forza Horizon #EscapeTheGrid London to Birmingham
Not many teenagers are aware that 4:30am exists, I however am one the exceptions. This rather extreme precaution was for good reason though. By 6:00am I was on a train bound to London, at 7:00am, after a couple of tube rides, I was at place called Queensway and at 8:00am I arrived at the London Hyde Park Hotel; awaiting what would be one of the most fun experiences I have had in my life.
The event was called Escape The Grid, a promotion for the new game Forza Horizon (exclusively for Xbox 360). A challenge was set out to a number of driver’s and their companions to drive eleven supercars from Paris, France to Birmingham, England over the duration of four days (taking a rather scenic route at that). The distance in total was roughly 1000 kilometres and there would be a number of challenges for the cars and drivers to face along the way. The selection of cars was truly mouth-watering from the sleekness of a McLaren MP4-12C to the pure power of a Bentley Continental GT. The car I would be in for the final day of Escape The Grid however would be one of my all-time favourite cars; the Jaguar XKR-S. I cannot carry across well in words how much I love Jaguar as a car company and so being given this car out of the entire field really was a true blessing. Before we move onto the trip though I’d like to give special thanks to my driver for the day, Cat. Straight away I could feel her enthusiasm for the coming kilometres and really it wouldn’t have been the same without her. So, armed with a bass heavy album and too many cans of Rockstar energy drink, we headed out of the hotel garage and began the journey.
Straight away we decided to test out the power of the Jag in the streets of London and my goodness me it was incredible. There really is nothing like being plastered back to your seat as the car opens up it full engine capabilities. Soon after on our journey out of London we decided to do what the previous drivers hadn’t and name the car. The poor thing had been given eye-lashes on the headlights but in the end I felt we should “roll with it” and hence forth she was known as ‘The Mistress’ (a name which the other drivers fully approved of). Here, another special mention should be made to the car’s sound system. It’s loud…very loud. London has never experienced anything like it and I doubt it will ever again!
Out on the M40, The Mistress was truly in her element. For the majority of this first part of the trip we were leading the now ten car convoy (following the retirement of the Mercedes SLS) and pulled a fair bit ahead with the Nissan GTR known as ‘Gary The Redeemer’ and the Maserati GranTurismo. We exchanged positions many times trying to prove our car had the most power but we at least still had a sense of direction after the Maserati and Nissan almost missed the Beaconsfield services for our half way stop. Had it not been for us, who knows where they could have ended up?!
During the stop I got a chance to chat to the other drivers more in-depth about their cars and others cars. It really was quite interesting how everybody had formed a loop of distaste around the BMWs including the pre-production M6. For some reason they just weren’t doing it for people. Another car attracting criticism was the McLaren which after a bit of practical testing had really gained some negative points such as ride comfort and the car alarm of all things which was rather weak. I also truly embarrassed myself in a mini-challenge which was to do the best Jeremy Clarkson impression. Although I feel I nailed his mannerisms, different voices are simply a no go area with me so I left the services in shame.
Back on the road we became part of the middle group of the convoy and, although it was great fun, as the kilometres rolled down a sinking feeling started to develop in my chest. It really may seem weird to many of you but in the few hours I had known The Mistress I had already started to bond with her. This car had given me the most fun I have had in years and I began to dread reaching the Birmingham NEC knowing that we would be parting ways never seeing each other again. The Jag was a character with her loud voice both in engine and in sound sytem and the way she pulled you along with her when you floored the pedal could leave you entertained for months on end.
The time soon did come though when the convoy bunched up once again for the final time and entered the NEC compound to be cleaned for Top Gear Live. The Mistress went in blaring some dubstep though, be assured of that! Team Jaguar came second in the challenges so we should be proud of her, but seeing her for the last alone before I left the NEC in the evening really was quite heart breaking.
I patted her bonnet, still warm from the engine, and went home on the train; a man with another void to fill in his life.
Forza Horizon is out now, exclusively on Xbox 360. Find out more here.
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