Goodwood 2011: a run up the hill in the Lamborghini Performante

Published: 07 July 2011

I was lucky enough to pilot the Lamborghini Performante up the hill at Goodwood this past weekend (yup, that was me taking it gingerly during both supercar runs on Sunday). It’s flamboyant and OTT and its four fat tailpipes play the most wondrous, deep-chested mix of bellows and howls – and this Spyder version only brings you closer to that V10 orchestra. Meaty steering, a darty front-end and four-wheel drive means it’s (honestly, hand-on-heart) easy for anyone to drive fast. It should be intimidating, instead it’s confidence inspiring – and yet this accessibility never detracts from the thrill. The seats are truly crap, the switchgear is ancient, but nothing excites like a Lambo. 

Of course the million-quid cars (Veyron, One-77, Koenigsegg) were grabbing the headlines at Goodwood, so the £185k Performante was never going to be lavished with all the attention of the good public of Great Britain. And a certain white Aventador sitting next to it in the paddock didn’t help. But if you’ve read the latest issue of CAR, with our 12C group test, then you’ll know the Lambo was my winner. The Lambo wasn't the best car present, but when picking my favourite I made the assumption that if I really did have £200k to spend on the latest and greatest supercar, I’d also have a Range Rover TDV8 or 535d Touring in the garage for the monotony of daily life. So all I wanted was the loudest, most exciting, most thrilling car there. That’s the Lambo, my simpleton’s choice.

Also in the supercar paddock at Goodwood was the very same GT2 RS we had on test last month, the very same loaded 458, plus similar McLarens 12Cs, Merc SLSs and Audi R8s, and after drooling over them all, I'd still go for the Performante.

But whatever your corner/allegiance/etc, you can make a case for any of our six supercars winning – or losing. Take the Merc SLS. You know the Mercedes SLR McLaren story. Two names doing rather well in F1 gang together to create a supercar, only one wants a carbonfibre lightweight and the other a big tourer. A compromise is reached, one neither Merc nor McLaren is happy with, and the SLR is outshone by the icons of its day, the Enzo and Carrera GT.

Fast forward to 2009 and AMG builds the car the SLR always should have been, a consummate GT that’s also £140k less than its predecessor. Nothing can match the static drama of those doors, you’ll burn through fuel at an unbelievable rate because you’ll always been nailing the throttle and then lifting it off, just to hear the exhaust crackle and boom on the overrun. And although the R8 is a better GT, it’s the Merc that I’d feel most comfortable using everyday. Like Georg Kacher, I’m a big fan.

But if you’re in the market for a supercar, for 95% of your life you’ll never want anything other than the R8. At £110k it makes everything else look overpriced, especially the Gallardo. It’s comfortable, there’s a big boot in the nose, and like the Lambo it manages to be both easy to drive and exciting. You don’t need more, but inevitably, you’ll want more – only a back-to-back drive with the Performante reveals where Audi has purposely held back. 

You can’t accuse Porsche of that with the GT2 RS. It’s absolutely bonkers, and while the McLaren takes one linear rush to its 8500rpm, this 911 will scare you when it suddenly boosts. Maybe, one day, you might get bored of owning all the other cars here, but never, ever will you tire of the GT2. It’s a 911 cliché, but you’ll want to keep coming back to it to conquer it – with the RS you never will, I know I won’t.

Which leaves the McLaren and the Ferrari. After collecting both the 458 and GT2 RS in one day, I nipped out in the 12C for a five minute blast down the nearest dual carriage way. Three things were immediately obvious: 1) no other rear-wheel drive car can deploy nearly 600bhp with such ease; 2) no supercar rides better either; 3) (and you know this one by now) it doesn’t invoke an emotional response.

It really is an amazing achievement. And I must be the only person outside McLaren who can actually open the 12C’s doors. But after nailing it back from Wales a few days later, I handed the keys over and never looked back. Even now, a few weeks on, I’m still struggling to figure out why. I should have been grinning from ear-to-ear, giggling, smitten… something! But I wasn’t. Maybe it’s the lack of noise (the GT2 RS is turbocharged too, but its chuntering flywheel and washing machine whooshes excite), maybe the annoyingly stiff Pre-Cog paddles, maybe it’s just the way it’s meant to be. Which means it’s just not for me.

Which leaves the 458, one of the greatest cars ever built. And perhaps you can’t make a case for every car losing. Quite simply, it deserves to win.

But these are subjective as much as objectives decisions, so I'd still pick that out-dated, old school Lambo.

As for Goodwood, I'll remember my two runs up the hill ('chasing' Lambo test driver Max Venturi in the Aventador, and being hunted down by Pierre-Henri Raphael in his record-breaking Veyron Super Sport in the morning, and Juha Kankkunen in his record-breaking Bentley in afternoon) for a long time to come. The second run was especially memorable. In the morning session an Alpina B3 went straight through the hay bales at Molecomb (video below), shortly after my run but before Juha's go. The rest of the session was subsequnetly cancelled. Meaning come Sunday afternoon he was fairly fired up – and I was a little cautious. 

Excuses over, you can see how quickly the four-time world rally champion caught me in the video below. I've seen the in-car footage and his record-breaking Bentley was oversteering all the way up the hill. Rather him than me past the Flint Wall and up onto Carnes Seat... I'm now more grateful than ever to the marshall in the morning who gave me a decent start over Pierre-Henri.   


And here's some in-car footage of that Alpina BMW crash from the morning.  

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy