Another chance to drive the W165 at Goodwood proved enlightening
A fortnight later I met the W165 again at Goodwood and, for reasons unknown but probably because time had helped clear my head, it suddenly all made sense. Knowing it would not run slowly and with Instructions, would you believe, to drop the clutch at 6000rpm and smoke the tyres off the line, on that narrow little drive I drove it twice as hard as I had on the big safe test track. And the more positive I was with it, the easier it became.
Some racing cars will tolerate illy-livered drivers, but not this one. Now I didn’t worry about the pedal position or gearshift gate, never giving doubt the chance to grow in my mind. And as my confidence in it grew, so apparently did its confidence in me. My last run was a blur of bellowing exhausts and rifle-crack gearchanges, sounds joined as we crossed the line by expletives filling my helmet.
Now, and quite suddenly. I could do it. I ended the run with 600Orpm showing in fourth gear. Nonchalantly I shifted down to third, second and across the gate to first, gave the engine one last blip to clear the pipes and coasted into my parking position behind Nick Mason’s V16 Auto Union, just as its V12 sister piloted by Hans Stuck drew up behind me. Sitting there, the W165 Mercedes meat in an Auto Union sandwich is, without a doubt, the most surreal moment of my motoring life to date. Hastily I hopped out, fished my telephone from my pocket, turned on its camera, ran across the paddock and took a rather poor snap. It’s at the framers now.