Well it’s been a funny old week and no mistake. First of all, let me introduce you to my rides for the week:
Spot the difference? One is our regular, well-loved family Mini. And the other one – well, that’ll be the Ferrari.
Yes, here I am on a top secret race track, in Italy, doing 180km per hour in a red Ferrari:
I told you it had been a funny old week.
It all began with an invitation from Bridgestone to join their Premium Tyre Safety Event at their European testing ground just outside Rome.
Think about what is the most hi-tech element of your car. The first thing that springs to mind might be the sat nav or the engine. It probably wouldn’t be the tyres.
The point of this event was to show those of us who just think that tyres are just black and round that there is much more to them than meets the eye – they’re actually one of the most hi-tech parts of your car.
Bridgestone is a Japanese company, formed in 1931 by a Mr Ishibashi, whose name actually means Stone-Bridge. What these guys don’t know about tyres isn’t worth knowing.
What I know about tyres is..well..very little actually. I don’t even know what kind of tyres we’ve got on the Mini, or if they’re any good or even if they all match.
So it was onwards to Rome to educate myself.
First of all a succession of incredibly enthusiastic engineers showed us the machines they use to develop and test the tyres – check out this R2D2 lookalike:
Bridgestone make premium tyres, so they were keen to show us how much research and testing is involved to justify the higher price.
The whole thing was incredibly cloak and dagger. We weren’t allowed to take pictures (these are from the official photographers), which gave the bloggers amongst us serious hebegeebees.
We weren’t allowed to enter a room without someone official going ahead to check. I half-expected that if I opened a door off the official tour, it might be full of Minions creating something super secret. Which it probably was.
Now those of you who know my history might be thinking at this point – hang on Joanne, aren’t you the person who had such a bad fear of driving that you didn’t drive for 7 years, and then wrote a book about it?
Well, yes I did
Among all the motoring journalists and expert drivers, I was the cuckoo in the nest – the person who is still a bit apprehensive around cars, and doesn’t really see driving as a fun pastime.
I felt intimidated being surrounded by professional petrol heads. Mostly, they were incredibly nice and understanding. Some were incredulous and one or two were downright hostile. All the feels, essentially.
Later at dinner I told former Formula One driver Stefano Modena about my book and he looked at me with surprise “I have never heard of this…this..fear of driving” he said. (Very nice chap by the way, used to live in Bognor Regis).
But I think that was part of the point of having somebody like me there. People who know cars probably pay close attention to the tyres they buy. The rest of us just want to get from A to B safely enough but don’t really think too much about what gets us there. And we are the ones that Bridgestone wants to educate, to get us thinking a little more about what goes into the only part of our car that touches the ground.
So how did they do that? The story continues in the next post…