Driving a McLaren in Spain with Patrick Stewart
Full disclosure: I’m the luckiest bastard alive.
Somehow I’ve convinced the universe to let me review cars for a living. My father tells me there’s a horseshoe lodged up my ass, my Mother calls me "Midas," and after getting paid to drive the 2015 McLaren 650s last week in Malaga, Spain, I’m inclined to agree with both of them.
But that’s not the half of it.
Ask your neighborhood automotive journalist what a “junket” is and they’ll likely all answer with the same laundry list:
• Biz Class Flight: Check.
• Posh Hotel: Check.
• Open Bar: Check.
• Speeches With Powerpoints: Check.
• Solo Driving Experience: Check.
Typically, this last checkpoint is a great way for the journo to familiarize himself with the car, which under normal circumstances is just a nice drive around town. This trip was not under normal circumstances. This was Spain, and I was in a McLaren. Oh, and it was my birthday. Hah!
The first day was spent whipping around the countryside of Andalusia before bombing down to the Ascari Race Resort for laps around the circuit, followed by a late afternoon trip to the spa, followed by dinner at an uppity sushi joint.
Yeah. Good day.
But the second day? The second day was something else.
The day was unstructured so as to give us the temporary illusion of what it actually feels like to own a Lime Green 650s. So naturally I woke up early, sat down in the garden café overlooking the Mediterranean, and asked valet to pull the car around in 15 minutes.
What happened next I can only attribute to a rift in the space-time continuum, or at the very least a side effect of the borrowed aura that comes standard with McLaren ownership.
Sir Patrick F*cking Stewart sat down next to me.
There he was, in his loose-fitting sweater and Ray-Bans, sipping tea with his smokin’ hot wife. Yogurt. Fruit. A slice of toast.
The Europeans on this trip had already accused me of being ‘so American,’ which I took as ‘loud and obnoxious.’ Time to earn it. Audaces fortuna iuvat. Fortune favors the bold.
I leaned in, hoping that the one thing I could offer was enough to grab his interest. “Hey there, Mr. Stewart. How would you feel about taking a ride in a McLaren this morning?”
Raised eyebrows. A smile. Game on.
He met me outside, where I had rallied together a couple of the folks from McLaren. Our car was pulled out front, and I could tell by the look on his face that even the ability to buy one of these things doesn’t ease the first impression. Huge grin.
I drove us out of town, while Sir Patrick told me all about his love affair with big, heavy British luxury cars, and how he was surprised by how comfortable he was in the McLaren. It didn’t look comfortable, but it was.
We switched seats. He told me about his adventures with Stirling Moss, and about as quickly as he told me that he ‘only enjoyed going up to a certain speed … a comfortable one,’ he pushed the pedal to the floor.
It’s about now that I remembered that, while Sir Patrick has been in my life for a very long time, I’ve never actually met this man. Can he drive? Oh god, can he drive?
We’re flying over bridges, passing Renaults at triple their speed. A tunnel approaches, and quickly. He pushes deeper into the accelerator.
The tunnel howls with our exhaust note; we’re Formula drivers, I just know it. And, he’s grinning, totally confident behind the wheel.
As we touch 273 kmph, he lets off the gas, feathers the brake, and the active aero kicks in. The spoiler deploys like a sail, and we’re both giggling like schoolgirls.
As we get back into town, we drive casually, soaking up the surroundings, discussing the dynamics of the car. We pull back into the courtyard, and I can see the visible sigh of relief as the McLaren folks see that their car has returned unscathed.
He tells me that getting arrested would’ve been really cool press for both of us, and I kind of regret not seeing any Spanish police while we were moving at light speed through that tunnel.
I’m not always sure exactly how I’ve talked my way into this career, but it certainly seems like I’ve cashed in on all my Karma early in life. This trip rates among the coolest I’ve ever taken, and it’s not just because I’ve walked away with a new friend who pilots space ships in his other life.
No, it’s cool because I was in f*cking Spain. Driving McLarens. For money. Before anyone else in the world. And yeah, it was with Sir Patrick Stewart, on my Birthday.
Davis Adams is a contributor to Supercompressor Rides, and while he isn’t related to Sir Patrick Stewart, he’s willing to date just about anyone who is.