FAQ - Andrew Noakes - Motoring Writer

How many cars have you driven?

One of the perks of being a motoring journalist is that you get to drive lots of different cars. I don't drive nearly as many as the specialist road testers but over the years I've probably driven thousands – I've lost count. I'm not absolutely sure about the number of different makes I've driven, either, though it's certainly over 80.

How fast have you been in a car?

At Donington in 2002 I sat in the back of a Minardi F1x2 two-seater F1 car being driven by Italian racer Matteo Bobbi (who became FIA GT World Champion the following year). At the fastest parts of the circuit – under the bridge into the Goddards chicane, and along the start/finish straight towards Redgate – the Cosworth V8 was pulling over 15,000rpm and we were probably doing 170-180mph – and that was in the wet. I wrote a feature about the experience called Ride of Your Life.

I've had my BMW M3 beyond an indicated 140mph but I can't say for sure how fast as I tend not to be concentrating on the speedometer much while I'm doing it. On a test track, of course.

The fastest I've travelled on land wasn't actually in a car at all – it was on the Shanghai Maglev, the world's fastest train. It reaches 268mph (431km/h) and covers the 18-mile trip from Pudong to the airport in just over seven minutes. On a visit to China a few years ago I made a detour to try it out. It's noisier and bumpier than you might imagine a magnetic levitation train would be, but the scenery hurtles past the window at an impressive rate.

minardi f1x2 donington

Minardi F1x2 two-seater F1 car at Donington in 2002.

What's the fastest/most powerful car you've driven?

Thinking back through a variety of Porsches, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the like that I've been lucky enough to drive I think the fastest and most powerful of the lot so far is probably the McLaren 650S, a £200,000 supercar that develops 641bhp and will hit 207mph. I drove it in Cheshire, where it proved more than capable of keeping up with Bentley development engineers storming around the local lanes in camouflaged Bentaygas...


202mph Ferrari 575M Maranello: Not the fastest car I've driven. Ferrari

Other notably rapid cars that have come my way include one of McLaren's slower cars, the 203mph 570GT, Ferrari's 575M Maranello (202mph) and the Bentley Continental Supersports (204mph).

What's the most valuable car you've ever driven?

Probably the Aston Martin DB5 I drove for Classic Cars magazine in 2014, insured then for a cool £500,000 and probably worth closer to £1m now. Also on the high-value list are the pre-war BMW 328 owned by John Muschamp, chairman of the BMW Historic Motor Club, Richard Murphy's Austin-Healey 100S, Simon Morris' Lamborghini Countach and Ian Owen's Bentley S1.

What's the most expensive car you've ever crashed?

Fortunately not too pricey. A poor unsuspecting 1986 Alfa 33 Green Cloverleaf was my everyday car until I rolled it on my way home from work at Fast Car magazine in 1995. It was only minutes after I had described it to a friend as 'the best £850 I ever spent'.

What's the best/worst car you've ever driven?

Cars have to be judged against the job they set out to do, and the market they intend to satisfy. Trying to compare one with another is only relevant if they are direct competitors. That means it's impossible to name the best or worst cars overall. Trying to rank cars across genres is like trying to work out if Miles Davis is 'better' than Michael Schumacher. Nonsense.

Woolf Barnato Blue Train Bentley Gurney Nutting

Woolf Barnato's 'Blue Train' Bentley with coupé bodywork by Gurney Nutting: on the dream car list. via Newspress

What's your favourite car?

Every motoring journalist's favourite question. It's impossible to say: I've driven lots of interesting cars and lusted after plenty more. Given enough money I'd like the ex-works experimental Aston Martin DB4GT '40MT', the Woolf Barnato 'Blue Train' Bentley coupé and a Jim Clark Lotus 49, none of which I've driven (yet). But there are dozens more cars I'd want too, from a corrugated bonnet 2CV to a Ferrari 250GTO.