Tiff Needell is a man used to driving some very serious, very fast cars. It's amazing to watch him in action. But everyone's probably getting pretty sick of seeing him drive finely-tuned, expensive sports cars all the time, right? It's time he took something else on the track. Something that looks more like a washing machine.
I was out at Willow Springs Raceway to watch him do what he usually does, this time in a very special 911 that 5th Gear was shooting and I'll be covering soon as well. That's when something possessed me to ask him to take my Scion xB with goofy rims and nearly 200,000 miles on the clock out on the track for some hot laps.
Even better, it's not any Scion xB, it's my wife's primary car and the vehicle normally entrusted to haul my very own child all over town. So why I thought putting it in the hands of this charming, skilled madman was a good idea is beyond me. But I sure am glad I did.
I had the idea right before I made the drive out into the California desert to Willow Springs, but as I drove there I basically convinced myself that there was no way they'd let me do it, even if he, improbably, wanted to. I was coming up with possible arguments in favor, and, I won't lie, it wasn't easy.
The reality turned out to be very different. I asked, and Tiff agreed, almost immediately. I think this was due to a combination of Tiff being a really delightful person and a slightly cruel desire on everyone's part to see an idiot like myself get more than he bargained for.
"Why does he want me to wreck his car?" I overheard him say to his crew, with genuine bemusement. Still, that didn't stop him, and he needed to learn the track anyway before the actual shooting in the 911, so what the hell.
A couple of other guys on set hopped in with him for the first lap because, come on, when else is this going to happen? I got a bit of video from outside, where it was absolutely hilarious to watch this refrigerator-looking car lean into turns and slide around corners like a possessed deep freezer.
Then it was my turn to get in. I have the dashcam video, but what that doesn't convey is the full-body feeling that at any moment the car was going to flip right the fuck over. Tiff wasn't worried at all, grinning like a loon as he Scandinavian Flicked the wheel to "unsettle" the car, sending the rear half swinging around while the whole upper half of the car waved and weaved like a huge wedding cake carried by drunk clowns.
Tiff actually said the car was a lot of fun, and despite his not being able to find the traction control "off" button, I think he meant it. Or was just being nice. I had a blast in the car, even if the sensation of being in a box three times the height of a proper racing car while a tall, lanky man, doing 80 in a curve, yanks the wheel with evil glee was a bit disconcerting. All things considered, I think the little box comported itself quite well.
Afterwards I had this exchange with the other guys who went on a lap with him in the xB:
Me: I felt like we were going to tip over!
Other Guys: That's what we thought, too!
Tiff: I never even got it on two wheels! You're all a bunch of bloody cowards!
I'm not saying that's not true, but it sure was good fun. So, thanks again Tiff, and nobody tell my wife how stupid this was. Thanks.