Surtees sets off
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Channel Tunnel, veteran Formula 1 and world motorbike champion John Surtees has driven an electric-powered sports car from Folkestone to Coquelle.
Generally, only service vehicles have been permitted to drive through the tunnel, but in Surtees' case an exception was made allowing him to become the first person to drive a private car under the English Channel. Unfortunately, speed constrictions were applied.
One can only imagine how frustrating this must have been for a former F1 champion especially considering he had 31 miles of clear track in front of him, no corners and no speed cameras. However, the Channel Tunnel authorities implemented a 30mph speed limit and guided Surtees' car through, with a technician chastising him if he exceeded the limit.
However, Surtees said the restriction didn't bother him.
"Speed was the last thing involved," Surtees said. "When you go through slowly you can see what a wonder of engineering this was."
Also, safety issues were on the 75-year old's mind.
"It could be tempting if you were alone," he said. "It's a long, dark tunnel and the diameter is very small. The speed limit is 50km/h but if feels faster because it's such a confined space. If you were claustrophobic it wouldn't be very nice at all."
Even at 30mph Surtees said he scraped the wall a couple of times, not surprising considering the tunnel is barely two car-widths across is some places and turning is only possible at a few points. And that's not even mentioning the darkness...
"There are wider sections and you think ‘this is all right', and then suddenly it gets smaller." he said.
The 31-mile journey should only have taken an hour, but mechanical problems with the electric Ginetta sports car and a "symbolic half way" stop, where Surtees signed the tunnel wall - a Channel Tunnel tradition - extended the journey by another half an hour. The 'half way' point is where French and British diggers famously met for the first time in 1990.
"I stopped at halfway and read the names of the French and British who came together and added my name to the others," he said.
"It's certainly one of the most unusual drives in my long experience. It's a unique experience driving through this tunnel like this," the former racer said.
"It could get a little bit claustrophobic, it's a sports car that would be more at home on the track.
"But as you get older you don't get too many first time experiences, and this is certainly that."
Whilst this might seem like the dream of every petrol-head, Eurotunnel insists it was a one-off and will not happen again.
Main image from Sky News
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