With the ALS on, the throttle has turned into a trigger, seemingly firing all 600lb ft through the transmission as soon as you touch it. Out of the first right-hander the car spits sideways and I have to correct with one hand as I’m frantically pulling gear after gear. There are no shift paddles here, just a sturdy, high-mounted lever that you pull back to go up the ’box and push away to go down. There literally isn’t time to put your right hand back on the wheel between shifts. Never have I been in something that eats through revs and demands gears so quickly. Bang-bang-bang. I pile on the ratios as fast as I can yet still it feels like I’m lagging behind the angry rainbow of shift lights in my peripheral vision. An analogue needle would snap under the duress within the first half lap.
I forget to lift for the first jump, apologise, then brake and punch down two gears for the next corner, which changes from tarmac back to gravel on the apex. Up two gears, down two gears, tight right-hander, short straight, up three gears, back down three for the left with the tarmac strip, up three gears round a long gravelly left-hander (clutch) with a jump, then brake and down two for a long opening tarmac right, sliding and changing up (no clutch) constantly as you feed back onto the start/finish straight, by which time you’ll be up to fifth or sixth, depending how good your exit was. A lap probably takes slightly less time than this last paragraph took to read.
I’ve never experienced such a surfeit of power. It dominates the experience. Never mind that the S1 has a short wheelbase and an almost square stance, so feels quite twitchy. That feels like the least of my problems. Instinctively I know that the four-wheel-drive system should help me if I’m on the power, but such is the ferocity of the delivery that it’s hard to see the throttle as your friend. It doesn’t help that every violent flare of revs is accompanied by a sound like hornets massacring wasps with chainsaws.
I think it is towards the end of the fourth lap that I spin. I’d love to tell you how or why, but to be honest my brain has felt in need of a healthy RAM upgrade, or possibly its own ALS, since the first corner. It’s early in a right-hander, there is a flash of revs, we’re round in our own length, the clutch is out, I’m on the brakes, and as we stop safely in the middle of the bend I suck in some air for what feels like the first time in minutes. As I find reverse and point us back in the right direction, I realise that I’ve been straining every last iota of my mental capacity just to keep up with the S1.