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Goodwood FoS: Peugeot EX1 concept

Fri, 08 Jul 2011

It's not very often that I'm up at six o'clock on a Saturday morning. Yet here I am, threading through the narrow lanes of West Sussex, trying to meet a ridiculously early call time with Peugeot at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Couple this with the adrenalin coursing through my veins – brought on by the excitement of finally getting a ride up the drive in front of Goodwood's house, home each year to the Festival of Speed – and there's no need for any coffee to wake me up this morning.

Cut to three hours later, and it's clear the car hasn't read the script. I'm in the passenger seat of Peugeot's EX1 concept car, alongside its project design manager, Yann Pissonnier, who's behind the (tiny) Momo steering wheel (the car was designed by Olivier Gamiette – Ed).

We're at the front of a queue of concept cars that have tiptoed through the crowds – led by Stewards from the Fostech stand that's part of the in-field display area – to a gate through which we need to turn to reach the start line. We've been holding here, the front car in the queue, for about 15 minutes.

Open to the elements, in full race suit and helmet, we're already getting hot on a day where the temperature will reach 30 degrees. But it doesn't matter. We're being distracted by a series of V8 and V12s being exercised, as the production supercars peel away from the start line.

Finally, the last car races off the grid. The gate in front of us opens, but as the marshal beckons us forwards, the EX1 makes an odd electric groan, stutters and then dies. From my left comes swearing in French, as Pissonnier frantically tries to reboot the EX1, through a fiddly start-up process which takes about 20 seconds.

"Come on!" shouts the Marshall. Behind us, the diesel engine of Renault's Captur idles impatiently. "Has it died? You need to come now!" the marshal urges. "Hold on", implores Pissonnier, as he tries the re-start cycle a second time and the EX1 still refuses to come back to life. Suddenly, Peugeot's team is swarming around the car and it's clear my legs are very much in the way of where they need to be.

You sit in the door of the EX1, the seat bucket swings out with rear-hinged door – meaning you enter the EX1 rather like you might a hammock. Your legs only enter the car when the door's closed, and you sit with your rear end lower than your knees. Clearly, the problem right now is that all of the EX1's electronic connectors occupy the space below my feet – and there's no room for me to move them.

Eventually, we wrestle the USB lead free from beneath my feet, a laptop is connected and the EX1 is re-set and brought silently back to life.

But it's too late. The Captur, along with the Rolls-Royce 200EX and other electric concepts in our line-up, have been instructed to pick their way around us, waved off the start line, and now the course has been closed.

For a minute it looks like I'm not going to get that much longed-for run up the Hill at Goodwood after all. But five minutes later, and thanks to some sterling work from the Peugeot PR team, we're back on. We can go at the end of the next group of cars – the pre-war grand prix cars.

Continues →

By Joe Simpson