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Jeremy Clarkson: The day James Corden's instructor told me to Slow Down

By Jeremy Clarkson Published

James Corden | Carpool Karaoke | The Grand Tour

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I WAS a bit nervous when I received an invitation to appear on James Corden’s American show, which has become a global hit thanks to its Carpool Karaoke sequence.

The list of things I’m not very good at is extremely long.

I can’t mend anything, put up a picture, cook, understand what Shakespeare was on about and so on. But top of the list of things I can’t do is sing.

Happily, Corden had another idea. I’d drive round a race track in California while he asked me general knowledge questions.

My instructor was horrified. “OK,” he said in a nervous squeak. “There’s a ­corner coming up. You’re going to need to slow down. No really slow down. Brake. Brake. BRAKE!!!!!!!”

Fine. But first, thanks almost certainly to some kind of insurance issue, I would have to be instructed on how to drive a car round the race track in question.

The production company found an instructor, who, as I stepped into the ­Corvette, was waiting in the passenger seat. We made our introductions and then he said something surprising. “OK Jeremy. This car has a manual gearbox. To engage first, you move this lever here towards you and then push it up.

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“But first, you have to press the pedal on the left all the way to the floor.”

I wasn’t really listening if I’m honest because I was looking for the button that would turn the traction control off.

“Why would you want to do that?” he asked incredulously.

Well, here’s the thing. Traction control is a good idea when you are driving to work, or to the shops. It increases the chances of you not having an accident.

But when you are driving a Corvette, round a race track, and the footage will appear on television, you want the rear wheels to spin and slide and turn all the noise into big clouds of thick blue smoke.

Eventually, I found the right button, popped the car into first (by moving the lever as instructed), gave it six thousand revs and dumped the clutch.

I flicked the wheel the other way to provoke a slide and all was going well until my passenger shouted: “STOP!

My instructor was horrified. “OK,” he said in a nervous squeak. “There’s a ­corner coming up. You’re going to need to slow down. No really slow down. Brake. Brake. BRAKE!!!!!!!”

I did no such thing as I needed the speed for the uphill section that ­followed. However, at the end of this I did brake, hard, while turning the wheel left to unsettle the back end. As it started to break loose, I flicked the wheel the other way to provoke a slide and all was going well until my passenger shouted: “STOP!”

Fearing that something terrible had happened, I did as I was told.

“Listen buddy,” he said. “When you do this with James Corden in a minute, there will be cameramen at the side of the track. So you’re going to have to slow way down.”

I explained that I often drive in a stupid fashion with cameramen at the side of the track to which he said: “Not in a car as powerful as this, you don’t.”

So I gave up. Dawdled round the track and handed the car over to James May.

Apparently, after his lesson, at May’s customary top speed of 25mph, the instructor was very happy.

“OK,” he said. “Can you put the handbrake on? Do you know how to do that?”

It’s strange. May, Hammond and I are often told that every petrolhead in the world knows who we are.

But plainly that isn’t the case.

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