Anyone who has met Maarten, the Platinum Motoring Editor, will know about his deep-seated obsession with fast cars – the more powerful and the more expensive, the better. By Ian Trevett
I’m not quite sure how he wangled it but, ever since I have known him, a shiny, brand-new motor has turned up at his house – every single week. Car manufacturers simply drop off their latest model (with a full tank and/or a fully charged battery) in return for a review. It’s like he has a birthday every week.
Maarten used to explain to me in great detail about why the latest Ferrari or Lamborghini was particularly special, until he realised that I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. He couldn’t fathom my blank expression when he waxed lyrical about these joyous creations, which he considered to be works of art. Talking to me about cars was a total waste of time.
I never got cars. If they get me from A to B and the radio works, then I’m quite content. Maarten remained constantly mystified about this sacrilegious viewpoint and my complete lack of awe.
I don’t really mind if I drive or if I am the passenger (as long as I get there and the radio works!). This laid-back attitude towards being in the driving seat was absolutely vital to the success of our long-term business partnership. Maarten doesn’t do ‘passenger’.
There was one exception. He is terrified of dentists and won’t even enter a surgery without a full knock-out anaesthetic. Even Maarten conceded that driving home after a cocktail of sedative drugs was probably unwise. It was one of the funniest journeys I’ve ever experienced but that’s another story!
I soon discovered why he enjoyed driving so much. Much of his fun came from terrifying his passengers. A few months into our partnership, he took delivery of a Ferrari and we headed off to a meeting in Eastbourne. He announced halfway through the journey that it would be a better drive if we diverted to the country roads near Beachy Head. Judging from the sudden sadistic grin that spread across his face, I suspected he wasn’t thinking of sight-seeing.
As we hared towards the first tight bend, he obviously mixed up his pedals as the speed increased dramatically. Sensing my impending doom, I clutched the handle above the passenger seat window. A fatal error. I had always assumed these handles were there to allow the lifting of a buttock to sneakily release a touch of flatulence. I was wrong. I discovered that they are there so that maniac drivers can spot signs of fear.
And when a maniacal driver senses fear, that only means one thing – accelerate!
After that lapse I learned to sit, expressionless, whenever Maarten acted out his frustrated ambitions of being an F1 driver. It generally worked. Although I could have done without Gemma King being in the back seat on the way back from an awards evening in Hastings.
“Is this as fast as it can go?” she complained. Yeah, cheers Gemma! It wasn’t as we then found out!!
Most of the hugely expensive sports cars merged into one. If you’ve been in one fast car, you’ve been in them all (is something Maarten has never said, but we disagree on this point).
The only vehicles that I do recall distinctly were both Caterhams. I remember them because half of the cars seemed to be missing. They were effectively go-karts in which someone had installed the wrong size engine. And for some reason they were only about six inches off the ground. Great fun if you enjoy spending the drive looking up at Ford Focus exhaust pipes.
In a masterpiece of planning, Maarten booked a Caterham, which has zero luggage space, when we were travelling to Surrey for a business expo, carrying multiple boxes of magazines and pop-up stands. It wasn’t the most comfortable ride of my life.
As he had his pick from all the leading marques, he would sometimes opt for an upmarket SUV or similar, but his first preference was always a super-fast super-car. When he came to pick me up, I could hear him arrive long before he pulled up outside my house, with the roar of overpowered engine reverberating off the neighbours’ homes.
He always had this smug look on his face which said: “Look what car I have this week!”
For this reason, my all-time favourite car of the 100 he has driven in the Platinum years, is the one where he got it completely wrong.
As he will happily acknowledge, he does enjoy the odd glass of chilled Chablis. When he chose a Vauxhall Adam, he must have consumed half the vineyard. I didn’t hear him arrive in this underpowered carriage, but there was no mistaking a very grumpy Mr Hoffmann in the driver’s seat. The Adam is the sort of car where you expect to see an A4 sheet in the back window saying “Black Box installed”, in order to keep the 17-year-old driver’s premiums down.
As I got in the car, suppressing my giggles, he raged: “Look at this,” as he flicked a switch to turn on some pretty, flickering fairy lights on the interior car ceiling. I forget how many times I asked if he could turn the lights on that week, but he never really seemed that keen!
I never admitted it at the time but it was great fun whizzing around in an amazing collection of ridiculously expensive cars. Somehow, I lived to tell the tale.