In his final despatch from the road, roving reporter Quintin Smith reaches the end of the #escapethegrid road trip, after eight hundred miles, four videos, and a toxic quantity of energy drink. If you've missed earlier instalments you can find them here, and the videos are on our YouTube channel - or if you prefer, on the Xbox dash, under Games > Browse Games > Game News.
I get it now. This entire trip has been a cruel joke. Take 15 journalists, insert them, like lab rats, into 10 supercars. Allow them to travel faster than their ancestors or children will ever go. Allow them control of their destiny, of reality itself, for day after day. Then... just take the cars away.
"We've established this car has a tracking device," I say to video producer Gav as we slip down the M40 like a masseuse's oiled hand down a knotted back. Predictably, conversation in the car has turned to how to steal Gary, our Nissan GT-R. "So the first thing we'd have to do is visit a garage and get it removed."
"So that's some money," says Gav. "And we'd have to drive far, and it costs £70 to fill the tank."
I am about to ask Gav if he knows any Welsh hideaways, when a two thoughts clink together in my head like ice cubes in a drained glass. Why's Gav so concerned about money? This is Gary we're talking about. GARY. I am shaken by his lack of faith. I put my foot down to accelerate away from these bad vibes and immediately regret it. This is the last stretch of our trip. The miles are ticking down like a doomsday clock.
I want to enjoy Gary and go fast, and I want to park him in the hard shoulder and never move again. I haven't checked the manual in days, but there's probably a function that draws the GT-R's expansive leather interior around you like a womb. I would become commuter folklore. Between Banbury and Bicester, I would sit, a lesson to the world.
Far from this being the most luxurious press trip Gav and I have ever been on, it's the most exhausting. We're shattered. Every night's been the same- finish at midnight, work on videos and blog posts until 3am, then rise at 7am for another early start, the short nights squeezing our brains like sponges. Gav's taken to editing our videos in the passenger seat, with three phones, a laptop, three cameras and a mess of cables all balanced around him. He looks like a man who vomited up a Dixons. There was one moment on the second day where I accelerated fast enough to sweep all of this gear into the passenger footwell, but we don't talk about that.
As for me, I've been surviving via cases of the energy drink sponsoring the trip. I'm among the pilots that have slowly taken on the shivering, shrunken facade of heroin addicts. My eyes have gotten smaller, and I cannot stop thinking about an anecdote from Robert Mason's Chickenhawk which is stuck in my mind like chewing gum. He talks a week in the Vietnam where, at farcical remove from the Air Force restrictions that helicopter pilots only fly for some six hours a day, himself and his co-pilot are flying for 20 hours a day. Mason describes how by the fifth day they're flying so badly that they cannot stop laughing. Two men, in a cockpit, high above a warzone, crying with laughter.
Back on the M40, it's gotten bad enough in our GT-R that as I instruct Gav to crack me open a ROCKST★R Xdurance Pomegranate Energy, I begin giggling at its ozone scent. By the time I take a drink, I'm laughing even harder.
We hear a roar. The Jaguar XKR-S thunders past us, the journalist at the wheel grinning from ear to ear. She's new. Some of the French and Spanish journos went home last night, and they swapped some new ones in. She's FRESH. She will carry us to Birmingham, like an automotive angel.
I slip the GT-R into manual, flip the switch that upgrades our transmission and put us into sports suspension. There's no need to warn Gav. He's seen her too. I flatten the accelerator, knowing we must catch her.