Some say “controversy” is his middle name and, love him or loathe him, you can’t deny he’s anything but boring.
Either way, you can’t say he’s not a petrolhead – that’s why the following quote from his Sun column comes as a surprise.
“WHY,” I wailed inwardly, “would anyone ever buy a car with a manual gearbox these days?”
Guess what: That’s just the beginning of his attack against those who prefer to change cogs themselves instead of leaving the task to a computer.
“The only people who would buy an old-fashioned gearstick manual are the sort who choose not to have a washing machine because they prefer to clean their clothes in the local river.”
Why, the Pope may turn out not to be Catholic after all, but Jezza advocating auto boxes and lashing out against manuals? That’s fresh!
In a nutshell what he says is that, since most of us spend the best part of our time behind the wheel not on a great mountain road or a track, when we can get the best out of a manual and enjoy things like heel-and-toe, but stuck in traffic or in motorways, we’d be much better off with a self-shifter.
Today they are so far removed from the slow, heavy, fuel-thirsty ones of the past that they are the natural option if you’re out for a new car.
“Flappy-paddle gearboxes now are sublime. Fast. Easy. Rewarding. Nice.”
Before you cry “Heresy!”, bear in mind that cars are nowadays just a means of getting from point A to point B for most drivers, who probably don’t know, and aren’t interesting in learning either, about things like understeer, oversteer, steering feel, how to balance the car on the throttle – never mind heel-and-toe and executing the perfect downshift.
Manufacturers themselves are consigning the gear lever to history. Ferrari’s metal gate is dead and buried and nowhere to be found in any of its cars on sale today. The same goes for Lamborghini and McLaren; and you definitely remember the outrage caused by Porsche Motorsport offering only a PDK dual-clutch on the GT3 and, subsequently, the GT3 RS. Nissan GT-R? Hypercars? Not a gear lever in sight, only paddles and buttons.
Is he just making a fuss for the sake of it or is he right in proclaiming the end of the manual?