High Roller; Born into the Goodwood Dynasty, Lady Alexandra Gordon-Lennox Is the Girl with the Ultimate Garden Ornament - a Rolls-Royce Factory. to Gear Up for the Star-Studded Festival of Speed, She Took David Thomas for the Most Exotic Practice Lap of Them All

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 25, 2006 | Go to article overview

High Roller; Born into the Goodwood Dynasty, Lady Alexandra Gordon-Lennox Is the Girl with the Ultimate Garden Ornament - a Rolls-Royce Factory. to Gear Up for the Star-Studded Festival of Speed, She Took David Thomas for the Most Exotic Practice Lap of Them All


Byline: DAVID THOMAS

Had Lady Alexandra Gordon-Lennox not existed, Ian Fleming would have had to invent her. 'Atty', as she prefers to be known, is a beautiful 20-year-old blonde who speaks Russian, has had a motor-racing licence for six years, is currently learning to fly and gets behind the handlebars of a motorbike as easily as she slips into a sexy pearl- and jewelencrusted cocktail dress.

Talk about a Bond babe - incredibly, the last three digits of her mobile phone number really are 007. Her first words, after the makeup artist began grooming her for our shoot were, 'This is so nice.

I've been in a helmet all morning, mucking around on the track in a Maserati and a ferocious little Ferrari Scaglietti.' Right now, however, Atty's swapped those racy Italians for something a tad more British. In an almost perfect distillation of the last word in luxury, the fabulous creature she is piloting at 90-odd miles an hour up the narrow, twisting road that forms the hill climb at the Goodwood estate run by her father, the Earl of March, is a [pounds sterling]217,000 6.7-litre V12-engined Rolls-Royce Phantom.

True, nobody's remembered to chill a bottle of Krug in the Roller's fridge, but there is little else you would want. I am sitting comfortably in a very large, theatre-sized seat, hand-upholstered from the finest, softest leather.

In front is a beautiful walnut dashboard with organ-stop buttons that bring up all the gadgets that are carefully secreted behind the traditional veneer.

Every eventuality has been considered - there is even a full-sized umbrella tucked away in each of the doors, not that they are needed today. Outside it is a perfect June day. The Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet ornament, which descends on its own minilift when the car is parked, gleams in the sunshine at the front of this giant of a car.

The only problem is the speed. It feels slightly incongruous to be sitting in this symbol of the elegant, carefully considered British gentleman, tearing up the legendary Goodwood track. But there is a method. This two-and-a-half-ton Roller was born here - built at the Rolls-Royce factory, itself constructed on Lord March's estate three years ago. And as the glorious Sussex landscape is reduced to a warp-speed blur, Atty proves that the Phantom could easily put up a decent showing at next month's Festival Of Speed, the legendary hill climb and concours d'elegance run by her father.

She's just telling me that in truth, the kids of today see Rollers as having a new, more 'street' chic, when she interrupts herself to apologise profusely - for going so very slowly. 'I'm so sorry there's traffic on the road,' she purrs aristocratically, deftly working the throttle and brake pedals despite her stiletto heels. 'You're not getting a proper run for your money, because I can't take the racing lines. But if you're here for the Festival Of Speed you can be my passenger for the supercar run.

I've got the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, which should be rather fun.' 'Oh, I see,' I murmur, trying to maintain the appropriate level of cool. 'So you're just scratching the surface of how fast you normally go?' 'Oh no,' she replies evenly. 'I'm not even scratching the surface.' Atty's driving technique has been honed by the Kiwi driving coach Rob Wilson, who numbers David Coulthard among a slew of top F1 clients.

'Rob's great, but he's a pretty tough teacher,' she says. 'He'll say, "That was complete rubbish - what are you doing?" Then after a couple of hours of this I'll do a decent lap and he'll go, "Wow, that was great. You got your lines good," and I'll be so shocked I'll completely mess up the next half-hour.' The teacher and his pupil do their stuff on track days at racing circuits. But since Atty hasn't got a car of her own, they have to resort to subterfuge.

'Rob rents a car from Heathrow, then we thrash it and take it back,' Atty explains.

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High Roller; Born into the Goodwood Dynasty, Lady Alexandra Gordon-Lennox Is the Girl with the Ultimate Garden Ornament - a Rolls-Royce Factory. to Gear Up for the Star-Studded Festival of Speed, She Took David Thomas for the Most Exotic Practice Lap of Them All
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