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Escape the Grid Recap

Ian Webster
Thursday, November 1, 2012

Now that the dust has settled, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a brief summary (complete with awesome videos and pictures) of what exactly went down last week whilst on the road with #EscapeTheGrid. Wow, what a week it turned out to be!


The first day of the event started with a trip to the Paris Aerospace Museum, where our drivers would first of all get flung around a test track in an Audi R8 by two times 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Benoît Tréluyer prior to being introduced to their cars by Xbox Social Marketing Manager Graeme Boyd, who some of you might know as @AceyBongos. It was roughly at this point in the day where I was told that I’d taking on co-driving duties for the Audi R8 Spyder, and would be travelling with  Marco Cosenza from Wired Italia for the trip. This was amazing news and quite unexpected, as I’d initially been told that I’d only be able to get behind the wheel for one or two legs of the journey, and even then that was a big maybe. To say I was pleased about this would be a massive understatement, and it was with shaky hands I picked up the keys to the car.



The first day didn’t involve much driving to be honest, with my time behind the wheel being restricted to a trip through Paris rush hour traffic on the way back to our hotel. Even though we were stuck in almost perpetual gridlock, I still had a massive grin on my face, as I knew that this trip had just gotten a whole lot more exciting.



Day 2 of the trip mostly comprised of our trip back to good ol’ Blighty, and was made up of a 3-hour, 180-mile road trip down the French Motorways to Calais, followed by a trip through the Eurotunnel.



Upon exciting the Eurotunnel, most of us were feeling a bit peckish so we stopped off for a bite to eat at a delightful little pub near Folkestone, and it was here we had our “naffcessory” #EscapeTheGrid challenge. This challenge consisted of each of the car teams having to find the most ridiculous car accessory they could manage, with the community voting via the XboxUK Facebook page which one was their favourite. It’s at this point I feel that I should thank anyone who voted for us, as it was team Audi R8 that ended up winning this challenge with our utterly ridiculous “If you can read this I’ve lost my caravan” window sign!


After our lovely meal and now feeling fully refreshed, all that was left for us to do was continue our journey up the M40 to Wellesbourne near Leamington Spa, and our hotel for the night. It was so cool driving up the motorway in our supercar convoy and the cars certainly received plenty of admiring glances from other motorists, although I do feel we might have contributed to that slightly with our constant engine revving and weaving in and out of traffic!



For Day 3 of the journey we found ourselves all making the short trip from our hotel to Playground Games’ studio in Leamington Spa for a tour and a chance to chat in person with some of the developers of Forza Horizon. Upon our arrival at Playground Games, we were greeted by what seemed to be the entirety of their staff leaning out of windows to get a better view of the cars. To be honest though who can blame them, how often do you see this happen on your average work day!



Once the studio tour was all over, we all participated in another #EscapeTheGrid challenge; this one comprising of the drivers playing Forza Horizon and competing against themselves and one of the devs in a time trial competition based around one of the Showcase events. For this challenge my co-driver Marco took control of the joypad and, after all the times were tallied, we managed a respectable mid-table finish when compared against the other drivers.


With the morning’s activities now all completed, we were fast approaching lunchtime, and little did we know but our hosts at Playground had gone to the trouble of organising a hog roast for us all to enjoy. This went down an absolute storm with all of us, and luckily the weather (mostly) behaved itself which we were all very thankful for! Truth be told I enjoyed the hog roast so much I went back and got myself some takeaway wrapped up just before we left so that I could enjoy it again later in the day.


As we bid farewell to Playground Games, we began our final journey of the day down to London for our very own Forza Horizon Festival at Fabric Nightclub in London to enjoy sets from Skepta, Ms Dynamite, and the one and only DJ Fresh. I’d been looking forwards to this night ever since I first heard about it, and it really did not disappoint in any way! Skepta and Ms Dynamite did a great job warming up the crowd, and the set by DJ Fresh sent everyone over the edge. One thing that I thought was especially cool was that during his set he mixed in quite a few of the tracks from the Forza Horizon soundtrack, of which I’m a massive fan. A nice touch Mr. Fresh; I doff my proverbial cap to you!



Once we were all back at our hotel we trudged off to our rooms for the night, with all of us feeling quite exhausted and many of us starting to come to the realisation that our amazing journey was starting to come to a close…



Our final day of the trip involved us having to travel back up the trusty M40, and then onwards to Top Gear Live at the Birmingham NEC. Driving up the M40 to Top Gear was slightly tinged with sadness, as it was hard to shake the thought that very soon we’d have to be handing back the keys to these awesome cars that many of us had started to form real bonds with. It’s pretty rare you get a chance to drive an actual supercar, and the prospect of going back to normality (and my Vauxhall Insignia) became clearer and closer with each new mile driven.


Once we’d arrived at the NEC, all the cars were shepherded by the Top Gear Live stewards through a side entrance and into an abandoned hall at the side of the show. It was here where we’d give the cars a quick shine and wax prior to putting them on display for the Top Gear Live audience.


With the cars now all pristine looking and fully on display to the crowds, it was time to announce the winner of our #EscapeTheGrid tour. Marco and I knew we didn’t have much chance of winning overall, but we hoped to at least achieve a respectable mid-place finish. Unfortunately Marco’s guess in the final challenge of the cars using £4,000 worth of fuel during the trip was well off (the correct answer of £1,897), and we ended up finishing a disappointing eighth out of the ten competitors, with the team driving the Maserati GC taking the top position in the final leaderboard.



Finally and with the winners now announced, all that was left to complete the tour was to open up our display to the public, letting them see close at hand the cars that had transported us on our epic 4 day journey. It was then that it finally hit home for many of us…The cars were no longer ours, and #EscapeTheGrid was over. What a trip!