Video: Who says Rover 800s can’t handle?


I’ve just spent the afternoon watching one of my favourite DVDs again and, although I’ve blogged about it many times in the past, I still find myself absolutely on the edge of my seat watching Tony Pond going for a 100mph average at the Isle of Man TT circuit – if you want hair-raising stuff, it doesn’t get much more frightening than this.

Back in 1988, Pond missed his ton average by a mere six seconds, but he returned with an ‘unmodified’ Rover Vitesse in 1990 and successfully beat the magical target of 100mph. Pond was an absolute legend and, although his in-car commentary is dead-pan, listening to what he says is absolutely riveting, giving the viewer a true insight into a driving genius’ mindset.


Anyway, as a marketing effort, the 100mph lap was brilliant – although Rover’s assertion that the car was standard was, ahem, stretching it a little bit. Mind you, even if the exhaust – which makes the Vitesse sound like a Honda NSX – wasn’t standard and might have added a little power, it doesn’t distract from the scale of this achievement in a car that was never really renowned for its agile handling.

Grab yourself a copy from Duke Video if you feel flush in the run-up to Christmas – it really is hair-raising stuff and for less than a tenner!

Blog: Lap of a God

Keith Adams


  1. I too have that DVD lurking in a cupboard somewhere!

    The highlight for me is the late, great Mr. Pond carefully placing his freshly ironed Roveralls into the empty boot followed by that lovely crunching gravel noise as he drives away, complete with aviator sunglasses – total cheese!

    I also have the VHS video given at handover for the MG Montego with Steve Soper and Ian “Return of The Saint” Ogilvy somewhere. This 1985-dated Austin Rover video is so awfully bad it’s excellent! Anyone who doesn’t believe me should get a nose full of this…

  2. Edge of the seat stuff, indeed – especially as the video cameras of those days couldn’t cope with shade under trees and so the screen goes almost totally black from time to time!

  3. Come to think of it, the 800 was a revelation for an FWD car when it came out in 1985. I drove an 825i manual in the course of my work. We had a very large roundabout just outside our factory, so I gave the 825 full welly in second, then snapped the throttle shut, anticipating a hefty tail slide. It didn’t budge an inch, which is more than you could say for the 98bhp 2.0 Sierra we also had on the fleet.

  4. It’s great to see this big car go!

    I remember that, when the Rover 800 was introduced here in Holland in around 1989 or so, I drove one in the woods near Utrecht at almost 120 mph until a Police car arrived…

    The Rover spokesmen there told me that any tickets were my own so I backed down… a little ;). I drove home in my own Rust Brown Metro 1.0 L pffff!

    Anyway, more videos please!

  5. A great video and it really showed a more sporting intent for the 827 Vitesse beyond what was rather lacklustre marketing. Interestingly, Rover Cars never made a big thing about this achievement in terms of marketing or publicity.

    The actual car Tony Pond drove was used for a number of years as a VIP lap car based at Thruxton race circuit. I remember riding in it back in 1995 and being pleasantly shocked by the deeper, more eager sound its V6 engine delivered compared to that of the standard car – that was largely due to the modified exhaust (as mentioned in the video).

    I believe that the car is now in private ownership and has been used in motorsport but have no idea where it is.

  6. I loved this when I first saw it, as I love the Rover 800 – it’s my favourite car of all time. I intend to replace the 420 with an 820 Mk2 at some point over the next 3 months. 827s will come later, when cheap insurance is within easy reach :-).

  7. An outstanding video… Four friends and I spent a night watching it repeatedly a couple of years ago. POND is a real unsung BL hero. Anyway, back to the video, I’ve got a friend who was on the Isle of Man watching the run and he said POND’s driving that day was the best he’s ever seen in a lifetime of watching motorsport.

  8. Lord Sward :An outstanding video… Four friends and I spent a night watching it repeatedly a couple of years ago. POND is a real unsung BL hero. Anyway, back to the video, I’ve got a friend who was on the Isle of Man watching the run and he said POND’s driving that day was the best he’s ever seen in a lifetime of watching motorsport.

    That’s so very, very true. The late Tony Pond, along with Derek Warwick and Derek Bell, all had one common thread: they were all thoroughly nice chaps and true gentlemen to the sport. Sadly, that’s unlike many of today’s “media tarts.”

  9. I have often said that the 800 can handle, although it takes some getting used to before you can get the best from it! This car is still the fastest properly timed 800 and that makes the 827 the fastest 800 of them all, regardless of what people claim for the later 2 litre Turbo cars.

  10. I remember that, when Autocar road tested a Vitesse Sport in the early 1990s, they asked ‘why can’t all 800s handle like this?’ However, I can’t remember Rover ever providing a convincing response so I guess we must conclude that the Engineers were top class but the Finance and Marketing Departments were hopeless!

    Some other questions:-

    1) Why were Rover Metros, Maestros and Montegos allowed to rust so badly?

    2) Why sell low-spec Maestros with those horrible girder bumpers when they really damaged the image of the whole range?

    3) Why overprice the MY95 Rover 200?

    on and on and on…


  11. I am usually very grateful for the level of moderation used on this site to rectify my grammar but I would prefer that you didn’t alter the material content of my post.

    I specifically intended the rust issue raised in the preceding post to refer to the ‘Rover’ Metro as this model seems to suffer from severe rear wheel arch corrosion which is quite at odds with the quality image that these cars were hoped to display.

    Actually, it does seem an issue which affects 1990 – 1995 models of Metro, Maestro and Montego more seriously than the 1980s cars. I wonder whether anti-corrosion proceedures were changed at this time?


  12. I had a 827 Vitesse Fastback and it handled – in fact, it handled very, very, very well! Much better than the Alfa 164, Lancia Thema and BMW 5 Series of the era… It was very fast too and had excellent brakes. It was one of the best cars I’ve ever driven and was reliable too – I covered a problem-free 45,000 miles in nine months.

  13. @Jon
    I have been away over the weekend and so have only just seen your Post at #11 above. I apologise for my error in editing your previous Post at #10 above and hope that the correction which has now been made accurately reflects your opinion.

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