The silence is deafening. Now and then, I hear the motors whirring in Earey's camera, and I'm maybe 50 yards from him. Yet nothing else is audible. A sound makes itself known from a couple of miles away, gradually increasing from a gentle whisper to a full-on roar. A ball of sound-almost a white noise-barrels toward us and I can almost feel the air being sucked away, like the beginning of a tsunami, towards the oncoming behemoth. As the huge truck thunders past, its driver lets rip with his horn and my ears are now probably bleeding. The sound becomes a wall of noise before fading away as gradually as it began and soon silence-total, absolute silence-resumes.
We're inside the middle of a mountain. Inside the longest road tunnel in the world. We're in Norway, with an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster. It's snowing outside and it's late at night. We must be mad.
With the new V8 Vantage, Aston Martin suddenly attracted a new type of customer. Younger than ever, with financial-institution bonuses burning large holes in Armani suit pockets, the Vantage buyer wanted something sexy, exciting and loud. If ever a car ticked the right boxes, this was it. Fuelled by internet forum chit-chat, many owners in and around London started organizing impromptu 'tunnel runs'. Late at night, while the streets lay dormant, V8 Vantages would tear through the many underground tunnels that ease traffic from one end of the city to the other. With windows down and engines revving their nuts off, these were orgies of pure sonic pleasure. You can't blame them, really.
When I started to wonder what the ultimate tunnel run would constitute, the V8 Vantage Roadster was an obvious choice. Imagine the noise with no roof at all to spoil the heavenly racket once the revs climbed past 4000 rpm and the killjoy exhaust valves opened up, liberating the true soundtrack of one of the world's greatest cacophonies. With the car decided on, we needed a tunnel to do it justice.
The longest road tunnel in the world is in Norway: land of the Vikings, herring, the mighty fjords, weird pop music and world-class tunnellers. At 15.2 miles long, Laerdal is the longest road tunnel in the world. And when you learn a bit about Norway, you begin to understand why so much effort, money and ingenuity goes into tunnelling.
Look at a map of the country and you'll notice the west coast is peppered with hundreds of what look like small islands. This isn't strictly the case, as the bodies of water that separate the various land masses are known as fjords. I've never seen them for myself before now, but trust me, they're worth the effort. If you live there, however, fjords make getting to anywhere from anywhere else absolute hell. Until recent times, it was usually a case of take a boat to the mainland or swim for it. Hardly ideal for a nation's economy when you consider that Norway's biggest earners are fish and oil-both of which need to be shipped from the fjord-ridden coast. Tunnels, then, are the way to go, and we drove through dozens of them to reach our destination.
Tunnels have, over the years, received a bit of a bad rap. With recent, catastrophic fires in not only the Mont Blanc road tunnel, but also an Austrian rail tunnel in which 155 skiers died, safety was a primary concern with Laerdal, which is why we're in a psychedelic, blue and orange-lit cavern. There are three of these, each large enough to turn a semi around in, should there be a need to evacuate. But that's not the only reason for these huge cathedral-like spaces. They're also there to stop you falling asleep at the wheel.