My first car: Jonny Wilkinson, England rugby hero – 'mum found it hysterically funny how bad I was at driving'

jonny wilkinson with range rover

Jonny Wilkinson, 40, the former Newcastle, England and British Lions player, famously kicked the last-minute drop goal against Australia that helped England win the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

The fly-half won 91 international caps and still holds the record as England’s all-time points scorer. He will be part of the ITV commentary team at this month’s World Cup in Japan.

What was your first car?

I passed my test first time and shared a Mini Metro with my older brother, Mark, who also played rugby for Newcastle. It wasn’t a large car and had already been well-used by him at college. It was pretty tired and probably on its last legs.

The year is 1980 - only a year after Wilkinson was born - and Austin Mini Metros roll off the production line at Longbridge, Birmingham Credit: PA

How old were you when you first became interested in cars?

I only became interested when I actually needed a car. My childhood was dominated by sporting heroes but when I moved to Newcastle as a teenager, a car became a crucial tool to drive to training. I spent a fortune on taxis before I learnt to drive. I would walk five miles carrying my weekly food shop home from the supermarket. It was a personal challenge and I did it in all weathers.

What car or incident inspired your passion for cars?

Learning to drive might have been traumatic for young Wilkinson, but he passed his test first time and admits that car ownership changed his life Credit: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

I think learning to drive with my mum and dad in Hampshire. Mum found it hysterically funny how bad I was – dad found it hysterically frustrating. I had two years of learning but I got there in the end. Owning a car changed my life because I was obsessive about rugby in Newcastle – suddenly I could drive myself to the training ground.

What was your first crash (if you’ve ever had one)?

I reversed the Metro into a concrete post outside my house. I must have hit it pretty hard because the car didn’t last much longer after that. 

Which car(s) do you currently own?

With an eye on the environment, Wilkinson will soon be driving a Range Rover Sport Hybrid

I’m currently in a Range Rover but just about to take delivery of a new Range Rover Sport Hybrid.

Which car do you most regret selling, and why?

A Mercedes SLK provided a taste of freedom - although the roof stayed shut most of the time

One of my first cars was a Mercedes SLK, with a folding roof. The Merc was great fun but in Newcastle there wasn’t an awful lot of sunshine to enjoy it. Dad also had a beach buggy which I thought was really cool. Unfortunately, the Hampshire coast isn’t quite California.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when driving?

I’m a very calm driver – there’s not much that bugs me behind the wheel these days. I’m a strong believer in maintaining a positive mental outlook, so anybody that annoys me is probably a pointer on where I need to work on myself.

What is your dream car, money no object?

A Lamborghini Countach used to be Wilkinson's dream car. Now it's something rather more sensible

Twenty years ago I would have said a Lamborghini Countach with a huge spoiler. Now I’m passionate about sustainability and the environment, so I’d like to try a Tesla. Things are changing very quickly and I love the idea of an all-electric car because that’s definitely the future.

What’s your most memorable experience in a car?

A Mitsubishi Shogun provides fond memories of rugby practice as a youth

When I was a kid, dad drove a whole posse of us boys to and from rugby training in a Mitsubishi Shogun. The car was packed with muddy lads, kit and all manner of paraphernalia. That’s a very strong, happy memory for me, even after all these years.

And what about your current projects?

I spend most of my time working for the Jonny Wilkinson Foundation, a mental health charity inspired by my own challenges during my career. I will also be in Japan commentating and supporting England. I sometimes miss the euphoria of the moment but I’m very happy where I am right now in my life.

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