As I careen rapidly closer to a solid cement wall, I find myself counting the number of times I’ve genuinely thought I might die. As it turns out, the vast majority of these have been in the past hour and a half thanks to the guys at Universal and Fast & Furious 6. As a car nut, when Empire was asked if one of our team would like to spend a morning burning the tyres off an Alfa Romeo for the upcoming ‘drive or die’ action movie, I boldly (or stupidly) assured everyone that, ‘I got this’. I had grand visions of learning how to drift round corners at 100mph and weave between oncoming buses, cabs and unsuspecting pedestrians, probably in LA, Tokyo or Miami. But nope. Instead I was packed off to Bedford. Not as glamorous, perhaps, but as it turns out its gusty plains are perfect for advanced driving lessons, so I headed north to put my limited skills to the ultimate test. Would I be fast? Would I be furious? Right now I’d settle for ‘swift’ and ‘peevish’, frankly.
If you have even a passing knowledge of Fast & Furious films (if you’ve seen so much as a poster) you’ll have gathered that although they might feature a lot of cars, the life expectancy of said vehicles is brief. If they’re not cartwheeling off motorways, being crushed by tanks or veering off a bridge, they’re having their suspension, tyres and gearboxes ground to dust by either the Fast & Furious team or their plethora of nemeses. Since I wasn’t expecting tanks, bridges or highways at the Bedford Autodrome my main objective for the morning was to channel my inner Toretto, participate in some mild vehicular warfare and try not to take anyone out in the process.
It boded well then that I would be learning some of the moves in one of the few models of car that actually made it to the end of the film in one piece: the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Not only did it manage to avoid getting blown up, crushed or dragged behind a plane for 12 miles, it significantly contributed to bringing down the film’s big bad in a spectacular fashion.
So over the course of an hour I learnt how to slide a car to a 90 degree halt, spin it through 180 degrees while moving and smash other driver’s wing mirrors repeatedly. I also raced around a test track while cars weaved around me, apparently wildly out of control, and was in general witness to some very cool stunt sequences by professional stunt drivers.
So what did I take away from this stomach-turning but utterly exhilarating experience? Here are my 5 top tips to help any aspiring renegade criminal cement their position social status
1) The wetter, the better. If you’re going to be spinning around, yanking on the brakes and generally ruining a good piece of automobile equipment you may as well create a bit of spray in the process. On a more practical note, wet surfaces help the car slide so you look just as impressive but only have to do half the work.
2) Handbrakes are unnecessary. While it might be fun to yank on them like there’s no tomorrow and careen to a halt by - or in - the nearest other vehicle, all the best moves are done without it. If you don’t believe me, look out for Dominic’s J-turn against Letty during their race through London in Fast & Furious 6. Spinning 180 degrees while reversing without stopping is easily one of the coolest things you can do on four wheels
3) Distraction is key. If you’re spatially restricted and have adversaries closing in on either side, smack their wing mirrors with your own so they pop in. Your adversary will be both infuriated and in breach of the Highway Code. Eat it, Shaw.
4) Don’t diss first gear. There’s no need to be intimidated by Toretto’s speedy shenanigans: you can have just as much fun in 1st gear. I didn’t have go near 100mph to have a complete blast.
5) Appearances aren’t everything. But they do help. So I didn’t drive a car into a plane, off a bridge or even into another car, but I did learn that you don’t have to be bald, built and brandish an American accent to scare the crap out of people with my driving skills (or lack thereof)
Most importantly though: don’t crash the car unless you have a garage full of back-ups. And if you’re going to try dangerous stunts, best do it under professional supervision on a closed track.
For further evidence of my crazy antics, check out the video below.
(Thanks to Universal for the day out. Fast & Furious 6 is in cinemas now.)