Want to drive like Bond?
How easy is it to master special driving moves? We head to a closed course to learn the tricks with a stunt driving school.
If you watch car chases in movies — the Jason Bourne franchise, any Bond film — it’s easy for your mind to wander until it’s you in that Aston Martin doing j-turns around the cobblestoned streets of a major European capital.
The fantasy dulls a little when you find your 12-year-old four door sedan sitting in the driveway. So I called up Hans Wolter of Wings and Slicks to see if I could spend a couple of hours living a stunt-driving dream in the BMW that he uses to teach would-be secret agents.
Will the villains of the world need to worry about being thwarted by my skills behind the wheel?
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Before I get behind the wheel of the 1998 BMW 328 iS, Wolter grabs a white board and sketches the three moves I’ll be learning: a fast run through a slalom course, the j-turn and the reverse 180.
I admit to Wolter that my most exciting driving experience to date has been learning to drive a manual transmission on a Nissan Sentra with more than 300,000 km on the odometer. He promises this will be way more fun.
I get in the passenger seat as Wolter takes me for a few spins through the slalom course and explains that my hands should be at the unnatural-feeling position of 9 and 3 so I can turn the wheel fast to get around the tiny cones. His other word of advice: don’t look at the next cone that’s coming up or you’ll miss it (and likely all the others after).
After a few slow runs, Wolter is on me to drive faster with a sharp “go, go, go!” It’s easy to lose control and, at a higher speed, not so easy to get back on track. A few times, I miss the parking cones that I’m supposed to slide the car between at the end of each run. I leave one of them nearly split in half.
It’s time to get down to business. The j-turn involves driving straight and then using the hand brake to turn the car around, and driving back the way you came.
The key to the j-turn is to pick up speed, turn the car slightly to shift the weight into the front wheels, and then turn hard the other way while pulling on the hydraulic hand brake.
I’m not supposed to use the foot brake and I’m used to a clutch, so it takes focus to keep the work in the hands. On some runs I end up doing no more than making a hard left turn, but on others I manage to really kick out the back wheels. It’s here that I realize a bus driver parked nearby is watching. I catch his eye and he gives me a thumbs up, but I don’t think he’s impressed.
“How are you at driving backward?” Wolter asks as he starts my final lesson. “Um, I have poor depth perception,” I reply, “and think objects in the mirror definitely are closer than they appear.”
Wolter explains that he’s asking whether I can drive backward in a straight line, because that’s how this move starts. I’m then supposed to do a 180-degree turn to continue travelling in the same direction, only now facing forward. We quickly find out that he has to steady the wheel for me on this manoeuvre, a quick transition from backwards to forwards on a straight line with a very hard, and very fast, turn of the wheel (Wolter helps with the hand brake).
Wolter’s demonstrations are so fast that I feel a little nauseous and am not sure I’ll master this one. And sure enough, even with Wolter’s help, I can’t spin the car and continue straight. I end up drifting off course.
“It’s just time in the car,” Wolter says of mastering the stunts.
I may not have video evidence of a perfect reverse 180. But sore shoulders the next day remind me of the fun I had trying.