Makes you feel good, doesn’t it? That he – you know, the “I expect you to die” fella – drives one of these. Which is why you’ll find a mention of him in almost every single piece of motoring magazine copy about an Aston Martin that you’ll ever read. Buy one of these, it implies, and you, too, can be a bit like 007.
Only you can’t, can you? Not really. Not unless you first drive an Aston Martin, and then add a little… something. Given that Gemma Arterton still isn’t returning my calls, in my case it’s going to have to be something else. It’s going to have to be driving an Aston like he does in the films.
I don’t remember seeing Bond train for the driving he does: performing a barrel roll while leaping a river, drifting on ice, driving half a Renault 11 in Paris. It’s all so easy, why would he?
However, to find out how Bond – or the stunt double pretending to be the man who is pretending to be him – does it, I am going to need some practice. That’s why I’m at Drift Limits in Hertfordshire, where owner Jonny Barden and his team train stunt drivers and the public alike. Today they have me. They’ll tell me how Bond does it, and I’ll tell you. A not so secret service.
Stunt 1 - The J-turn
The J-turn isn’t just a cool piece of stunt driving; it’s a vital part of defensive driving for licensed troubleshooters. The object is simple: you’re facing in one direction but want to be travelling in the other, as soon as is humanly possible. A J-turn is what you need to do.
I’ve tried these before at test tracks and ballsed them up at test tracks, too, so I’m glad Barden is instructing, making what seems to be a very complicated manoeuvre sound relatively straightforward, or straightbackward. The steps are simple but happen in very quick succession.
First, you accelerate quickly backwards in a straight line – gently at first, because it’s easy to light up the rear tyres – until you reach, say, 40mph, or around 6000rpm in the Aston V8 Vantage I’m driving.
Barden says to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel, steady and locked at a quarter-to-three position.
Then you dip the clutch and quickly apply a half turn of lock, in whatever direction you want the car’s nose to spin. Don’t slip your hand around the wheel rim, though. Instead, hold it there or you won’t know where straight is again.
As soon as the lock has been applied and you feel the car swinging, hit the brakes hard, just for a second. The ABS on our Aston is disabled so the wheels lock, which helps to keep the manoeuvre tight and precise, but it works with ABS or with no brakes at all, although then it takes up more room. Now, wait while the car continues its 180deg turn and, when it’s near straight again, bring your hand back to its start position – so you know the steering is straight – and the car will roll out of the spin in the direction you wanted.
When you’re learning, only when the car is straight again should you move the gearlever from reverse to second, lift the clutch and drive out of the turn. As you get the hang of it, you can do the change from reverse to second while the car is spinning. That makes the manoeuvre faster and more effective, and just requires practice. Training is useful, but there is no substitute for experience.
Stunt 2 - the drift
I’ll be honest: drifting during a car chase is pointless. I know: shocking, positively shocking. Drifting is slow, which is not what you want to be when escaping a villain. I suppose you could argue that a smokescreen from the rear tyres could be handy, but the short of it is that drifting in car chases is standard operating procedure – boys with toys, pure and simple.