The trick that is secretly worrying me most, though, and the one I suspect might inflict m ost damage on my ego, is that seemingly impossible parallel parking manoeuvre. If you haven’t seen it done, it involves charging towards a parking space between two cars, then handbrake turning into the space with inches to spare.
Instructor Graham Nicholson explains how it’s done: “Build your speed up to about 20mph then declutch and, as you approach the box, turn in on a smooth curve and aim at the centre of the space. Whatever you do, keep off the footbrake.” Sounds easy…
As I coast towards the space, I’m struck by how it appears to diminish in size the closer to it I get. On arrival, I yank the handbrake hard and – amazingly – it almost works, with just one or two minor casualties in the ranks of cones. After another couple of attempts I get a clean result, which teaches me that success is down to finding the right technique, then practising it over and over again. Not sure I’d ever want to swap the cones for real cars, though.
Pulling off a seamless J-turn is slightly harder, even though it doesn’t look it. Mark Jones is instructing on this one and he explains that the trick is to grasp the left-hand side of the wheel with your right hand at the nine o’clock position, build up speed in reverse then, when he calls it, declutch and flick the wheel over through 180deg to the three o’clock position. Do this and the car snaps around viciously, tyres howling. As it comes back into line, the idea is to flick the wheel back to where you started, then select a forward gear in order to make your escape from the bandits without stopping.
Straightening up at precisely the right moment when your head is doing its best to leave your shoulders is tricky, but doing it smoothly is even harder. Jones suggests bracing my arm rigidly to lock the steering wheel and counter the inertia in the road wheels, but that proves to be easier said than done when you’ve got biceps like Minnie Mouse.
So far so good, though. My nemesis, the parallel park, has been banished and the J-turn nailed, so next up is the front-wheel-drive drift car, which I’m struggling to get my head around. Drifting is normally prolonged power oversteer, and conventional wisdom says you must have rear-wheel drive for that.
Swift’s drift car is the same one he uses for driving on two wheels, fitted with a Quaife diff. But what really makes the drifts happen is a pair of plastic tyres on the rear wheels. This time I hop in alongside The Maestro for the demonstration. He drives around a cone as a datum point in first gear and, as speed builds and the rear begins to slide, a quick flick on the steering wheel sets up the drift.