The world of Formula 1 was present and correct at the recent star-studded London premiere for the new James Bond flick No Time To Die, as George Russell, Christian Horner, Lance and Lawrence Stroll brushed off their tuxedos for the movie event of the year. But for two racers used to life on the F1 support bill, Bond’s latest adventure represents much more than a memorable night out. W Series racing drivers Jessica Hawkins and Naomi Schiff have one over the F1 boys this time – because they are both actually in the film, as stunt drivers.
It’s a little different from the day job. “In racing, you are always trying to correct the car, whereas in stunt driving, you want a bit of flair. As soon as it goes sideways, you want to keep it there,” says Hawkins. “They are two different worlds.”
The 26-year-old British racer currently lies 10th in W Series ahead of the double-header season finale later this month in Austin, Texas, while Rwandan-German Schiff, 27, is a reserve driver for the all-female single-seater series. Both fell into the movie business by chance, although Hawkins had a head start on Schiff before they ended up on the Bond sets.
“I was really lucky: I had three months’ intensive training,” says Hawkins. “Stunt driving was literally my 9-5 job, travelling Europe in a show called Fast and Furious Live. You can’t have a better stage for learning, because when it’s live, you can’t mess up. Through that, I made a friend who knew Lee Morrison, who is the stunt co-ordinator for No Time To Die. Lee was looking for a female stunt driver and I went for an audition with him. He set out six cones, showed me a routine, then got me to do what he’d just done. I got it first time, wound down the window and he said: ‘Welcome to the team, Jess.’ That was a great sentence to hear.”
“My story is slightly different,” says Schiff. “I didn’t have any intensive training beside my racing experience, which, as Jess says, is quite the opposite of what they usually want you to do on set. I was contacted via Instagram by someone who said they wanted me ‘to double for one of the actors who looks like you in the new Bond film’. I assumed it was a joke and just ignored it. A few days later, I received a similar message on Facebook. It turns out it was for real. Similar to Jess, I was invited to a test with Lee Morrison.”
When she arrived, Schiff was met by a friendly and familiar face. “Jess was there to help me to learn as quickly as possible,” she says. “Funnily enough, we’d met a week earlier for W Series selection tests. I had to do the same thing as Jess, but without the training, so Jess was in the car with me, giving me tips. We ripped through a couple of sets of tyres and I managed to get through everything they wanted. It was an adventurous day.”