You’ve probably been on a “driving experience”. Possibly at Porsche’s place at Silverstone, or maybe Mercedes’s on the site of the old Brooklands banking. Good ones – where the instructor you’re inevitably sat next to a) knows what he’s doing and b) isn’t a massive killjoy – are great fun. Bad ones – where you’re limited to a couple of laps of a corner-less airfield, and are instructed not to exceed 70mph and 3,500rpm so the shagged ‘supercar’ you’re driving doesn’t go bang– are plain frustrating. A waste of your money and time.
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How to become a movie stunt driver*
*Kind of. TG plays stunt-driver at Ford's new experience day. Worth your £100?
But Ford’s “Go Faster” experience isn’t like other driving experiences. The premise is that you’re a movie stunt driver – a novice, and this is your first film. There’s a whole back story centred around a chap called Carston, who was sent to a fictitious prison for a fictitious crime he never fictitiously committed, and you’re his driver – ‘Wheels’. You spend the morning learning how to do various manoeuvres, then you’re filmed stitching them all together. Said footage is spliced with existing B-roll et viola, you have your very own movie trailer, starring you and your driving. At least, that’s the theory.
So you rock up to what looks like a disused car park in deepest Barking, and from the moment you sign in things start to get weird, in an oddly beguiling way. There are a load of actors, not just the ones from the trailer – and they’re always in character. In character as the actors, not the characters – if that makes sense. There’s a (fake) director too, and various other (fake) production staff whose job it is to keep you ‘immersed’. Sounds odd, I know, but because no-one’s taking themselves too seriously – they’re caricatures, really – it’s actually quite good fun.
But the driving is more fun. There are four sections, if you like. J-turn, handbrake-park (or ‘powerslide’ as they irritatingly insisted on calling it), drift and something called a ‘shakedown’, which was effectively a timed mini-autocross type-thing. Focus RSs for the first three, then an auto Mustang for the last bit, although there’s no set order. It’s a Paul Swift production, so the instructors know what they’re on about and, while there’s not much space to play with, they’ve all got kill-switches in case you go rogue or very, very wide indeed. You don’t get long in the cars – maybe three or four goes at perfecting each. That’s annoying, but not a deal breaker.
Then you film. Once they’ve equipped you with leather gloves and a bomber jacket (no, you don’t get to keep them), the group of punters is halved – one lot goes into a trailer to shoot some smouldering non-driving stuff (turning to look at the camera, flipping a big industrial-looking switch etc…), while the others take turns filming their stunts, then you swap.
That done, the winner of the shakedown is revealed (me, as it happens. Would have been faster if he’d let me turn the ESC off) and officially crowned ‘Wheels’, and you’re sent on your merry way, with the promise that your movie trailer (and poster) will follow via email once they’ve been made-up… And truth be told, we were a little disappointed with ours. Mostly because we weren’t really in it. The pre-filmed bits are all very professionally done, too, which makes the brief flashes of your face/driving all the more obvious. We won’t show you because it’ll spoil yours, should you decide to go.
But that said, for £99 it’s probably worth it anyway, even if the video isn’t as good as we’d hoped. It’s about the driving, right? A couple of hours spent sliding about in a Focus RS and ‘Stang is worth that alone, and providing you’ve held a driving licence for a year they’ll probably let you have a go (there are Ts/Cs, obviously). Probably not one for the serial track-day goers among you – it might feel a bit infantile – but teens will enjoy themselves, we bet. A bit of fun, not a lot of money and not to be taken too seriously. It’s on from Friday 13 October and runs until Sunday 22 October, when it moves. Tickets here.