Click Erik Davis' beautiful face above to head straight to our Aston Martin hi-res gallery
"Now this is a fun one -- when you get to 100mph, just slowly take your hands off the wheel and watch what the car does ..." -- Aston Martin Instructor #1
You may remember how last month Cinematical was invited to travel to London for something called "The James Bond Experience." Part of this "experience" included a chat with Bond himself, Daniel Craig, and Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster. (You can read all about that over here.) Now, however, we're finally allowed to tell you about some of the activities that took place during our four days across the pond -- and how do I not start with the awesomeness that was driving an Aston Martin -- a car, mind you, that's worth more than my life -- at well over 100mph. But let me back up.
Never sit at the back of a bus for more than an hour and a half. By the time our small group of online writers arrived at the Millbrook test track, I felt like I was ready to puke. Millbrook is literally in the middle of the English countryside -- an hour or so out of London, in Bedfordshire, England -- and it's the sort of place that calls for an escort to be with you at all times. See, Millbrook is where they test all sorts of cars and military vehicles before they're called into action. Thus, cameras are everywhere, the public is not allowed in and security is tighter than a seat belt around Santa.
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And this could be yours for only $300,000. An absolute steal in my opinion!
We eventually arrived at a giant conference room housed inside a tiny building, with roughly 12 Aston Martins parked out front. I'd decided this was either Tony Stark's other garage, or I had died and woke up in multi-millionaire heaven. Several Aston Martin instructors greeted us while the latest trailer for Quantum of Solace aired its dirty laundry on a flat screen in the middle of the room. Within 15 minutes, some woman called my name and I took off with the first instructor -- clean cut, no nonsense -- my first question upon sliding into the brand new 2009 red DB9 was how much does this sucker cost? "Mmm, you can probably get this for about 160,000 pounds," said the instructor. Right then I knew I'd never experience something like this ever again.
He brought me down to something called the Circular Hi-Speed Bowl, after explaining that Millbrook contained 38 miles of different test tracks. This circular bowl, which I'm sure you've seen on television before, was two miles long and the road was separated into four lanes, the last of which sloped up. In order to be in a lane, you had to be driving at a certain speed -- and in order to be in the fourth lane, you had to be doing at least 100mph. Whether my stomach was going to cooperate or not, guess where I was roughly eight minutes after we pulled onto this maze of hidden test tracks? Yup, I was in the fourth lane of the hi-speed bowl in a $300,000 automobile doing over 100mph (with the wheel on the other side, remember) ... and the only thought racing through my brain included the following question: "How much would it suck to throw up right now?" (Special thanks to the neurotic Jew in me for showing up at just the right time).
Imagine throwing up in this fine automobile
At 100mph, my instructor felt I wasn't fearing for my life enough and so he told me to take my hands off the wheel. Yes. At 100mph. No hands. Amazingly, so long as I stayed at exactly 100mph, the car remained straight and didn't move an inch. That said, when I was told to put my hands back on the wheel, a part of me jumped for joy inside. Two seconds later, my instructor said "now floor it" -- and before I knew which way was straight, I had the freakin' thing at 135mph -- powering around the bowl like a bat out of hell.
It took about 45 minutes for my heart to stop racing and my hands to stop shaking, and while I waited for my next instructor, I seriously questioned whether I could handle this much insanity. My stomach was a mess, and word had it one course was all hills and curves ... at, like, 80mph. In fact, this was the same course featured in Casino Royale, when the car flips over several times. Remember? So I took a few minutes in the bathroom to compose myself and shake the wimpy little girl from out under the imaginary dress I was wearing and eventually ventured off to the next course ...
... which, of course, was the one full of hills and curves and vomit-inducing fun. My new instructor and I slipped into a sweet DBS (which was the actual car --literally -- that Bond drove in Quantum of Solace) and cruised onto what they called the Hill Route Circuit. Now there were two parts to this particular adventure: The first featured myself in the passenger seat while my instructor shot his way up, down and around the track. The second featured my instructor in the passenger seat and me driving stick for the first time in my life. Either way, at some point along the route, we were going to arrive at this spot (as featured in the film Casino Royale) ...
Erik wuz here, September 2008
... which, for a fidgety New Yorker like myself, was a little bit scary. Luckily, our drive through was smooth and fun, and my instructor pointed out that they had to replace chunks of concrete after the above scene was shot because the car tore up the ground something awful. There wasn't much excitement to be had once I took over the wheel (we remained in third gear going roughly 40 mph), but I do get to say that the first time I ever drove stick was in an Aston Martin.
Last, but certainly not least, was the one mile straight away. By the time I met my instructor for this, I was a seasoned pro -- having popped my Aston Martin cherry on three previous drives. For once in my life, I felt pretty cool ... and pretty rich ... like Cinderella, only not as hot. This time we were in a V8 Vantage, and as we came around a corner, all I could see was one straight run -- a mile's worth of "lets see how fast you can go." Seriously, this was every man's wet dream -- the keys to an Aston Martin and the ability to go as fast as you wanted with no other cars in sight. (Hot Eva Green look-a-like unfortunately not included.)
As we crawled to the starting line, my instructor told me to just floor it -- to push the gas all the way down as far as it could go, and to smash on the brake when he gave the order. I was at 100mph in seconds, pushing this bad boy to its limits, and as I crossed over 150mph, he told me to smash the brakes ... "and let the car do the rest." Yup, I seriously smashed the freakin' brakes going 150mph -- and you know what? Nada. The car slowed itself down, and we cruised into a turn safe and sound.
Movie or no movie, this was without a doubt one of the coolest experiences of my life. There's a lot more to come from this trip, but in the meantime I urge you to slip into that gallery below (or above) and check out a ton of photos from this day. In the gallery, you'll see the cars I drove, the DBS featured in Quantum of Solace, and then one DBS that was all damaged (with dirt, dust and bullet holes) from the opening sequence of the film. Very cool stuff.
Quantum of Solace opens in theaters on November 14.