Doing things with cars most people will never have to, wheelworldreviews editor DAVID HOOPER learns the art of evasive driving from the professionals.
BEING confronted by insurgents wielding AK47s or rocket propelled grenades is something most of us will never have to face.
However, in an increasingly dangerous and unstable world, those sort of situations can be a daily reality for the men and women who work in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, or not so long ago, even Northern Ireland.
Even in this country, it is not inconceivable that you could find yourself the potential victim of a car-jacking, armed robbery, or city centre brawl on a Saturday night.
You are in your car and find yourself confronted by a threatening situation from which you want to extract yourself and your vehicle as quickly as possible.
Would you know what to do?
Dave Bertie and Mark Kendrick spend their time these days training all manner of people, including the SAS, the driving skills they need to stay alive in the world’s most dangerous situations.
Dave Bertie is an ex-Royal Marine who went on to work for the Government as part of a protection team looking after VIPs and Members of Parliament.
Mark Kendrick is an ex-police advanced driving trainer and a licensed Close Protection Operative, or bodyguard to you and me.
They have both worked in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mark says his most interesting driving job was training PSD (Personal Security Detail) drivers on the ground in Iraq where he was shot at.
Dave, on the other hand, says his most interesting driving job was when he was in Italy looking after a very high ranking member of the armed forces and liaising with the Italian police and other agencies. He also trains people all over the world in close protection driving duties.
So, you find yourself faced by a gang of marauding yobs and need to get out of there – fast. The instructors say you have to stay calm, be professional and take control. Speed, aggression and surprise are key.
As part of an event with Citroen at Rockingham, we were taught the finer points of executing a “Y” turn and “J” turn and making our escape.
The “Y” turn starts with you stopping as the danger presents itself in front of the small and agile Citroen C2s we were using. Watching a turning point through your near-side mirror, in this case a badly tyre-marked cone, but normally the back of a car with a space between it and the next, you reverse at speed into the gap. As the weight transfers to the rear of the car under braking, the front becomes light, loses traction and slides round. While all this is going on, the idea is to then select first gear, turn the steering wheel to the opposite lock and “bug out” as fast as you can.
My instructor, Dave, readily admits the “Y” turn is difficult to perfect. I think he was a perfectionist, because I was managing to spin the car round and drive out of the space after a few attempts, but apparently I was still not doing it exactly right. You could tell he was ex-military – he liked to shout a lot.
To make things even harder, he then built up the pressure, making it as real as he could, shouting “Get out of here, go, go, go.”
Next thing I knew, pretending he was a terrorist, he was pointing his fingers through the open car window as I tried to change gear from reverse to first and turn the wheel from one lock to the other as quickly as possible, all at the same time.
“Bang, bang, bang,” he yelled. “Too slow, you’re dead!”
I felt fine, considering I was dead. My heart was pounding a bit, but other than that, being dead wasn’t too bad – but it did make me try harder on my next attempt.
“It’s harder under pressure,” shouted Dave. “Do it again, get it right this time.”
The “J” turn is done at higher speeds. Again, you stop as the danger appears in front of you. I put the Citroen C4 I was using on this exercise into reverse and accelerated quickly backwards before turning the steering wheel violently one way, then the other and selecting second gear as the car spins so you can drive away.
Again, it sounds simple, but getting the technicalities perfect is harder than it sounds. And we had acres of space to practice in. Were it for real, you would only have the width of a narrow street.
Then, to show us how it should be done, the “experts” took us in a big Citroen C6 and executed the perfect “J” turn to demonstrate how the VIPs would “enjoy” the ride. It was surprisingly smooth.
Dave and Mark teach people how to do these manoeuvres in armoured cars like Jags, Mercs and BMWs, as well as top-heavy 4×4 SUVs.
I just hope I never have to do it for real!