Capone With The Third & Final Installment Of His QUANTUM OF SOLACE London Adventure!!
Published at: Nov. 3, 2008, 1:13 p.m. CST by merrick
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here, with the third and final report about my recent QUANTUM OF SOLACE adventures in London.
I've already filled you in on the centerpiece of my four-day, three-night journey--interviews with QUANTUM director Marc Forster and James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. I also filled you in on the activities that surrounded these interviews, including a trip to the legendary Pinewood Studios and high tea with Ian Fleming's niece, Lucy, the woman in charge of Ian Fleming Publications.
But what I didn't realize in doing the interviews, watching the 10 minutes of footage of QUANTUM OF SOLACE (as of this writing, I've now seen the entire finished film), drinking tea, and touring Pinewood was that all of this was just prologue to one of the coolest things that any true Bond geek would kill his grandparents to do. We got up early on our last full day in London, piled onto a bus, sleepy but hopeful, and drove to the unassuming town of Millbrook (about 1.5 hours outside of London by my watch) to the Millbrook Test Track. Now, this massive property houses dozens of different automotive test tracks featuring different configurations, road surfaces, and hazards. A few automobile manufacturers also have offices on the property, including Aston Martin. This isn't a dealership, per se, but more of a place where the dealers can bring potential buyers to really open up the vehicle perhaps for the first and only time the own the car. Millbrook has plenty of proper test tracks, but we were more interested in three specific ones designed to show off the Aston Martin's brand of handling, speed, and precision.
CLICK images to enlarge!
Now take a close look at the second photo. In the foreground, you'll see a black A-M that is the exact car Daniel Craig is driving in the opening chase scene of the new film. This isn't just the same make and model. This Is The Car. And if you look just behind it, you'll see a slightly banged up version of the same car, which is also in QUANTUM OF SOLACE later in that same sequence, but after Bond and those chasing him have put it through the ringer. Notice the missed driver's side door. Both of these cars were on display at the London premiere of the film.
Now take a look at these shots:
These are close-ups of the QUANTUM OF SOLACE car after the big opening chase sequence. This car is fucked up, but believe it or not, it still drives.
There were six online journalists on the trip, plus a handful of foreign entertainment writers on this particular leg of our journey. Here's the motley crew posing with the "chase" car:
Lest you think that we were brought all the way to Millbrook to pose next to cars, think again. There were about a half dozen Aston Martins on the lot ready for us to test drive on three of the property's test tracks. We were each taken out one at a time in one of four cars (depending on the track we were headed out to), including the pristine chase car. Aston Martin salespeople first drove us around as a passenger to show us the features of each car. Here are three of the cars we drove; I drove each one once.
Each writer went out individually based on a preset schedule. My first course was a two-mile, round, angled track with four lanes, each one designated with a mph marker. The markers were not speed limits, but rather the speed you had to reach to do something really scary and cool. The outermost lane was labeled "100 mph," which I found out meant that if you got the car up to exactly 100 mph, you could take your hands off the steering wheel and the car would stay right in that lane without steering. The combination of the angle of the track and the speed kept you in lane hands free, which I did with much trepidation and butt loads of fear. Soon after that I put my hands back on the wheel and got the vehicle up to about 140 mph, about 50 mph faster than I've ever driven in my life. Let me tell you that every little bump in the road sent my heart racing and squeezed my bladder a little tighter. But when you return to the main building after going that fast, you can't stop talking about it or wanted to repeat the experience.
The second track was very different. It was one designed to look and feel like a real-life mountainous road complete with treacherous hairpin turns, blind corners, and even a hill steep enough that we caught about a foot of air when the Aston Martin guy hit it. It was a like a rollercoaster ride with no tracks and nothing keeping us from piling into a tree or hillside. The first time through this course, you go in the pristine chase car as a passenger (there was no way they were letting us drive that specially made vehicle). The second time, you go through in a different car as the driver. This track is especially notable because it was used in CASINO ROYALE in the sequence where Bond flips his car down a hill; you can still see the patch in the road where his car hit and took out a piece of pavement. Now, I know that Aston Martins cannot flip over, and I saw my driver got well over 80 mph around some of the most dangerous turns and corners imaginable, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and just floor it. The Aston Martin salesman told me exactly what was coming up next, when to accelerate and when to brake, but mostly I just trusted the incredible handling of the car and my flawed instincts. Driving like that goes against everything I've ever been taught about operating a car, but it didn't take me long to unlearn 20-plus years of driving habits.
The third and final track was strictly about speed--a one-mile-long straightaway. Our only instruction was to floor it until we were told to brake. I think those of us who truly floored it, got the car up to 150 mph. It was during this seemingly simple task that I began to realize that not only was I going faster than I'd ever gone in my life, but that I was doing so in one of the most expensive and perfect vehicles ever created. It was one of those perfect moments that you just know you'll never forget. We each got to drive this track twice. The first time was about speed; the second time was an opportunity for the Aston Martin folks to show off the brakes. We got thing up to about 100 mph, then at about the half-mile mark, we were told to slam the brakes, as in "to the floor" slam the brakes. It's an abrupt but smooth-as-silk stop with zero skidding and no signs of the back up sliding out behind you. Sheer perfection on all counts.
Leaving Millbrook was like leaving a little slice of heaven. Odds are I'll never get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin again. But I can say for the rest of my life that I drove 150 mph in one, and spend many minutes just playing in their gloriousness. The next QUANTUM OF SOLACE thing you'll get from me will be my review in a couple of weeks.