It’s clear that the day is going to connect with enthusiasts – one of the keenest proudly grinning under his RS emblazoned baseball cap; but there’s a good mix of people and cars in the car park, a selection of hot machinery from Subaru to Golf R, Mustang to a GT40, and plenty of more ordinary metal too.
The basic premise is that a slick looking heist movie ‘Go Faster’ (itself a play on Ford’s current ‘Go Further’ tagline) is in the process of being shot. Most of the film has been cast, save for one key character the androgynous ‘Wheels’ as eponymous wheelman (or woman). Here’s where we come in, auditioning for the role.
We’re given a tour of the ‘set’ complete with catering, edit suite, wardrobe and led through to a coned area where a team of stunt drivers arrive sideways, in a cloud of tyre smoke, drifting, donuting and braking hard to a stop just ahead of us, a line of 8 or so RS’ and a pair of Mustangs, offering a taste of what’s to come. ‘Henry’ a superbly over-the-top British ‘Stunt Supervisor’ gets us going. Calling names from his clipboard, he directs us off in groups of three to our various stunt lessons.
Next, is a handbrake park. This time the car’s been rigged with a hydraulic handbrake to help kick the back end round– it’s particularly tricky this, a tight box marked out with cones looks impossibly small. Our driver, one of Paul Swift’s team, tucks it in in an effortless manoeuvre that’s never going to be easy to replicate… Deep breath and away we go, the back swings round and I miss… the back end is sticking out. Round two with a bit more aggression and the front end nearly swallows a cone. Third attempt and it’s in; just, and not neatly either. Reverting to type I ask our young driver about his job – “Go on” I say… “What’s it like to do this for a living?” He grins at me “What do you think? […] I’m at college actually” he replies… “I do this part time”. I’m jealous – when I was his age the closest I got to professional driving was behind the wheel of a B&Q van in between hefting bags of concrete. We goad him into some hooliganism – holding on to anything we can use to keep ourselves upright – the RS pulls up to 1G sideways… It turns out he’d been stunt driving since the age of 14.
Back to the RS then; this one feels more tortured, more tired than the others. The heating is on full blast, almost unbearably hot, an effort to direct heat away from the engine. The rear grab handles are missing too, ripped from the headlining. It’s filthy, with bits of tyres hanging off the wheel arches. It looks mean; angry at its mechanical torture. This is the drifting section and there was no sympathy. The Focus is in ‘Drift’ mode, ESC off.
As I hurled left around a single cone in the centre of the deliberately wet box, the back end broke free and my poor passengers were thrown into the door cards, switching direction was absolutely savage, violently throwing everybody to the otherside of the car “that’s how the handles came out” laughed our instructor. With no air to cool the 2.3 turbocharged lump, engine temps climbed, eventually overheating the steering and rear diff causing the car to wash wide. We’d broken it… temporarily at least and a slow drive was needed to get some cool air back through the front.
I needed it too. Dressed via the wardrobe in a green bomber jacket and leather gloves we made our way indoors for some green screen action. Posing for a photo and doing my best to wind down the cheese, I found myself in a rig ahead of a green screen, superimposed into a movie poster. Director Gus, a hilarious pastiche encouraged us through a short acting sequence that would be inserted into the film’s movie trailer (see below) – an awesome momento of the day. Of course, interior shots driving the car were also needed, bringing us on to the final challenge.
We were met again by Henry, who gave us our final instructions – a series of manoeuvres, this time watched by all the participants and no practice, just one take. The Focus looked odd, the badges and plate backwards, setup so that it would work for the left hand drive cars of the America-set film.
For the first time I felt nervous.. Nobody wants to fluff up a stunt in front of a crowd. J turn first; I floored it, yanked the steering, slipped the RS into first and floored it again. I pulled it off too, phew. A drift around a camera followed for a side in – shot and a powerslide with a glasses off – stare at the camera before heading back to the studio.
Worth the £99 ticket price? Absolutely.
I must have used that in tyres and fuel, let alone the wear to the cars.
This had us thinking, surely Ford couldn’t pull this off at a profit; rough maths says £3,000 a group, £9,000 a day versus a fleet of cars, damage, a lot of expensive Michelin tyres and a fuel bill that would make you consider shares in BP…
No, the cost of Go Faster is incidental; really, this is a masterstroke in marketing. A few cars, a superb setup and experienced stunt team all cost; but compared to say, pitching an SUV during Premiership half-time this is cheap advertising. In an age where social media rules, this is viral marketing at its best. It’s an experience you’re unlikely to forget and one you’ll probably keep talking about too.
If this is how Ford want to sell us its cars, sign me up; I’ll happily pay for the privilege. Marketing is most definitely best when it’s done sideways.