We're on a disused runway at Ardmore and if I had to match a song to this experience, it would be Joy Division's She's Lost Control.

I feel less fast-and-furious, more feeble-and-fainthearted.

Peter Bell " stunt driver and owner of Drive Rush " is about to take us on a sanctioned joyride in a flimsy-looking Mazda hatchback. He floors the throttle, driving us straight towards a small colony of orange cones, then yanks the steering wheel violently to the right, while pulling the handbrake, and we spin 360 degrees. We screech to an abrupt stop, perfectly positioned in the improbably small space between cones. Then he does it again, but this time in reverse.

My friend Suzi is in the back. When we get out she says, quietly but earnestly, "I wanna get the hell out of here".


I know how she feels. It is a wet, bleak day. I forgot to have breakfast and all I would really like is to run away and find a pie and hide from these people.

But it's too late for that. We have four hours to go.

Suzi and I are the only women in the group of six. Most of their clients - 80 per cent - are male. "Unfortunately," says Bell, "the average male driver believes they're a better driver then what they really are.

"In many cases this comes down to bravado without the experience or expertise. If you've never experienced the situation you have no idea what to do and it comes down to sheer luck. The faster you go, the faster it goes wrong.

"It's all about coming out and having a heap of fun and learning some new skills," he says.

The point of taking us all for a spin at the start, says Bell, is so we feel respect "because it's very hard to teach people who don't respect you."

Bell is laidback and he smiles the wry and slightly cheeky smile of one who knows he's just scared you half to death.

We walk back behind the barrier. Now its time for us to take the wheel.


I have gone from the pie-hunger stage to full-blown nausea.

There'll be the skid-mat where we drive the car at full noise, and set it spinning on a wet surface. The ramp - we'll get air. The powerslide, the reverse powerslide, 360s followed by a parallel park at speed between two other cars. With luck, says another instructors, we may blow a tyre while doing this.

On a good day Drive Rush goes through 8-10 tyres; on a bad day, 18-20.

Some are mechanics, all are experienced drivers.

Sarah Daniell, driving legend. Photo / Suzanne Downie
Sarah Daniell, driving legend. Photo / Suzanne Downie

Bell has spent a lifetime playing the daredevil. He has leapt tall buildings in a car. He once held the world record parallel park - 26cm - the total space left between the two cars you have parked between.

He has spent 30 years performing insane stunts in the film industry all over the world. He has performed and co-ordinated more than 150 feature films and TV commercials. He has starred with Tommy Lee Jones and Lucy Lawless.

He's also broken every bone in his body. This is not a helpful or fun fact.

"Go! Go! Go!," Bell yells as I scream off towards the mat about 50m away. "Now!" he commands, so I slam my foot on the brake, while jerking the steering wheel and pulling the handbrake and we spin, spin, spin. The adrenalin is charging and to my absolute shock and surprise, I am not swearing or screaming, but laughing. It is the most extraordinary, liberating feeling. It's the best fun and way, way exceeds my expectations, which were all based on terror.

We have another go. "Find a landmark, and don't take your eyes off it, as you spin," says Bell. This is so we don't become disorientated in a situation like this in real life, he says. "With more driver training you would have a fighting chance of being able to manoeuvre your car out of it."

Then there's the ramp, with another master instructor. "When I say 'now' you must - you absolutely must - hit the brake. Otherwise ..." he trails off, leaving me to ponder the horrific and humiliating possibilities if I lose it.

We fang it towards the ramp and suddenly we are in the air, flying, before landing, and spinning the car into a parallel park.

Courses range from $220 to $440 per person.
Courses range from $220 to $440 per person.

By the time we get to the powerslide, the racing challenge and the roll, this is feeling like the most natural thing in the world and I. WANT. MORE. Gone is the hunger, the nausea - replaced by an urgent need to do this every day.

It's extraordinary that what at first seemed so terrifying became so thrilling and enjoyable.

The day finishes and we're on a roll - in a car modified in a cage that rolls right over at speed and rights itself.

To my shame I opt out.

But Suzi - who will avoid parallel parking at all costs, who claims to have "spatial" issues with cars, and whom I once, many years ago, had to physically restrain from exiting a fast-moving car in Vietnam, so terrified was she - bounds up, hops in, rolls and bounds out again like a pro. Mission accomplished. Level 4 stunt driver. Legend.

Bell finishes the day, coolly and apparently casually, driving a car around the course on two wheels for about five minutes. It's impressive.

Suzi and I drive back to Auckland on all four wheels, fizzing.

"The scariest part of the day was being a passenger," she says. "Who knew we would leave feeling that blowing a tyre at speed would be vaguely appealing?"


Drive Rush


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