A few weekends back I went to London for a special James Bond event. I interviewed Daniel Craig and Quantum of Solace director Mark Forster as a representative of the fans, presenting questions that were posed by CHUD readers (you can read the responses to these excellent questions right here).

As part of the trip, Columbia took the fan reps (aka the usual buncha journalists) on some special events, including a tea with Ian Fleming’s niece, a visit to Pinewood Studios and the opportunity to drive Aston Martins. I brought a Flip Video Camera with me to London to try and capture some of the events; this is the first in a projected series of ‘multi-media’ reports that incorporate video footage. We’ll see how it goes.

You can’t blame Capone for thinking I would be the first to go – after all, I don’t have a license. And I was about to get behind the wheels of some of the most expensive, high precision sports cars in the world. And drive them at well over a hundred miles an hour.

Our group – journalists and Columbia PR reps – piled into a bus to make the long ride to the Millbrook Proving Ground, Europe’s preeminent location for the testing and development of cars… and military vehicles, judging by the tanks and armored vehicles driving around the facility. Some of the cars undergoing tests were camoflouged, with their dimensions hidden by extra body parts and netting, in an attempt to foil industrial spies and car fans alike. All of the secrecy at Millbrook meant that I couldn’t take my camera with me into the cars when I drove, which was pretty much the whole reason I bought the damn thing.

Aston Martin has a little HQ on the Millbrook grounds; when you buy one of these $200,000+ cars you probably never get the chance to really open her up, so new Aston Martin owners can come out and use the track to see what their car is made of. In front of the HQ was the wrecked DBS from Quantum of Solace, complete with bullet holes. Jim ‘Stax’ Vejvoda gives us the tour, with a surprise appearance by UGO’s Jenna Bush:

That smashed up car was pretty cool to see, but even cooler was the chance to drive in the unsmashed DBS that was also used in the movie. I wasn’t able to be behind the wheel of that one, but I was sort of glad – the Aston Martin driver took us on Millbrook’s hilliest and most winding track. This track was where the infamous car flip in Casino Royale was done; you can see where the track was patched.  Hitting hairpin turns at 70mph is an amazing experience, but even better is hitting a hill and actually getting air. My Starsky & Hutch dream was realized. After doing this track twice I was a little woozy but pumped with adrenaline. And that was just the start of my day.

Next up for me was the mle straight track. I got to drive this one, which is pretty ridiculous when you realize that I was hitting 140 mph and I hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car in over a year.

The mile straight is just what it sounds like – a straight mile of track. You gun the engine and go as fast as you can (in this case, a hair over 140 before I lost my nerve seeing the end of the track rushing at me). On my second run, the driver told me to get the car to 100mph and then slam on the brakes as hard as I could. Even as an occasional driver I know that this sounds like a disaster in the making, but the Aston Martin’s incredible ABS made the sudden braking maneuver feel as smooth as Daniel Craig’s hairless manboobs.

I couldn’t bring the camera onto the tracks, lest I accidentally video a military vehicle or a super secret Honda model, but I did attempt to record the experience for posterity – in audio. The result was a little less spectacular than I had hoped, but I’ve included it below for those with nothing else to occupy four and a half minutes of their time.

Untitled from devincf on Vimeo.

After that experience I was up for something truly nuts. Getting into another Aston Martin I was driven to another track; this one was a bowl, two miles long. The bowl was divided up into lanes, each with a speed written on them. The faster you went the higher up the bowl you drove, and the highest lane had a 100 in it. I topped out at 150, not feeling confident enough to go any faster (“We’re supposed to make you wear a helmet when you go over 130!” the driver happily told me as I hit that 150).

After doing a lap the driver told me to bring the car down to 100. He explained that the curvature of the track was such that, at a 100mph, the car would steer itself. At 100 he told me to take my hands off the wheel. At first I couldn’t – it just goes against your basic survival instinct – but I gathered the courage and did.

It was glorious. I was zooming at 100mph and no one was steering. And just to make it more fun, there were other cars on the track, as well as – for some reason – a double decker bus. I don’t feel like you’ve lived until you’ve passed another car while doing 140.

That was pretty much it for my day at the races. We were at Millbrook all day long, and when it was all over we were tuckered out from the adrenaline. Before going to proving grounds I never quite understood the appeal of expensive cars, but after sitting in the driver’s seats of those Aston Martins (on the wrong side, no less), I finally got it. These cars drive so differently than any vehicle I had ever controlled before that it felt like a totally different class of experience. That said, I couldn’t ever imagine taking one of these onto the 405 and sitting in traffic for hours. That’s just cruel.

And I leave you with this, featuring myself and Cinematical’s Erik Davis: