Exclusive! Autoblog rides in The Sweeney car chase
The Jaguar's 5.0 litre engine is spinning at 5000 rpm, but we are doing 3 mph. Over the next 10 minutes, the engine speed barely changes, but our velocity oscillates between zero and 50 mph with the frequency of a graphic equaliser playing thrash metal.
Welcome to the car chase from The Sweeney. This isn't the footage you will see in the film, but a re-enactment using the same drivers, the same cars and the same stunts – so pretty close then (and rather more convincing than the attempt made by a certain TV programme). The venue is Chris Evans' CarFest at Laverstoke Farm in Hampshire, with a single lane road lined with straw bales.
The sequence begins with a maximum-wheelspin start to please the crowd and then there is a succession of ever-tighter donuts, the Jaguar engine bellowing in fury at its inability to turn 503 bhp into forward motion. By the final donut, we appear to be rotating on our own axis. Then it is off down the straight with the Focus ST in close proximity. At one point, Paul Swift (son of stunt legend Russ Swift, and now heading for legendary status in his own right), is reversing at top speed with the Jaguar a few feet behind. The ST pulls a J-turn (a reverse handbrake turn) and accelerates away facing the right way.
Inside the Jag, I can see that the choreography is stunning. The Jag hits the brakes the nanosecond the Focus starts its J-turn. At first I think this reflects astonishingly quick reactions by Steve Stringer, the Jaguar driver. Then it occurs to me that humans don't have reactions that fast - the couple of tenths of a second it takes to react would have put us in the back of the Ford. Steve later explains that he can't wait for the Ford to start spinning. Paul always steers very slightly the other way before the J-turn and that is the signal that he is about to spin around. That is seriously impressive: Steve is reacting to something that has not actually happened yet in order to keep the closest possible distance between himself and a car that goes from almost 30 mph in reverse to zero and back past 30 mph, all in a few seconds.
Later I am asked if I feel sick after my ride. Not at all. Like all top drivers, the stunt team are very smooth in how they operate the controls – they are effectively making a car dance, and dancing is not about sudden movements. It looks ultra-dramatic from the outside, but on the inside, all you see are fluid movements as the cars are coaxed into losing grip. It's about making the car glide across the road surface – just not in the same direction as the tyres, or at the same speed as the wheels.
The video below shows some of the stunt driving. For the impatient, the actual driving starts 27 seconds in.