Step 1: Find a Bentley. Step 2: Find a professional driver. Step 3: Get Bentley's USA operations on the phone and get them to approve of you roasting tires in a $410,000 Mulsanne. Sounds easy, right?
Here's how I got a Bentley I didn't own from a guy I'd never met onto a racetrack you've never heard of with Formula Drift driver Ryan Tuerck behind the wheel and a couple dozen grand's worth of camera equipment shooting the whole thing.
Getting the Bentley is the easy part. I know Chris Kippenberger from publishing his videos and calling him the most interesting man in car porn. I've written about him, but I've never met him before. Last week he sends me an email saying that Bentley USA has lent him a Mulsanne to drive him around while he shoots a commercial for Mercedes-Benz. They even sent him a VIP driver, who was chauffeuring around Heidi Klum the week before. He asks me if I know any cool places to film the Bentley. Someplace cool. Not one of the usual suspects.
It just so happens that I was heading to East Coast Bash at Englishtown Raceway, maybe the longest-running amateur drifting event in the country. It's two days of the loudest, gnarliest drift cars in the country, with a handful of pro Formula Drift drivers stick around from last weekend's FD:New Jersey, and who knows how many fans drinking, wrenching, driving, crashing, and partying through the night. There is a lot of drifting. There is beard shaving with Everclear. I had a media pass and the email address of one of the organizers.
Hey Chris, why don't you come drift the Bentley?
Getting a driver was even easier than getting the car or the location. I just emailed Ryan Tuerck and asked him if he wanted to drift a Bentley. People don't really say no to that kind of question.
Why Tuerck? Well, he's one of the best sideways drivers in the country and I know him from when I handed him the keys to my own car and let him try and drift it. Hey, if he didn't wreck my $1,500 Baja Bug, surely he won't wreck a $410,000 Bentley.
This is the hard part, and this is where I totally screw up. When I first write Kevin, my contact at East Coast Bash, I tell him that Kippenberger is bringing a Bentley, but I don't tell them we're going to drift it. I assume they'll get cold feet about the car crashing, I assume they won't let us in, I assume they'll hate the idea. I only tell Kevin about the plan when I finally met him face to face on Saturday morning. He immediately gives me a provisional okay to do go ahead with the plan, and then starts helping me coordinate when the car can go out on track.
I've totally underestimated how much a bunch of punk rock drift kids would want to see the car of choice for the world's up-and-coming billionaires melt its tires.
Maybe it's because nobody thinks the Bentley is actually going to show up, or maybe because nobody thinks that the car's traction control is going to let the car spin its tires, but everyone gives the plan the go-ahead. I spend the whole day figuring out the event's schedule, planning when the Bentley could run, and meeting the people who can make it happen.
Mouths drop when Kippenberger shows up, and the two-tone Mulsanne glides past row after row of dented Nissan 240SXs with their bumpers torn off.
There's a crowd around the car when we park in the pits. "Drift it!" everyone shouts.
We get Ryan Tuerck over and he's grinning from ear to ear. Tony, the chauffeur, hands him the key and people start clustering around Ryan. "Let me touch it, just let me touch it," one girl jokes. Then she turns back to the car. "Is it wrong that I want to just fuck it? Like, can I just put my dick in it? Let me put my dick in it." She strokes the tailpipe. Everybody is cracking up.
The problem is Bentley doesn't know about any of this, and Kippenberger doesn't want them to piss them off. If he's responsible for wrecking their gigantic press car and he doesn't have approval from Bentley's top brass, not only is he screwed, but his whole video project is screwed, his connections with Bentley are screwed, and his reputation is screwed.
Tony says he'll call his people at Bentley and see if he can get approval. If he doesn't get it, the plan is off.
Tony is on the phone for a long time. He gets the regional director at Bentley USA to give the okay. Then he gets the national director at Bentley USA to give the go-ahead. Everybody is freaking out, but Kippenberger says that unless he can get the approval in writing, the car isn't drifting. It's no good if the Mulsanne ends up in a wall and Kippenberger has to say, "well, my driver said it was okay" while everyone at Bentley backtracks their verbal approval.
The sun goes down and no email comes through. Plan B: let's just do a massive burnout. Everyone likes that plan. Now we just have to get the Bentley onto a hot track with drift cars running door to door right past it.
Tuerck hops into the driver's seat, Tony gives him a lengthy and secretive set of instructions on how to get the traction control off without pulling a fuse, how to get the suspension right, and how to put the car into sport mode.
We're gonna want sport mode.
We shoot through the pits and just as we're about to get on track, a little kid stops us. "Do you have the money to pay for that thing if you crash it?" he asks. "Hell no!" Tuerck laughs back.
At least a dozen photographers follow us down to the far side of the track in the dark. Kevin comes with, and he looks like he's going to have a heart attack. Cars are running by, anyone could get run over at any time, or worse, somebody could scratch the car.
Nobody is sure if the car is going to do a burnout. It's got 752 lb-ft of torque and 505 horsepower, but we don't know if the traction control is going to cut in anyway, run all the power to one wheel, and skid the car straight into the wall. No such worries necessary. On the first try, Tuerck lights the rears up and melts the tires. It wasn't a sissy, wisps of smoke burnout. It was a full-on, billowing clouds pouring out of the wheel wells burnout.
Kippenberger and his partner Markus are shooting the whole thing on a super stabilized carbon fiber gimbal they built themselves. I hear $14,000 thrown around when people ask how much it costs to make.
Take two, Kippenberger walks up to the photographers watching. He needs a girl with brown hair and Kevin's girlfriend gets volunteered. "Come with me," Kippenberger says. "I'll make you famous."
"Don't believe him," her friend laughs back. "You'll wake up with a dildo in your ass!"
Tuerck rips another burnout and they send the girl to dance through the smoke. This is the moment of Peak Weirdness, when nobody has any idea what's going on, how this video is going to look, or who the hell this weird German with a floral print bucket hat and a $410,000 Bentley is. But everyone goes along with it, Kippenberger gets his shot, the car doesn't crash, and nobody gets run over.
We throw all the gear back into the Mulsanne, stuff as many people as we can into the back seat, and high tail it off the track. The whole track is hot, and any one of the drivers could smash into the Bentley. Again, Kevin looks like he's going to die.
We make it back to the pits, everyone shakes hands, and the shoot is a success. Kippenberger gets his last shot, we all share a drink, and they set off. The Bentley leaves just as mysteriously as it came. It feels like the whole thing never even happened, like it was some cut scene in The Big Lebowski.
So that's how you get a Bentley to do a burnout. It's not as simple as just shoving your foot to the floor, is it?
Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove