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Swift behind the wheel, hot on the tyres

Stunt driver Russ Swift, who is a thrill to watch, can burn through S$1,800 worth of tyres in a four-day run.

Russ Swift has been performing at every Singapore Motorshow since 2002.


IT'S possible to make a living behind the wheel, but that tends to require keeping your car on all four wheels. One man regularly fails to do that, but has made a name and career out of it.

Russ Swift is a precision driver who, for more than 30 years, has been doing amazing things with cars: parallel parking in mere seconds by sliding the car 180 degrees, J-turns (or reverse flicks) in confined spaces and yes, driving on two wheels. His stunt routine is nearly synonymous with the Singapore Motorshow.

"I first came to Singapore Motorshow in 2002, and have performed here every year since," said the Yorkshire native.

Each show is a finely choreographed display of screeching rubber and spinning cars that seemingly defy physics. Tyres are certainly an important factor in his shows, given the abuse they receive.

"Because I want the cars to slide, I don't need a lot of grip. I need reliability and safety. I need to know I'm using a reputable brand, which is why I'm using Yokohamas here," said Swift.

Just as well that all his tyres are sponsored, as he will burn through three sets of them during the Motorshow's four-day run, or about S$1,800 worth. And that's a small number for him - at some outdoor events, he has to fit a new set of rubber after every hour-long performance.

Being paid to drive like a hooligan sounds like a dream job, but it isn't easy. "You'd need to have some skills to start with, and then get into some sort of motorsport," he said.

He started in autotests (carpark-based obstacle courses that test a driver's precision) and competed "every other weekend" for 10 years, before his first show.

"To be honest, I got lucky, too. I was asked to entertain the crowds during the lunch break at a rally event and everyone loved it. That's when I realised I could make a business out of this. It also helped that nobody was doing anything similar at the time."

At his peak, Swift was doing more about 75 events a year worldwide. Asked how much it costs to hire him, the 66-year-old declined to comment.

"I'm at the point in my career where I'm happy with the work I've got, and I'd like to see it out with the people I already work with. I'd like to spend more time with my four grandchildren.

"I've built so many lovely relations over the years, I think there'll be a lot of disappointed people when I retire."

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