We had no idea what was coming, truth be told. It was getting towards the end of a long, hot, sweaty day checking out the latest and greatest tech that automotive giant Continental had to offer, and we’d all gathered by the side of a dry handling track at the company’s massive proving ground in Uvalde, two hours out of San Antonio in Texas.
Suddenly, it was all on. And it was jaw-dropping.
In the ultimate irony, local regulations discourage the use of drones without a commercial licence, but helicopters? Not a problem, especially when local chopper ace Dusty Holt is at the stick. He grew up mustering cattle on nearby ranches, and he’d been flying us around the 2000ha site all day in his Robinson R44.
Put simply, Dusty is next-level. How do we know? Well, if a driver knocked a traffic cone over in the course of testing, Dusty would fly down and use his landing skid to gently nudge the cone back into a vertical position.
Our resident stunt driver Tommy Van Cleef wended the same magical power, only on four wheels. A high-performance driving instructor, Tommy’s mastery of his BMW M3 – standard aside from ceramic front brake rotors and high-performance pads – was just as otherworldly, as he took passengers for a ride on another one of Continental’s myriad test tracks.
Then Continental put them together.
The Smoke Show is now the traditional way to end a visitor day at Uvalde, and I’m here to tell you that you won’t see this replicated anywhere where hi-viz and permission forms are found. There was no lecture, no barrier, no rules… just high horsepower high jinks of the highest order.
Tommy pushes Dusty hard, too, drifting his M3 at speeds over 120km/h, while Dusty chases him at altitudes that sometimes dropped below two metres.
You can check out the video above – and I guarantee you, you won’t watch it just once!