The J-turn is one of the coolest-looking precision driving manoeuvres there is. This writer can tell you it’s also outrageously satisfying when you get it right.
It’s also an essential trick of the trade for any driver who might find themselves in danger. Like drivers in the Russian military police, who must face about 39,000 different types of danger every time they venture out of their base.
But J-turns are not without their own dangers, certainly when doing one in a front-engined car. When the steering is turned to flick the front end round, the engine becomes a gigantic pendulum. Use too much speed, too much lock and tyres with either too much or too little grip, and the car will give in to the laws of physics. It’ll roll over before you even know what’s happening.
And that’s exactly what happens here, while the Russian army cops are filming some sort of promotional video. The Lada Vesta being used is far from the ideal car for the job, having a high centre of gravity and nose-heavy weight distribution. Add two burly army blokes in the front seats as ballast and disaster is inevitable.
The driver builds up to full speed in reverse – a mistake – and as he yanks the steering round, the inside wheels immediately lift off the ground. The Vesta does a full rotation and lands back on its wheels before the driver can say “chert!!” (Google it).
Fortunately, the safety crew comes running and everyone seems to be alright.
Any vehicle can do a J-turn, but only if you find the ‘sweet-spot’ speed that will swing it round but won’t induce a barrel roll.
Here’s a masterclass from the, erm, master Tiff Needell.
By Graham King