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November 2008

Feedback from reviewers of my new book ‘DRIVEN TOGETHER’ has ranged from almost praiseworthy (highly unusual from journalists!) to downright jealousy. The book raises serious issues about international travel and poor driving standards – especially in Asia - as well as the glamour of powering halfway across the world in an Aston Martin. But one question seems on all of their lips: Did it make you feel like James Bond? Here’s my answer. As an ordinary mortal – I’m a full-time writer and teacher – it was just an extraordinary thrill. And not just for a day, but for seven weeks! I usually drive a Ford Focus or go by push-bike – so the exhilaration factor was simply astounding, and especially in far-away places where they had only seen an Aston Martin in the James Bond films. It guaranteed us mega-attention wherever we went. On the road, mostly in Europe, you get a strange sensation at the back of your neck whenever some kind of ‘opposition’ car comes into view – like a Porsche (which we called the Germans) or a Ferrari (the Italians). The testosterone takes over; it’s extremely difficult to resist. Anyone with an ounce of competitiveness will know what I mean. It was amazing when we came up behind Michael Schumacher’s Maserati in France. The autoroute was a fantastic road and I got past him in the end. We were doing a speed that would have been way off the dial of any other car I’ve ever driven. To be honest, I think he must have let us pass. There were two ladies in there with him, so maybe that had something to do with it… What made it tricky was that we were driving in support of a Road Safety campaign – but then again, the 7-times F1 champion was too: he’s on the committee of the same organisation!” DRIVEN TOGETHER: Historic first crossing of Asia’s new Highway to the West is available from all good bookstores from November 29.