Pulling off a J-turn, a driving stunt where you reverse at speed, turn the car around 180-degrees, and then continue driving forward, is easier than you think.
That is, it’s easier than you think on a closed course in the presence of and with permission from trained professionals with ready access to medical resources should something go wrong.
(Full Disclosure: Mini flew me out to Palm Springs, California to check out the BMW and Mini Performance Centre, where I got a preview of the new John Cooper Works GP, and did some autocross, stunt, and track driving before being flown by helicopter to the LA Auto Show.)
It also helped that I was in a car I didn’t own. This is the part where I have to tell you not to try this at home. Or on a public road. Or in the immediate vicinity of anyone or anything, really. You could probably find a facility willing to let you practice if you tried hard enough and planned hard enough.
Now onto the fun:
In the video above, that is not me in the car. Instead, I’m the idiot recording the video, making a lame joke about the BMW driving instructor who is driving the car taking his last breaths because he kept telling us to take “deep breaths” while J-turning. Turned out to be good advice.
But I did pull it off myself, I swear. And it was surprisingly easy!
The concept is very simple.
You start with the car in reverse, wheels straight.
You go heavy on the throttle and get up to speed—we were advised to get up to the point where it sounded like our Minis didn’t have any more to offer.
We were advised to keep our left hand in the nine-o-clock position on the wheel and flick clockwise. This should make it easier to pull the wheel back down and straighten out in the next steps. Your right hand is controlling the transmission.
Then, very quickly, you put the car in neutral and flick the steering wheel fast, about a quarter rotation for the cars we were in. I found that you can take a beat between going in neutral and flicking the wheel, this part isn’t too crazy.
This throws the car into a spin along the path you were reversing. You should be looking where you want the car to go as it spins, so essentially the exact opposite from where you started reversing from.
Very quickly, you have to straighten the wheel and get the car back into drive to pull off the full effect.
It’s a lot to manage in a hectic environment in a very short amount of time. I can’t stress enough making sure you’re doing it in a very safe location, where there’s nothing to hit and nobody for you to catch by surprise. I would also advise avoiding this manoeuvre in larger, top-heavy vehicles as things could go very wrong.
But it’s adrenaline-inducing fun, is what it is. I had about six goes at it, and the very kind instructor said I was one of the best. Strangely enough, my first-ever attempt was somehow my best. From there, it must have been a lot of overthinking.
If you ever have a chance to try this in a controlled environment, maybe with a car you don’t own like me, you have to give it a shot. You’ll surprise yourself, and you’ll look cool. Just be safe!