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Paul is driven to succeed; IN 1987 the world gasped as an innovative TV commercial showing an Austin Montego performing a unique parallel parking manoeuvre appeared on our screens. The driver was Russ Swift from Darlington, and some 23 years later his son Paul is picking up the mantle as perhaps the world's greatest precision driver. ZOY BURN caught up with him.

YOU will have seen Paul Swift in action, even if you haven't realised it. This summer he starred in one of the most viewed commercials of the year as he led his team of precision drivers in a game of Hyundai car football. This was featured at the beginning of every episode and ad break in the TV broadcast of the Fifa World Cup.

Filmed at an airfield near London just weeks before the famous tournament began, Paul and his team navigated the cars through a game of football where even the referee was a car.

Or you may remember an ad for HD-TV earlier this year starring Ant and Dec, where a TVR sports car driven by Dec parallel parks in a London street. Again, it was the work of Paul.

He's certainly no stranger to TV screens. In the past five years he's appeared on Top Gear and Fifth Gear, broken a Guinness World Record, appeared in a numerous adverts and provided his driving skills to a host of TV shows.

"I'm not a stunt driver, I don't go and drive cars off cliffs or anything crazy like that," chuckles the 31-year-old. "My work is precision driving. It's carhandling skills and control, positioning a car with a couple of centimetres to spare, that sort of thing."

Paul's career follows that of his successful father, Russ, who appeared in the Austin Montego ad in 1987, which was featured at the Cannes Film Festival and deemed the most imaginative car advert at the time in America.

Russ, who runs a successful precision-driving team, made a name for himself with his famous parallel-parking trick and it was clear from early on that his son was going to follow in his tyre tracks.

"I remember being really young and Dad was always driving different cars. I think I must have seen him in every make in the world by the time I was about four, and I wanted to be a part of it," he recalls.

"I was seven when I started. It was 1986 and we used to have this lawnmower at home, the sort you sit on. One of the tricks Dad performed was getting a car on to two wheels by driving off a ramp, and that's where I began.

"He put me on this lawnmower, told me what to do and set me a target. He told to practise to my heart's content on the grass at home and once I was able to drive 100 yards on two wheels on the grass, he would take me to Croft Circuit where I could try on the Tarmac.

"Obviously, Tarmac was going to be a lot easier without the bumpiness of the grass so I was desperate to do it. I remember I would come home from school in my lunch hour and grab half an hour's practice before going back to school.

"I don't recall the day I finally got it up there, but I remember how hard it was trying to keep it up on two wheels. I worked at it every day until I was probably better than Dad at it."

In a matter of months, Paul was performing the stunt for well over 200 yards and the following year made his first public performance in a miniature Montego at the British Grand Prix.

For the next eight years he concentrated on honing his skills, his eyes fixed firmly on competing in autotesting when he reached 16. Autotesting is a form of motorsport which involves a performing a series of manoeuvres to measure precision-driving skill against the clock.

And it was to be something that Paul excelled at. After dominating on the regional scene he moved up to the British championship at the age of 19. It was here where he really made his mark, taking seven national titles, winning more than 40 events outright and representing England on numerous occasions.

But three years ago he decided to quit competing and concentrate on using his skills as a day job. "I think they were probably sick of the sight of me so everyone probably cheered when I retired," he smiles.

"I was working with the precision driving all week and it was just too much competing at weekends as well. It was fine when I was younger, but as I got older and met my wife and settled down, I just felt it was time to concentrate on doing it as a job."

Paul and his team of precision drivers have become familiar faces at motoring events across the world, appearing at shows, starring in TV commercials and getting involved with the Top Gear team.

And it was with Top Gear that the now famous car football evolved.

"It was in 2006 and we appeared in the show playing football with Toyota Aygos.

"It was a huge success. Since then we've performed it at Top Gear Live all over the world, and that's how the World Cup ad came about.

"I still love doing it now, nearly five years on.

It's brilliant fun when we do it at Top Gear Live.

Richard (Hammond), James (May) and I are always on the same team and we get so competitive. Jeremy Clarkson doesn't play. He always likes to be referee.

"I've become a dab hand at it after nearly five years. I play five-a-side on Tuesday nights but I think I'm probably better at the car version, if I'm honest."

And in 2009, Paul and the team trained TV presenter Konnie Huq to assist in setting a Guinness World Record for the most cars simultaneously performing doughnuts, or creating circular skid marks. Together they smashed the existing record of 12 to reach 29.

However, Paul's favourite element to what he does is still the two-wheel trick he learnt when he was seven. "It's the hardest thing to do in a car and people always seem to love it. When you have someone in the car with you, they are always just blown away by it.

"It was also the trick that took the most work to perfect. I had to practise and practise and practise some more. Even now I have keep at it but I love it. I could do it all day long."

Paul, who became a dad for the first time just nine weeks ago when wife Sarah gave birth to Evelyn, has carved himself out a successful and interesting career as a driver.

As well as the tours and TV work, his Darlington- based Precision Driving Experience offers precision training, winter driving tuition, young driver training, skills and driving experience days.

He is also tapping into the corporate market, and his events for businesses and team-building are rising in popularity thanks to their unique nature. "I make a living out of it and it's something I love so I couldn't be happier," he says. "The corporate work is great fun and the team are as active as ever. We have a busy 2011 planned with our displays and we're all incredibly excited about what the future holds.

" For details of Paul's Precision Driving Experience visit www.precisiondrivingexperience.com To see a video of Paul Swift and more pictures go to www.journallive.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

CROWD-PLEASER Paul Swift's favourite trick is to drive a car on two wheels FAMILY BUSINESS Left, Paul Swift's dad Russ and above, Paul and Russ driving together SKILLS SET Paul in an advert for Audi, left, and driving a burning car in one of the stunts for which he is widely known TALKING POINT Paul Swift's World Cup ads FIRST STEPS As a child Paul was given the task of getting a lawnmower on to two wheels FUN TIME Paul with Jeremy Clarkson
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 14, 2010
Words:1295
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