MOVIE megastar Tom Cruise has tried his hand at formula one, driving a Red Bull racing car in California. The Mission Impossible star hit speeds of over 290km at the Willow Springs race circuit under the watchful eye of former grand prix winner David Coulthard.
Cruise drove 24 laps during a seven-hour session at the desert track. Between stints behind the wheel Coulthard and the team's engineers worked with Cruise to improve his lap times with the help of the on-board telemetry.
The team reported that Cruise cut his times by 11 seconds over the course of the day and got within 6km/h of Coulthard's top speed.
"Tom's the real deal," Coulthard said. "I was surprised that he picked it up so quickly and is such an accomplished driver. His recall was incredible considering how complicated driving an F1 car is. He's a guy who really pushes the envelope in real life. This day was not green screened. He thoroughly impressed me."
The publicity stunt was organised as part of formula one's push back into North America. The global racing series will compete at the new Circuit of the Americas in Texas next year, the first grand prix in the USA since 2007.
Aside from his staring role in Days of Thunder, Cruise is an avid motor racing fan. He has competed in low level sportscar races in the past and is a regular visitor to F1, MotoGP and NASCAR races in America.
He also held the top spot on Top Gear's celebrity laptime board with a spectacular drive last year.
Red Bull's regular drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel didn't attend the test but will be back in action at this weekend's Belgium Grand Prix.