Kurt Brown's "Things to Do Before I Die" list brought him to an airport runway in Camarillo.
That's where the San Jose man got to check off "Doing a Reverse 180," a maneuver he had seen in movie car chases. Brown backed up a Ford Focus at 35 mph, spun it a tight 180 degrees and sped away in the opposite direction, leaving sparks and smoke in his wake.
"There's that feeling of chaos that is so cool," Brown said. "You don't do that in everyday driving."
For five days at Bobby Ore Motorsports Driving School, Brown got to play the role of a cop chasing bad guys and a Secret Service agent escaping sniper fire.
Since 1999, Ore has held classes on an abandoned stretch of runway at the east end of Camarillo Airport, just under the wheels of private planes preparing to touch down. The Calabasas resident has asked the county Department of Airports to let him build a permanent facility on adjacent land.
Most of Ore's students are stunt actors, security agents, military personnel and other people who need to master car pursuits and evasions for their jobs.
Sgt. Dave Storton, director of the San Jose Police Academy, said he revamped his department's driver-training program after taking Ore's class. Storton volunteers in his spare time to help teach Ore's classes.
Ore's classes also are open to the public. He and his supporters said the lessons don't encourage dangerous driving, but create safer drivers. Students, for example, learn to avoid carjackings and to control their cars if a tire blows out on the freeway.
Safety wasn't on the mind of Brown, 40, who founded two technology companies, or the minds of the Florida real estate agent or Silicon Valley engineers who paid $2,000 to take Ore's "Counter-Terrorist Driving" class.
"It's purely entertainment," said Kleanthes Koniaris, a 37-year-old Menlo Park engineer who donned Armani glasses, driving gloves and black leather dress shoes for his time on the track.
Ore gave the students a scaled-back version of the counter-terrorist class he offers corporate executives, chauffeurs, police officers and dignitaries' bodyguards.
"We'll do more with a car than a lot of folks say you can," promised Ore, who holds 13 automotive world records, including one for driving a London double-decker bus on two wheels for 810 feet. "We're going to spin you out. You're going to get shot at. You're going to have a lot of fun."
The students started their lessons in small Ford Focuses, learning to steer through a slalom, do 180-degree turns in forward and reverse and a "box 90," in which a driver makes a 90-degree turn and slides sideways into a tight rectangular space.
For Patrick Gainer of San Jose, this was the highlight. The engineer, 37, said he had dreamed of doing a "box 90" since he saw Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi slide a '74 Dodge Monaco between two cars parked along a curb in the film "The Blues Brothers."
Ore, a tough-talking teacher who still has the Oklahoma drawl of his youth, traveled the world for 25 years teaching military, FBI, CIA and Secret Service agents to drive in extreme circumstances. A veteran stunt driver whose many roles included chasing John Travolta and Hugh Jackman through an alley in "Swordfish," Ore started a stunt-driving school five years ago in China Lake and expanded it to include law enforcement and other classes the following year.
Students must perform flawlessly on an obstacle course to pass. Only three in four succeed. Proper hand positions and head and eye movement count, and video cameras in the car keep watch. Failure can come down to stopping an eighth of an inch over the line.
"If you pass it, you earn it," Ore said.
With the help of a "lookout" in the passenger seat of a Ford Crown Victoria and a "bodyguard" in the back, the students took turns driving while trying to protect a "dignitary," a fourth student sitting in the back seat.
Sgt. Walt Jordan of the Beverly Hills Police Department Special Tactics Unit was the sniper hanging out the window of a second car with a paint rifle ready. Windows of the dignitary's car were rolled up and everyone, including bystanders, had to wear glasses to avoid injuries from the paint balls, which have dented Ore's cars.
"By the time you see the weapon come up, chances are you'll be history," Ore warned.
None of the make-believe dignitaries, and very few others, survived as Jordan peppered the cars with orange paint.