He's great on two wheels
COLLINGWOOD -- Paul Thurston is by no means Canada's worst driver.
The 55-year-old former motorcycle stunt driver -- he once held a world record for jumping 15 cars on his bike -- who now runs a motorcycle shop and U-haul rental business on Mountain Road is the first graduate from the sixth season of Canada's Worst Driver, a reality television show on Discovery Channel.
Thurston -- or 'Thursty' -- was the given the thumb's up by the show's panel of expert judges in the season's fourth episode which aired last Monday.
The show is rebroadcast throughout the week, and previous episodes are available at www.discoverychannel.ca.
It's not that Thurston can't drive -- it's just that if he had his druthers, he'd be riding on two wheels all year long rather than switching to four wheels for the winter months.
"I just hate cars," said Thurston, who -- along with his stunt driving background -- teaches people how to ride a motorcycle, and is often consulted on accident reconstructions involving bikes.
"I am getting older, and (his wife) Wendy doesn't want to get on the back of the bike in the winter," he said.
Thurston was nominated by his friend, Tom Bettles, who is Thurston's 'support' person in the series -- and in the passenger seat for many of the challenges.
In his second-last episode, Thurston pulls off a three-point turn in a narrow space for the first challenge -- on his second try -- while Bettles provides an expletive-laced stream of what could reasonably be considered encouragement.
"Drive it like you stole it," he tells Thurston as they enter the space the first time.
After he fails the first attempt, he manages to pull it off in the second.
"It's not our's; just crank the f---out of the steerin'... it's not ours," Bettles tells Thurston.
The second challenge required contestants to balance a stick-shift Mini Cooper a on a teeter-totter -- until the first driver burns the clutch on that car, and a second, a Mazda Miata, before he fails.
Thurston accomplishes the task on his second attempt, once -- as noted by host Andrew Younghusband -- he figures on the proper balance point.
Thurston throws the vehicle into reverse, and balances the teeter-totter perfectly.
He failed the third challenge on threshold braking -- but he still proved he learned enough to graduate based on the recommendation of three of the four judges. Thurston, however, opted to stay on for one more week so he could learn more from expert panel member and race car driver Philippe Létourneau.
"I learned a lot from Philippe," he said.
He also made friends with the other cast members.
"We had a great time, and we still keep in touch," he said. "It was really good, and I learned a lot."
Along with Bettles' 'nomination', Thurston also has a friend who worked at Discovery Channel who connected him with the Canada's Worst Driver production crew.
"They came up here for a day and filmed all kinds of stuff. They phoned me back and said 'we want you for the show'," said Thurston. "They definitely wanted a different aspect for the show, a different point-of-view."
He spent eight days back in June on set to shoot four episodes, which were shot at the Dunnville Airport in the Niagara Region. And while he acknowledges producers do try to bring out the worst in the drivers in order to make for good TV, "this show's not a joke.
"A lot of the stunts, not anybody can do... it's not as easy as it looks on TV," he said. "It may be TV, but the people there are professionals."
Filming involved 13-hour days -- and a lot of waiting around. But, now Thurston knows what a car can do -- and the experience has also made him more aware of other drivers on the road.
"On a motorcycle, you have to be very aware all the time anyway," he said. "But this has made me more aware of other people.
"There are a lot worse drivers out there."