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Protect & swerve: chauffeuring London's elite

Discover what it’s really like to be a security chauffeur for Mayfair’s elite – in the new Maserati Quattroporte MY17

Wear cap, open car door, close car door, drive from A to B, don’t get lost, open car door, close car door. That must be pretty much all there is to being a chauffeur, right? Wrong. 

Not when you’re one of London’s top protection chauffeurs like Andy Dubberly, at least. Dubberly has a list of high-profile clients as long as an M4 traffic jam – Madonna, Sting and Dame Shirley Bassey among them – and has more than 20 years’ experience ferrying his ‘principals’, as he calls them, around the capital.

Before we head out to the car to begin the ‘test’, we discuss what it really means to do his job.

“I’m a certified protection chauffeur, which means that my job is about far more than just driving,” he explains. “If the principal hasn’t organised a separate bodyguard, I’m responsible for getting the client in and out of the car safely. That means that, as well as driving to and from the destination, I have to be on the lookout for potential security threats at the same time.”

It all sounds very Kevin Costner to me. Dubberly laughs. “It’s not as far removed from The Bodyguard movie as you’d think,” he admits. “You’d be surprised how much time I spend on fan forums before I drive a celebrity client – particularly for a high-profile event. You can glean a lot of information about potential threats from those websites.”

Pushing aside my vision of a very sharply dressed man stalking stalkers on fan sites, I accept the keys to the beautiful new Maserati Quattroporte MY17 parked on the curb of the Baglioni Hotel and we head outside to admire its sleek lines and shiny alloys. 

I have fallen foul at the first hurdle as a protection chauffeur by becoming side-tracked. Must keep my head in the game.

The first thing I learn – aside from the fact that you should focus on your client rather than the car – is that it is essential to practise closing the car door before you pick up your principal. Finding the right balance between getting it shut without slamming leaves the door ajar on my first few attempts. Not a good first impression for a new client.

Finally behind the wheel, I try very hard to pay attention to Andy’s pre-drive notes while surreptitiously taking a peek around the Quattroporte’s luxurious interior. Comfortable seats, easily adjustable driving position, high-tech satellite navigation and audio systems, spacious back seats and a powerful yet refined V6 engine make this the perfect tool for an elite chauffeur.

Which I most definitely am not. Thankfully, in the passenger seat Dubberly gives me tips as we glide out into the traffic. It’s far more stressful than I had imagined to keep an eye on your client, potential threats and the route map, as well as undertake all the usual multi-tasking required to drive safely. Concerned with your principal’s comfort, every action has to be gentle (not an easy feat on London’s stop-start streets), but the Maserati’s glass-smooth ride is a big help.

After a trip up to the Royal Albert Hall’s stage door, we arrive back at the Baglioni and Dubberly gives his verdict on my skills. “You’re good at thinking several steps ahead on the road, so your driving style is very smooth, which is perfect for this job, so well done,” he says. I inwardly preen, although I sense a ‘but’ is coming. 

“But,” he says with a smile, “it’s important for the client to have complete confidence in your driving ability, so I’m not sure you could be an elite chauffeur unless you remember to keep your ‘ten and two’ hand position on the wheel at all times.”

Damn. Foiled by something so simple. And there was me thinking I could earn a little extra by ferrying Mayfair executives around the capital. Perhaps they would still give me a Maserati, anyway?