Image: Vladimir Putin
Alexei Nikolsky  /  AP
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin prepares to drive a Renault racing car at the race track outside St. Petersburg, Russia on Sunday. Putin tested his capacities as a Formula One driver.
updated 11/7/2010 2:25:20 PM ET 2010-11-07T19:25:20

Vladimir Putin just cannot stay away from manly pursuits.

The Russian prime minister took a Formula One race car out for a spin on Sunday, reaching speeds of almost 150 mph.

Putin signed a deal last month with Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone to bring F1 racing to Russia starting in 2014, and his televised test drive could help raise the profile of the sport in Russia.

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The stunt also matches the action-man image Putin has cultivated over the years, beginning with his startling flight into Chechnya in 2000 in a fighter jet.

Over the years, Putin has been seen flipping opponents on the judo mat, riding a horse bare-chested through the mountains and swimming the butterfly stroke in a Siberian river. This summer he showed his prowess by firing darts from a crossbow at a gray whale while being tossed around in choppy seas. He also took the controls of a firefighting plane to dump water on one of the wildfires that was choking Moscow with acrid smoke.

After receiving instructions Sunday from a Formula One team, Putin climbed into the bright yellow race car wearing a matching jumpsuit and then drove off by himself along an empty road near St. Petersburg. He spun out at one point, but regained control.

When he finished the drive and was told his maximum speed, he smiled and said in English: "For the first time, it's good."

Formula One cars reach speeds of well over 200 mph (300 kph).

Under the Formula One deal, Russia will hold grand prix races near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, which also is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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