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Amphibious sports car crosses English Channel

Entrepreneur Richard Branson set a new world record on Monday by driving across the English Channel in a James-Bond style amphibious sports car in less than two hours.
ADVENTURE BRANSON 4
British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, in a dinner jacket and bow tie, with Neil Jenkins, right, managing director of Gibbs Aquada, near the French coast at Calais on Monday.Chris Young / AP
/ Source: Reuters

Entrepreneur Richard Branson set a new world record on Monday by driving across the English Channel in a James-Bond style amphibious sports car in under two hours.

The flamboyant Virgin Group chairman, who set records crossing the Atlantic by hot air balloon and speed boat, slashed almost four and a half hours off the world record for crossing the channel in an amphibious vehicle set by two Frenchmen in the 1960s.

He emerged from the car, elated but wet, in a Bond-style dinner jacket after a 22-mile journey between Dover and Calais.

“We had to take something back off the French,” he said, referring to France’s last-minute Euro 2004 soccer victory over England in Portugal late on Sunday. “A few big ferry waves engulfed us a bit, but it was quite refreshing.”

The sleek gray Aquada amphibious car, which seats 3 people, can travel at more than 100 miles per hour on land and 30 miles per hour on sea.

At the flick of a button the British-engineered Aquada’s wheels retract and the car is able to plane across the water.

“It is remarkably easy to drive,” Branson said before the crossing. “It can come down with a smack if you give it a really big wave.”

Branson says he wants to put a fleet of Aquadas into service for business customers on his Virgin Atlantic Airline, which is 20 years old this month.

“We thought why not pick up from the city in an Aquada -- if there is a traffic jam it can whisk straight on to the Thames.”

He said the Aquada could cut up to 45 minutes of journey times from the City of London to Heathrow airport.