Tom Cruise F1 test

"I'm not a doctor, but I play one on television." If that line sounds familiar from old television commercials featuring soap opera stars in white coats, bear in mind that the theme extends far beyond the annals of fake medicine. People get mixed up between actors and the characters they play all the time.

Tom Cruise, for example, has driven all sorts of vehicles on the silver screen, from cars to motorbikes to speed boats, often pulling off scarcely believable stunts and feats in the process. But how much of that comes down to camera trickery and special effects, and how much can be chalked up to actual driving talent?

We got a pretty good answer when Cole Trickle himself set the lap record (however short-lived) on Britain's Top Gear, but Cruise wasn't about to stop there. So while David Coulthard and the Red Bull demonstration team were Stateside for a show in Texas, they met the Hollywood mega-star out in Southern California to let him try his hand at driving an Formula One car.

The seven-hour test at Willow Springs started in a road car, where Coulthard and Cruise drove the 2.5-mile track to get a feeling for the layout before the Mission: Impossible star climbed into the F1 car for 24 laps. At the end of the day, Cruise managed a top speed of 181 miles per hour – just four mph off of DC's trap speed – while scrubbing 11 seconds off his first lap – a marked improvement that left Coulthard impressed at Tom's skills.

Stay tuned for video footage when it's released and check out the official snapshots in the gallery for a closer look.