Let’s be clear about the stunts in Netflix’s race-competition series Hyperdrive: even checkpoints described as “easier than they look” are solidly in the “don’t-try-this-at-home” category. The string of unique challenges designed by a Hollywood stunt coordinator and laid out over the Eastman Business Park in upstate New York are skill tests for even very experienced drivers. In addition, the decision to shoot the races at night adds an element of unpredictability to the competition.
But after seeing a few episodes, it’s clear which stunts are more difficult, and which ones just look tough. Here’s a look at how some of the challenges shake out, based on comments from the drivers and the perspective of Hyperdrive viewers.
10 EASY: Water Cannon
There are only a couple of water hazards on the Hyperdrive course, and this one is the more challenging of the two. Drivers are stopped at a gate next to an enormous water cannon (apparently borrowed from the Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean movie series). When the light turns green, they then have a choice of trying to outrun the avalanche of water … or wait for the cannon to stop and then try to speed through the water-soaked lane on the way to a 360-degree turn.
In the knockout rounds, the drivers get a head start to complete the 360 before the cannon fires. This proves to be a dangerous change, as one competitor’s car takes a direct hit from the high-pressure water cannons, and comes away with a shattered windshield. Producers wisely discontinued the cannon after that ... but as dangerous as that was (and fortunately, the driver was not seriously hurt), the stunt itself was relatively simple.
9 HARD: Cyclone
One of the fan-favorite stunts on Hyperdrive is the oddly-named "Supernova," in which a drive completes a “Rockford” turn or two inside a marked area. This uses some of the same skill sets, and adds to them. A driver enters a marked-off area and must get their car up to speed, spin it through 360 degrees while moving forward, and then exit through a designated gate within a set time to avoid a penalty.
This is a straight-up thrill show maneuver designed to reward lighter, well-balanced cars and the drivers who know how to combine steering and accelerator inputs to control them. Since each run was shot by multiple cameras, seeing a double- and triple-split screen perspective of each run adds to the excitement.
8 EASY: Rail Slide
In the promos and on the actual show, the "Rail Slide" looks really impressive: the driver goes off a ramp and slides down two parallel steel rails — wheels hanging free off either side — and rejoins the pavement at the bottom. One promo even shows a contestant hitting the rails at a slight angle, causing the car to tilt worryingly all the way down to the ground.
But ... that’s it. No flaming hoops. No curves or bends in the rails. It’s just a bunny slope back down to the course. It’s also shorter than the alternate route back through “Walk On Water” … so for most teams, taking the "Rail Slide" was a no-brainer.
7 HARD: Target Zone
At its core, Hyperdrive is a drifting competition, and this challenge rewarded those drivers who could best control the speed, duration, and angle of their cars’ slides. A driver enters a skidpad-like circle and must hit a series of targets around the perimeter with the side or rear of their car.
The fastest way to do that is to drift around the circle, but in the knockout rounds the targets were moved to irregular points inside the circle. That forced the driver to modulate acceleration and brake pressure to get all targets in (ideally) one sweep. This is incredibly difficult, even for a veteran drifter, and one driver notably had to complete the "Target Zone" by opening their car’s driver-side door into the targets; completely legal, but controversial.
6 EASY: Forced Perspective
As challenges go, this one’s easy: drive fast in a straight line. Oh, also, do that down an alley lined with shipping containers that gets narrower and narrower until the end, where a pair of plastic flaps mark out an opening about two inches wider than the car.
So as a driving challenge, it’s easy. The challenge for the driver is to ignore the inner voice yelling “SLOW DOWN!” as the walls close in and the end of the chute draws near. Fortunately, most race drivers are pretty good at staying laser focused on the finish line, so only a few drivers got (literally) dinged here.
5 HARD: The Gauntlet
This stunt looks like a deleted scene from a Mad Max movie. Three junkyard cars swing back and forth over the course, each with a target mounted on the end. The driver must hit the targets and avoid hitting the actual cars, while also staying inside the road course.
Very few drivers hit this challenge cleanly, and one especially smart driver did it by backing into the third target ... again, completely legal if unorthodox.
4 EASY: Walk On Water
This stunt requires the driver to follow a marked path through a course that’s been flooded with water ... which gets deeper the further the car strays from the path. In knockout rounds, drivers have fewer markings to follow. This doesn’t seem like a difficult challenge, aside from the inherent difficulties of driving on wet conditions ... yet it knocked out several cars.
In all those cases, the affected cars were race-prepped machines with less shielding from the elements, as well as low-mounted cold air intakes that sucked in water … flooding and stalling those cars’ engines.
3 HARD: The Leveler
Hyperdrive’s signature stunt was one of the hardest challenges on the course in the knockout runs, and the time penalties associated with it wound up deciding the fate of a number of drivers. On its face, though, the stunt was pretty simple: park the car on "The Leveler," wait for the span to begin moving, and then adjust the car forward or backward as needed.
However, two unseen factors made it more difficult. First, the spotter’s video feed lagged the real-time action by just enough to make their coaching completely unhelpful. Second, the producers and stunt coordinators moved "The Leveler’s" counterweight between runs without telling the drivers, so literally no two contestants had the same experience. Evil, yes, but good TV.
2 EASY: Pipe City
Similar to Forced Perspective, this challenge forces contestants to drive really fast through a narrow area … in this case, what appears to be a small utility corridor somewhere on the old Eastman-Kodak campus. The producers added "Pipe City" to the course for the knockout rounds following "Supernova."
The stunt coordinators were looking for something like “Thread The Needle,” to make it look like drivers were in danger of losing mirrors or other parts of their cars. But in fact, everyone pretty much gets through this challenge without incident, though it is fun to see drift cars blast through what must be a century-old alley.
1 HARD: Manji Alley
The hardest stunt on the Hyperdrive course combines elements of the "Target Zone" with "The Gauntlet." A driver enters a marked-off lane at speed with targets staggered on each side of the lane, and must hit each target going back and forth … again, with either the side or rear of their car.
On TV, it looks as though the racer’s car is doing an exaggerated fishtail from one side of the lane to the other. In fact, the movements are extremely precise and very controlled. Too much gas and the car will spin; too much brake and the car will lose the momentum needed to kick the tail out for the next target. A number of the contestants — even experienced drifters — struggled with this challenge, and others resorted to unusual tactics to avoid booting the whole thing. If there’s a Season 2 of Hyperdrive, let’s hope "Manji Alley" is even longer.