Netflix’s racing reality show Hyperdrive has been best described as a cross between the Fast And The Furious movies and American Ninja Warrior. The competition pits 28 drivers from around the world on a series of grueling courses carved out of the old Eastman-Kodak manufacturing facility in upstate New York.
That the drivers can complete any of the stunts is remarkable, given that there were no rehearsals or practice runs before the cameras started recording. Here’s a rundown of the ten best stunts on the course, all of which reward driver control and create maximum TV drama. And we promise: no spoilers!
10 Walk On Water
“Walk On Water” has cars following a marked path through a water-soaked area… with the depth of the water increasing rapidly just off the path. Later rounds challenge drivers to drift into targets on the path.
The path itself isn’t challenging, but “Walk On Water” fell some drivers whose race-prepped engines sucked water into their intakes, causing them to sputter and stall. It’s a reminder that even the strongest and best-handling car on a given race course can fall to pieces at the first contact with water.
It’s not clear why this is called the “Supernova,” but a big shout-out to the broadcast team for calling the stunt by its true name: the “Rockford turn,” after the smooth-driving private detective and Firebird enthusiast played by James Garner on the hit 70s TV drama The Rockford Files.
The contestant reverses down a narrow alley, and at a wide point in the middle abruptly snaps off the throttle, cuts the wheel 180 degrees and — in the middle of a hopefully-epic slide — shifts into a forward gear and blasts away. This homage to old-school cop shows is a classic, and always a crowd-pleaser. Jim Rockford would be proud.
8 Light Box
This preliminary-round challenge asks drivers to complete a 540-degree turn inside two of four lit-up boxes, to be signaled at random as the driver prepares to enter. Failing to complete the full 540 degrees, hitting a lighted pylon or completing the sequence out of order results in a time penalty.
It serves as a good early look at which drivers will rise to the top of the leader board, and which could stumble as they progress. Also, it’s crazy fun to watch.
7 Rail Slide
Designed as the “hail Mary” pass for drivers battling time and each other, the “Rail Slide” runs parallel to “Walk on Water.” Drivers in the late knockout rounds may opt to hit the “Rail Slide” instead of the less-direct water hazard on their way to the finish line. “Hit” is not just a figure of speech, as the stunt requires the driver to take his/her car up a ramp and onto two 80-foot-long parallel steel bars. The car’s forward momentum then “slides” it down the bars, wheels hanging free in the air until it rejoins the pavement.
The “Rail Slide” is billed as an incredibly daring bit of driving, and it is exciting to watch, but only one car really comes close to stuffing it, and a few others wind up with damage ranging from a crushed front splitter to a dangling radiator.
6 Target Zone
Drivers speed into a circle and must hit beach-ball-filled targets placed at the perimeter with the back or side of their cars. In each round, the number and placement of the targets change, making it more challenging. And the zone’s placement right after “Walk On Water” means each car is coming in with slippery tires and less-effective brakes.
It’s a great demonstration of precision drifting … and as even the most skilled drivers show, it’s extremely difficult to complete in one continuous pass.
5 Forced Perspective
Drivers speed down a 300-foot alley which gets more and more narrow toward the exit. At the end are a pair of moveable barriers that make the opening just six inches wider than each contestant’s car. Clipping one of the barriers results in a time penalty.
This stunt is as much a psychological test as anything. The pressure to keep up speed through this obstacle is immense, but the sight of the walls literally closing in around the car forces the driver to ignore the impulse to lift off the gas.
4 The Gauntlet
This stunt looks like something out of Escape From New York. Three junkyard cars dangle from their bumpers over a stretch of track, swaying from side to side. The drivers need to get through gates hanging from those junkyard cars, and also need to hit targets — which are also swaying back and forth.
Looking at it, it’s hard to imagine anyone making it through "The Gauntlet” unscathed. And in fact, only a few drivers completed it without racking up major penalties.
3 Thread The Needle
Drivers blast through a series of three shipping containers, pulling near-360s in between each one, and hitting a target before exiting.
Speed is important here, but the key to this stunt is car control, not overcooking the angles going into the containers, and knowing where the corners of the car are in order to avoid damage. It’s a wonder anyone’s side-view mirrors survived this stunt.
2 The Leveler
This is Hyperdrive’s signature stunt, and it’s not so much about driving as it is balancing. The cars speed up to the top of a six-story-tall steel seesaw. In the preliminaries, the goal is to get as close to the end of “The Leveler” as possible, to bring it down faster so that the racer can continue. In the knockout rounds, the goal is to use the weight of the car to bring the span perfectly level and hold it there.
This vexed many drivers, mostly because the production team frequently changed the position of “The Leveler’s” counterweight without telling the racers. And while it’s not really a test of driving, the time penalties associated with not completing it wind up being the difference for a number of racers.
1 Manji Alley
The driver enters a narrow lane and must hit four targets with the back of the car … two on one side, two on the other. It requires the driver to throw the car into a controlled back-and-forth fishtail or face costly penalties.
"Manji Alley" shows which cars are well set up for drifting, and which drivers are more experienced at car control. In terms of sheer all-out driving, this is the toughest stunt on the course, and it’s the one that gave drivers the most trouble outside of "The Leveler."