A Visit From the Hoon Squad

‘Hyperdrive’ on Netflix: Adrift in Reality

For its debut racing show, Hyperdrive, Netflix promises an American Ninja Warrior-like competition with Fast & Furious overtones. The elimination-style challenge features amateurs drifting cars through contrived situations. Or as Netflix says, “elite street racers from around the world test[ing] their limits in supercharged custom cars on the biggest, baddest automotive obstacle course ever built.”Charlize Theron, star of the forthcoming Fast & Furious 9, is an executive producer.

The Hyperdrive spoils go to whoever completes the decathlon (a.k.a. “10 of the most insane racecourses ever imagined”) in the shortest time–over and over again, for 10 episodes. But there’s no prize money; it’s all for the love of the hoon. These feats of eye-hand coordination take place on a 100-acre proving ground in upstate New York and–for reasons unexplained–happen only at night.

 

Throughout, the camera pans to a histrionic audience comprised of the contestants’ families, who watch as their loved ones rack up those DNFs and two-second penalties for various offenses. Does an engine nearly catch fire? Yes.

Challenges include the Supernova, where cars quickly shift from reverse to drive; a Water Canon fueled bya 1,400-gallon avalanche; and everyone’s favorite: The Leveler, “a six-story monstrosity and the ultimate test of courage.” The show’s best moments occur each time a driver gets trapped halfway up the six-story drawbridge. But, I promise you, Hyperdrive is not a show for sadists.

Rather, it’s all about the competitors and their sundry backstories. These include the “wild child from Texas,” “Brazilian babyfaced assassin,” “badass mom from Germany,” “lumberjack drifter,” and hapless “drift sensei”–also known as “the family man from Japan”–who berates himself for blunders throughout. “I always make mistakes at critical moments,” he explains via subtitle.

By the last episode, there are six standing. Meanwhile, a trio of hosts, comprised of Top Gear’s Rutledge Wood, ESPN’s Mike Hill, and UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping, loops a drumbeat of platitudes. “Follow your passion because you only have one life.” “It’s not just about the driver; it’s also about his machine.” “It only takes one lap to be a champion.”

The “Babyfaced Assassin,” 21-year-old Diego Higa, alternatively described as “fast,” “scary,” and an animal, as well as “Brazil’s last hope,” is portrayed as the dark horse of the show.

“I don’t leave the house for a competition, unless it’s to win,” Higa, the scion of one of Brazil’s original drifters, says via subtitle. His 2006 Ford Mustang, pumping 600 horsepower through a supercharged V8, is not the fastest car on the course. But still, Higa’s face displays a notably odd lack of fear, even at moments that provoke the hosts to make comments such as “My face is melting off! I can’t believe this!”

He wins by a second and change. Sorry.

Jaclyn Trop

Jaclyn Trop is an award-winning journalist and automotive reporter, deciphering the world of sheet metal for the masses. She divides her time among Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York.She was awarded a Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business and economics reporting from Columbia University, where she also earned a master’s degree in journalism.

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