Fielding Shredder looks like the kind of driver we'd pass and forget. The goateed 34-year-old loafs a Lexus LS430 between four jobs in Austin, Texas. That sedan needs but one finger to steer, so whenever he sinks into those cushy leather seats, it's relief from an 80-hour work week. But for almost every single hour he's on the clock, Shredder is a goddamn speed freak.
Job one places him on a 140-acre ranch where he teaches newbies how to rally Subarus and slide Fiestas on dirt. Then he commutes to Circuit of the Americas to impress more noobs in a fleet of R8 and TT RS sports cars. When he's off from Audi's official driving school, Shredder grabs an arc welder to fabricate parts for 90s-era F1 and Indy race cars. But these three jobs—plus a few sponsors—are just support. Shredder Racing is his business. That young guy in the Lexus is a pro drifter. And now he's on Netflix.
Contestants on reality shows would appear lucky to be chosen. But for Netflix's drift competition, Hyperdrive, Shredder had to get time off from three jobs and assume total liability for his car. As with many shows, Netflix paid for travel expenses and meals. That's about it. There's no cash prize for a winner and certainly no checks to pay for Shredder's bumper, which he damaged during filming, or the turbo that blew up on the shoot's first day.
"Every time I repair it, I design it to be more impact-friendly," he says. "Once you bend the chassis, it's game over."
Speaking of cameras, the crew stuck a couple dozen to his Nissan, plus lights as bright as a dentist's office. All the shoots were filmed at night with more lights animating and strobing across a 100-acre lot in upstate New York, where Shredder and 27 other competitors basically winged it around dark curves, water-soaked pools, swinging drawbridges, and the sort of obstacles found on movie sets. One week of prep and two weeks of shooting later, and viewers can binge the 10 episodes of Hyperdrive in one gulp.
It's exciting to watch, even if the announcers, including former American Top Gear host Rutledge Wood, have to explain why a broken axle is a bad thing. The diversity of racers and cars is immense. There's the usual assortment of Nissan Z-cars—including Shredder's 500-hp 1997 Nissan 240SX— BMW M3s, and Mazda RX-7s. But there's also a Japanese racer in a Toyota Crown modified to look like a cop car and a Brazilian kid who outlaps racers twice his age in a Mustang. There's a real estate developer competing in his twin-turbo Lamborghini Huracán.
The show's budget goes to Hollywood stuntmen like Andrew Comrie-Picard, a winning Canadian racer who has competed in the X Games, Pikes Peak, Rally America, and the Baja 1000. He coordinated stunts for Top Gear USA and movies like Atomic Blonde (Charlize Theron, that film's star, is a big car buff and helped finance this show).
When we meet at Raceway Park in New Jersey, Picard is on his game. I strap into the five-point harness alongside him in a 2005 Pontiac GTO he tells me the show bought for almost nothing. This is the benchmark car he used to create each stunt in the show—and verify that someone, if not someone as talented as him, could repeat them. Which he does for me, again and again.
After, since I'm not dizzy yet, I ask Shredder if he can take me out in his 240SX. The lawyers will only let Picard drive me in Shredder's car, while Shredder pleads that he do nothing to break it before an actual drift competition in the coming weeks. There's nothing to worry about, really. When Picard smokes and goes sideways, he's as smooth as semi-aniline leather. Shredder's Nissan feels like it'll explode when the turbos kick in and proves to be a handful even for Picard.
Hyperdrive seems like a legit competition. The cars and their drivers are (mostly) budding amateurs, almost-pros, and real racers like Shredder. If anything is off, it's that movies and shows about tuned cars are way past the saturation point, even for streaming networks that keep cramming their lineups with shows you'll never see. I can search YouTube to see wild stunts or go down to the wharf 15 minutes from my house in Connecticut for illegal street racing. Everyone already has their fix. But for enthusiasts like Shredder, whose email address starts with "INeedNewTires," it's obvious that whipping a race car sideways is just as fun for the 289th time—if not more—as it is the first.
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