Record

How BMW Pulled Off Its Record-Beating 8-Hour Drift Without Stopping

That little refueling trick is actually a lot more complicated than it looks...as if it looked east in the first place.

To condense an 8-hour world record-breaking drift into a YouTube video just 3-minutes and 6-seconds long is to do a disservice to the sheer amount of human effort it took to pull off the stunt. Not only is the driver, Johan Schwartz, to thank for keeping such a stout poker face while waging a battle between his skill and the fatigue that comes from sitting behind the wheel of a car for eight hours straight, but there’s also the camera team, the team of technicians standing by, and of course, those courageous beings in the fuel car.

Thanks to some digging done by Auto Guide, we get to hear the untold tales from behind the scenes of BMW’s mission to leave one long and uninterrupted tire mark on a circular track. If BMW could build a gas tank large enough, there’s a solid chance that Schwartz could have drifted through the entire challenge without causing a spectacle even though this was a competition for drift distance, not time. However, someone on BMW’s marketing team was stubborn enough to require that Schwartz remain in the middle of the drift the entire time, meaning a way to refuel mid-drift had to be found. It was BMW test driver Matt Mullins who had the idea of bringing in a previous-gen M5 to conduct the refueling mission.

It turns out pulling that off was as absurd as it might sound. “I didn’t think anything of it, but the idea found its way back to the vice president of marketing, Trudy Hardy, who thought it was a really cool idea,” said BMW digital marketing strategist Neil Moreno. After BMW’s lawyers and marketing team gave the team the go-ahead, BMW sent both M5s to custom fabrication shop Detroit Speed where the drift car was outfitted with a secondary fuel cell and a GT3-style refusing attachment on the rear driver-side window. For the refueling car, Detroit Speed fabricator Matt Butts constructed a platform on which the person refueling the car could stand on safely.

For added safety, both cars had fire suppression systems installed in case stray drops of fuel decided to ignite. Given that Butts used his body as a template for the refueling platform, he was the ideal man for the mission. According to Butts and Schwartz, refueling was the only challenging part of the job, the rest being a piece of cake for Schwartz. Around the time the M5’s fuel tank hit the quarter-full mark, Butts and his driver Mullins set out on the refuel mission. Of the seven attempts to refuel the car, only two had to be cancelled when the cars got too close or in one case, made light contact. Schwartz, on the other hand, went relatively unfazed even though he had the hardest task of all.

The racing veteran claimed that focus wasn’t much of an issue given his experience on the endurance racing circuit. The hardest parts were using the brakes mid-drift to match speeds with the refueling car. Other than that, he had a custom cupholder that held four bottles of water and granola bars so he wouldn't go hungry or thirsty as well as a catheter to render bathroom brakes as unnecessary. Because of their efforts, BMW was able to secure two world records, one for “greatest distance vehicle drift in 8 hours” with a drift of 232.5 miles, and another for “longest twin vehicle drift.” Don’t expect that to be broken without equally extreme measures being taken.

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