Championing the fearless pursuit of driving, stunt drivers embody the pinnacle of passion and performance. Pennzoil’s Long May We Drive campaign celebrates those who embody that daring spirit, pushing the limits beyond the boundaries of the road.

In an engaging three-part video series created by Larry Chen, he unites some of the most celebrated stunt drivers in the industry. This series highlights their love for driving and gives a glimpse into the personal stories that define these three stunt drivers as champions of the road.

To kick off the series, renowned stunt driver Rhys Millen dives into his beginnings in motorsports, his contributions to the “Fast and Furious” franchise, and much more.

TITLE: Behind The Life of a Hollywood Stunt Driver (And Racecar Driver)

[In vision] [Screen] Larry Chen in a garage

LARRY CHEN: Hey everyone, Larry Chen here! Today, we're going to do something different. My friends at Pennzoil actually asked us to help them with their Long May We Drive campaign. We’re actually going to feature a couple of stunt drivers that are personal friends of mine to get a little more insight on what they do. These individuals get behind the wheel and drive for a living. They're passionate about it, and they love it, and I wanted to hear a little bit of the Insight of what it's like actually to be a stunt driver, what it's like to be in the spotlight, and what it's like to perform under pressure.

[Background Music]

[In vision] [Screen] Slideshow of Pennzoil drivers and images of drivers

LARRY CHEN: What does Long May We Drive actually mean? Pennzoil is such a big supporter of ours. They support so many incredible projects – we get to shoot NASCAR, we get to shoot Pike’s Peak, we get to shoot Formula Drift, we get to shoot car culture in general because they want to support the true enthusiasts. They want to help us celebrate the joy, the privilege, the absolute freedom that we get from driving pushing and enjoying our vehicles on the racetrack, on the street, in the canyons, going sideways, doing burnouts. Whatever you love, they want to support it.

[Background Music]

[In vision] [Screen] Slideshow of Pennzoil drivers and images of drivers

LARRY CHEN: For this first episode we follow our really good friend Rhys Millen as he attempts to break the overall production car record in his Pennzoil BMW M8. I've been shooting with Rhys for so many years, and it was incredible to sit down and chat with him and hear his incredible stories.

[Background Music]

[In vision] [Screen] Slideshow of videos from Rhys Millen at Pike’s Peak 2023 race

[In vision] [Screen] Rhys Millen and Larry Chen seated across from each other

LARRY CHEN: This is exciting! This is something new, something that I've never done before on this channel. Just a couple hours ago we were both up on the top section of Pike's Peak you were driving your BMW M8.


LARRY CHEN: And I was on the side of the track taking pictures of you.

RHYS MILLEN: I saw you in multiple locations.

LARRY CHEN: Well you saw me completely out of breath at multiple locations.

[In vision] [Screen] Video footage of Larry Chen out of breath saying “this is suffering”

RHYS MILLEN: Yes, I'm cheating with oxygen. So, yeah definitely helps!

LARRY CHEN: We’re actually by your vehicle that you parked here in this amazing Pike’s Peak Heritage Museum. And we actually are here to talk a little bit about Pike’s Peak but also you have a really good story to relate it to your stunt driving career as well.


LARRY CHEN: And then of course it's hard not to touch on Formula Drift. I mean that's where I had a chance to meet you for the first time and also work with you for many years. Where should we start? I don't even know where to start!

RHYS MILLEN: You know the shirt kind of says it all - racing and stunts. Starting in motorsport at 19 my second race ever was Pike’s Peak in the Pike’s Peak open division, which I won. All gravel course on a gravel tire then and then that really built a foundation you know you have to go back before social media, before anything. You had to win to produce a result to get sponsorship. That was eight long years of working at that and focusing specifically on this event. It had national broadcast, it had international broadcast, it had print publication, it had everything. So, I didn't have the money to do a full championship in another series, so I put all my investment, all my passion into this event. So, it was really a foundation of a skill set that was sliding a car around but you were sliding for speed. Along came drifting, say 10 plus years later and that was a form of style of driving that was rallying or drifting up Pikes Peak in the dirt that I naturally progressed into.

LARRY CHEN: So, the point of this series is to focus on people that actually drive for a living. We're talking about pushing these vehicles to the absolute physical limit, and that's what you do for work. But that's what you do day in and day out. Not to mention us being here, this morning you pushing 1010 up on that mountain. I mean, I just cannot believe how much you guys are able to push not really knowing how much traction there is but having a pretty good idea.

RHYS MILLEN: The greatest thing about the mountain for me is just that coming out of the whole getting that first green flag, throughout the practices that we usually have leading into this race week you'll have five days up on the mountain that you can build up to speed. With the weather that we've had this year, the upper section was not available, so it's been 12 months and a new car and that first time out we were only 4 seconds slower than my fastest time after four runs. So, I went 3 and a half seconds quicker and then could only find 1 second and then 2/10 of a second and I was plateaued after four runs. So, it's an exciting element as a driver to come out of the gate hot and do a heater and get as much as you can out of it and really commit to the road that you're familiar with but applying the car to the road that you haven't connected yet. So, it's one of the things that I get as a personal satisfaction out of the event.

LARRY CHEN: I think my favorite memory from photographing you at Pike’s Peak is you winning overall in 2012 in a drift car, in your actual formula drift car. Nothing changed except I'm assuming brakes and maybe you took the steering angle out. I don't know what else!

RHYS MILLEN: Actually you know going into a little bit of detail about that we won I believe Las Vegas drift in the Genesis, put it in a trailer, headed out here and the day before tech we were changing spring rates, same shocks, knuckles, to adapt to a bigger brake. Pulling out the handbrake, putting a big wing on it, a front splitter, different wheel and tire and rolling it through tech for race day. That car did Time Attack, it did drift, and it did Pike’s Peak.

LARRY CHEN: And then after that, you turned it back into a drift car and then competed the rest of the formula drift season.

RHYS MILLEN: Yep, which we finished third that Championship with a crash that maybe shouldn't have happened at Irwindale but it was between Daigo Saito and me for the championship. I just went in a little too deep onto that inboard wall which has caught a lot of people out.

LARRY CHEN: Yeah, I remember that event specifically as honestly probably the most exciting Irwindale that's ever happened because it was a six weight championship. Six of you guys, any one of you guys could have had it.

RHYS MILLEN: I think Chris was in the hunt I think Vaughn was in the hunt, Dai. Yeah, there was quite a few bunch of people.

LARRY CHEN: What I want to know is how does Pike’s Peak relate to your, I would say your 9 to 5 job which is actually stunt driving?

RHYS MILLEN: You know it's very it's very similar in many ways. The pressure is far less, for me, stunt work is if we don't get it we roll camera again, we reset to one and we go again. Racing doesn't give you that opportunity. You have to find every tenth in every corner if it's braking turnin roll speed and corner exit and then I applied that a lot to the stunt world. For me getting the shot in one and moving on is really important. As would it be for you if you frame the shot up and you go click click or just click and you've got that magic shot. So, from a creative standpoint, I want to invest into the commercial or the feature film or the TV show by trying to nail it in one and keep the momentum going. That, I've been able to get from racing. To put it into perspective as maybe an iconic moment for me – Fast and the Furious 7, we filmed up on Pike’s Peak.

LARRY CHEN: Yeah, so it’s like I know this place no problem, let me have it. So, tell me a little bit about that.

RHYS MILLEN: At that point there was two or three renditions of Fast and the Furious. Tokyo Drift was one that I got brought in earlier on. Fast and Furious 3 had a lot of the drift guys then that were popular and brought them in - Samuel Hubinette, Tanner Faust, Ernie Fixmer. Gosh I could go on and on, but there was a lot of guys that I brought in for that event. Then going back to Fast and Furious 7 where we shot on the mountain it was an opportunity for me to double Paul Walker who I had done in the previous in five I think it was, and a little bit in six. And then come up here and drive some really cool cars and do a scene that was a combination of all my motorsport at that point. It was an off-road scene down the face of a mountain that started on the tarmac, turned off, and then we had this crazy cable system. So, applying dirt driving, pavement racing, off-road racing all in a feature film was kind of a gift come true.

LARRY CHEN: Yeah I remember that scene specifically where you guys are just driving through double cut area and I was like I know where that is and then it switches to another part of the mountain, and I was like that's not right. It's interesting if you guys want to check out Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift again, in the airplane scene you actually make a cameo. Is that the only time your face is actually in the movies or in the Fast and Furious series?

RHYS MILLEN: Yeah, we did two and a half months of nights and we got off at like I think 7 in the morning and they gave me a phone call and they're like hey do you want to come over and do this plane scene? So, I rolled into there straight till like midday and we did that scene so that was quite an honor to be asked to be to do that. It was quite fun.

LARRY CHEN: Talk about a rite of passage for a car guy, stunt guy. I mean Fast and Furious, corny as it is, you can't deny the fact that it's made such an impact on all of us.

RHYS MILLEN: Yeah, it’s an incredible franchise. My company had an opportunity to build a lot of those cars as well you know the RX8, the RX7s, The Silvias, everything for Fast and Furious 3 then we did Fast and Furious 8. When they went to Iceland, we put together a bunch of Subaru WRXs, wide body kits and roll cages and all sorts of things. So, throughout the franchise I've had opportunities to drive and to build cars and everything, so it's been fun to connect with it, but I really think that Fast and the Furious 7, where I doubled Paul in the Subaru at the start for about a week up here and then mostly my main position was doubling Jason Statham in this kind of funky off-road vehicle that they had. So, a vivid scene that I recall from Fast and Furious 7 was this mountainside that we had and we had this like weight sled. So, I'm in this off-road buggy sort of military style vehicle and I've got a pulley system tied to the back of the vehicle. This is about a 60° slope going through trees and rocks and bumps, up to a pulley, to a secondary pulley, to a rail system with a weight sled on it. So, they would reset me to one by pulling the weight down to the bottom and the car to the top of the hill. Now, there’s two of us side by side. Steve Kelso was the other driver and he was in like a kind of like a Dodge Charger, the black one with the red stripes and the tires and the trunk. And then on action, we're asked at about 50-60 miles an hour just to fire it down the mountain, and there's no way you're going to stop. But, the way that this weight system worked, as we accelerated down the mountain, the weight system coming up to a pulley, to a stop system and you would just go and stop at the bottom. Great, got it, reset. Pretty amazing to be a part of that.

LARRY CHEN: So, how much control do you actually have with the vehicle or are you just along for the ride?

RHYS MILLEN: They were just on a tether so legit suspension, V8 engines, everything there it was just the stop at the end that would hold you in from say 50 miles an hour to zero in about 20 ft.

LARRY CHEN: Right, okay. So, because otherwise there's just no way for you to physically stop because of the angle.

RHYS MILLEN: You would have just gained more speed. Kind of like a Le Mans car when it his wet grass, it doesn't stop it keeps going faster. So, that was a really cool moment and then we had all of these other parts of the scene that was sliding on cliffs and crashing into each other and everything. Out of that, if you look at say an actor winning the highest goal or award would be like an Oscar, for the stunt community it's called the Taurus Stunt Award, so that year I actually won the Taurus Stunt Award for best performance with a vehicle. So, to be connected to the movie industry, The Fast and the Furious franchise, to connect that event to my roots at Pike’s Peak, from where I started racing was pretty cool.

LARRY CHEN: That’s awesome.

LARRY CHEN: I hope you guys are enjoying this episode. We choose Pennzoil because of what they stand for. This year, their campaign is Long May We Drive. What does that mean? Well, they just want to make sure the culture that we love and the things that we love to do which is driving cars enjoying cars they just want to make sure it lasts as long as possible. That means the ultimate protection for the engine, however high-performing it is. And also, that means better gas mileage. Thanks to Pennzoil for supporting this project as well as supporting everything that we do!

LARRY CHEN: It's hard to not relate me to the story because of the fact that I've been around for so many of these iconic moments with you in the car, you pushing hard, and luckily for me I'm able to be on the outside capturing it. But, not that long ago the roles, I wouldn’t say they were reversed, but they were different. You were doing your stunt driving in a Toyota commercial in the GR Corolla, and for whatever reason, Toyota wanted me in the commercial, playing myself and you would basically rudely interrupt me as I was setting up a shot. But it was just so interesting because it's just a different way to be a part of this industry that I was just not used. Only up until pretty recently I started being in front of the camera. I was in behind the camera for whatever 15 years before I stepped in front of the camera and to be a part of a production that big just absolutely blew my mind. I couldn't even read the names on the call sheet because of how many names there were on the call sheet. it's insane, I've just never seen so many people on set. Of course, you're used to that. But, what I was really surprised with was that you had to push that vehicle so hard because it's a stock vehicle not modified for sliding or drifting, and the odds were against you. So, tell me a little bit about that.

RHYS MILLEN: So, that's as you say my 9 to 5, some 150 to 200 days a year shooting TV commercials for different manufacturers, different products. Sometimes they're soft drinks, sometime you're sliding through a pickup fast food joint for Taco Bell or whatever it is. But in this particular case it was a great campaign for Toyota. We actually did the 886 the Supra and this one as you're referencing the GR Corolla. One of the things that people may not really appreciate as you said is how hard you have to work with a stock vehicle and the restrictions that a stock vehicle presents in the world of drifting as much angle as you can design into the chassis as much horsepower the best hydraulic brake the best steering, everything you want. You can almost be a little sloppy and get away with it in a production car if your brake pressure to throttle pressure is within 2% it'll shut you down. So, doing specific maneuvers, weight transfer in this case, this car is four-wheel drive but has a bit of a drift mode but it's still going to bind the front in track mode I believe it was. A hydraulic handbrake that's stretching the cable like drift cars were 20 plus years ago. So, you have to be on your point you have to be able to make the car act but you really have to understand what the director's vision is. So, for me I'll go do a slide and then I'll run over to the monitor and get his input because if you're disconnected you could do the same slide a 100 times you might in some cases and in this case I had to overthrow the slide to get the hero moment where the car physically won't travel straight but you have to make it straight and then it kind of spins out of frame.

LARRY CHEN: I love that, because I remember reading the brief and actually looking at the storyboard and the storyboard is that you're basically drifting and getting the nose under my lens. But then the next page is like legal you know it has to be 50 feet.

RHYS MILLEN: I forgot about that, and legal came out with their tap measure exactly and said do it again move further away.

LARRY CHEN: Right, but the crazy thing about that is it was still pretty close in that when I saw you push the car and like you said over rotate it for the shot. At the end, the landing wasn't pretty. You almost hit the building I feel like a couple times.

RHYS MILLEN: Then we had the arm car there that was in my way going around so and that's the part that people don't get. They're like oh I can do that and it's like well you need understand the restraints there's no run out. You've got an arm car and your camera on the end of the crane tracking you and you've got to make all of these defined adjustments to get the shot but still stay in control.

LARRY CHEN: And then, not to mention if I mess up my part we got to do it again. And I feel like you know I waited I don't even know how many hours on set for that moment and then when we started doing it. We did it basically until there was no more light. We shot it over and over and over and you know what, the end product was so cool I was so excited to be a part of it. It's just so cool to see a little bit of a glimpse into your life and what you do for work. How did it get to that point?

RHYS MILLEN: Well, you could go way way back. 1994 was my first introduction into the film industry. 1992 I started racing. In 1994, I was still very active on mountain bikes, I had raced mountain bikes in New Zealand, I had raced mountain bikes in the US. So, I actually got into the film industry doing mountain bike stunts. There was a casting for a Ford commercial that they were going to cast on camera talent for a guy to represent the brand in a lifestyle commercial. He's mountain biking, he's throwing his mountain bike in his truck, he's acting on camera with a couple of glances to camera and a smile, bombing through sand dunes and over terrain and that's the commercial. Jeff Zwart was the director and my father and Jeff had been friends for years. I'd known Jeff since I was 6 years old. So, Jeff kind of leveraged the agency rather than paying three talent – why don't we get one guy that can do all three roles? That was my step into stunt driving at that point and from there I got to drive for Jef for years and then got exposed to other campaigns and other manufacturers and other directors.

LARRY CHEN: And then now, you've been racing against him for many years. But also you're still working with him as a stunt driver in a lot of his campaigns.

RHYS MILLEN: So, through Jeff I got introduced to a lot of different brands and a lot of different styles of driving. Expanded on my off-road base and then I think outside of the feature films, the TV commercials are where my focus is. It keeps me home, it keeps me close to my family. One of the most kind of iconic, I'll call them a TV commercial, but it was really these short films that we did with Pennzoil called Joyride. We went around the world for four years, and we did lots of firsts and lots of directors since then have referenced these points. So, Joyride was kind of like a campaign where you were an elite membership and you had access to these really cool cars. We went to Cape Town when the Dodge Hellcat was first released. We went to Kananaskis Mountains in Calgary in the snow with a BMW M4. We went to Nürburgring in a BMW. We went down the city streets of Miami in a Dodge Viper for the last Viper off the showroom or off the assembly line. You could look these up, these are Last Viper, Tundra, Baja with a Jeep in Mexico and then Joyride. Those films kind of reestablished the performance culture of driving and drifting into kind of now everything that you see on a TV commercial.

LARRY CHEN: Those films, along with the BMW films, I don't know if you remember those all those years ago.

RHYS MILLEN: Well, randomly, Matt Mullins whose my teammate here this year was part of the BMW films.

LARRY CHEN: Those films really inspired me all those years ago as a young kid looking up and seeing you know what's possible. It really blew me away to see those and then now, we actually reference those videos in our office when we're talking about what's possible when it comes to a car just getting pushed to the limit. The sound design also on those was incredible. If you guys haven't seen them, definitely go check those films out.

RHYS MILLEN: And your passion is being behind the camera as you mentioned, through the lens creating that shot. But, then you also have a passion for driving and then and for me it's very similar, very parallel. I want to make the car act, that's what I'm hired to do. But, I also jump in with the director and set up the shots because I understand the vehicle dynamics. I will place the camera or get creative with the camera in the Last Viper in Miami, we stuck it right down on the curb and the curb had an entryway on a crosswalk and I popped the front tire off and over the camera sliding through the wheels and everything. So, it's my outlet from my creative design. I do all the liveries on all my race cars, the BMW this year, and all the other cars. So, what I can do from the driver's seat, I try to contribute from if I could control the lens and the steering wheel at the same time.

LARRY CHEN: One of the things I always say, I'm very candid about this and I say this all the time. I got into this because of driving and because of a love for cars. While I love photography and video, being on the outside, I honestly would much rather be driving in the car. With that said, after all these years, I've been able to combine the two. This past year at Formula Drift, Formula Drift has allowed me to do both at the same time, and I haven't had a chance to chase you while you're drifting.

RHYS MILLEN: You should chase me up Pike's Peak!

LARRY CHEN: Yeah, that would be cool. Maybe you should be sliding your drift car.

RHYS MILLEN: You can chase Mad Mike, he’s sliding everywhere.

LARRY CHEN: We've been to get some cool shots of him sliding that around. Thanks for sitting down with me, I know it's a crazy week for you, it's definitely a crazy week for us. But, I mean look at this. Can we just talk about this car real quick? So, this means a lot to me seeing this here because in 2011, that was actually my first year coming to Pike’s Peak and it was the last year of the dirt. And, in 2017 I became the official photographer and it's such an honor to me and I take it so seriously because of the fact that many years down the line my photos are going to be what's telling the story of these cars, of these racers of you and everyone else you're competing against. I remember specifically seeing this on race day below ski area at that hair pin, and just seeing you create this crazy cloud of dust. I mean because this thing has so much, and you're just shooting dust, basically blocking the trees. It was just incredible to see.

RHYS MILLEN: This guy was kind of special, it was an inspiration from my father's Toyota Tacoma that ran and was built maybe 10 years before this car. We went with this kind of Le Mans style vehicle because the road was changing. In 2001 or 2002 they started paving one mile of the mountain each year and was finished in at the end of 2011 for 2012, which miraculously I don't know how I won overall that year and set a new course record in 2012. Prior to that, it was all of this progression throughout the years. In 2011, I approached Hyundai to build a car that would progress with the road. Unfortunately, Hyundai didn't have a motorsport department they just had an activation within different experimental sports is what they call it. So, they were into motorsport, in and out, and that was my career with them for six years. But, we had an opportunity to present this program as the evolution of the road would change, we were building not a dirt car but a pavement car. This car is 1,820 lbs, it was powered by the same engine that we used in the drift car so it was a 3.8 L Lambda Hyundai V6 that we stroked to 4.1 L was turbocharged and made about 850 horsepower and was four-wheel drive. So, it was a very unique setup for a Le Mans style car being four-wheel drive, center seat with a drive shaft running through my leg to the front differential was a little scary. The car made around 2,000 lb of downfall so if you have an opportunity to look at the car here in the museum it's got big tunnels, big wings and it worked really well. We just were waiting for that following year for the road to be all pavement and the program got axed.

LARRY CHEN: You know, in terms of ahead of its time, it really was. It was one year ahead of its time essentially. Just super cool to see that it's here, living in the museum, along with so many other historic race cars. Thanks again, it's been a crazy journey so far. I know I'm going to be photographing you for a long time behind the wheel.

RHYS MILLEN: I hope so! Thank you, Larry.

[Background Music]

[In vision] [Screen] LONG MAY WE DRIVE

Pennzoil had a chance to catch up with Millen behind the scenes to learn more about his perspective on the evolution of stunt driving and his relationship with Pennzoil.

PENNZOIL: Do you have any personal stories or experiences where Pennzoil played a crucial role in a stunt?

MILLEN: While filming the Joyride short film series in Mexico for “Pennzoil Baja,” my company built two identical Jeeps as stunt vehicles. Temperatures were above 115 degrees, and while driving in the dirt, silt, and deep sand, the engine performed flawlessly, never overheating and never losing power. We checked the motor oil on a regular basis during the day, and the texture and color stayed consistent while other support vehicles being driven at a quarter of the performance level all suffered temperature issues.

PENNZOIL: How has the stunt driving industry changed since you started?

MILLEN: Having been active in the film industry since 1994 and the sport of drifting since 2003, I witnessed firsthand the influence that drifting had on stunt driving, specifically high-performance car action scenes that expanded based on driving. In 2005, I drove for "The Dukes of Hazzard," known for its car control action. The next year, I served as the lead driver and driver coordinator for "Fast and Furious 3: Tokyo Drift." Both of these films helped pave the way for the growth of high-octane car stunts and iconic movie franchises.

PENNZOIL: What was it like working on this series with Larry Chen?

MILLEN: Larry is a professional. He has an amazing eye for still photography, and his understanding of vehicle dynamics only adds to the motion pieces he produces. Due to this, it’s always easy for me to work with him; he’s in the right place at the right time and can always anticipate your next move.

The second video showcases Zandara Kennedy, a stunt driver and drift racer known for her love of speed and expertise in action-packed physical and driving stunts. In the video, Larry Chen and Zandara discuss her motivation to pursue a career in stunt driving, her rookie season in Formula Drift, and the stunts that she takes pride in.

TITLE: Girl on Fire: Behind the Life of a Hollywood Stuntwoman with Zandara Kennedy

[In vision] [Screen] Larry Chen in a garage

LARRY CHEN: Hey everyone, Larry Chen here! Today, we're going to do something different. My friends at Pennzoil actually asked us to help them with their Long May We Drive campaign. We’re actually going to feature a couple of stunt drivers that are personal friends of mine to get a little more insight on what they do. These individuals get behind the wheel and drive for a living. They're passionate about it, and they love it, and I wanted to hear a little bit of the insight of what it's like actually to be a stunt driver, what it's like to be in the spotlight, and what it's like to perform under pressure.

[Background Music]

[In vision] [Screen] Slideshow of Pennzoil drivers and images of drivers

LARRY CHEN: What does Long May We Drive actually mean? Pennzoil is such a big supporter of ours. They support so many incredible projects. We get to shoot NASCAR, we get to shoot Pike’s Peak, we get to shoot Formula Drift, we get to shoot car culture in general because they want to support the true enthusiasts. They want to help us celebrate the joy, the privilege, the absolute freedom that we get from driving, pushing, and enjoying our vehicles on the racetrack, on the street, in the canyons, going sideways, doing burnouts. Whatever you love, they want to support it.

[Background Music]

[In vision] [Screen] Slideshow of Pennzoil drivers and images of drivers

LARRY CHEN: In this episode, we’re featuring a female stunt driver, Zandara Kennedy, as she was at GridLife, shaking down her cars from a crazy season of Formula Drift. She’s not only competing in drifting professionally, but she is also a stuntwoman. She’s always on fire. She’s behind the wheel, jumping cars and overall, putting on a great show for camera and also for the fans.

[Background Music]

[In vision] [Screen] Slideshow of Zandara Kennedy drifting across a track

LARRY CHEN: I have to say I think this is the first interview that I've done where the interviewee is on top of their own car. First of all, I kind of feel like you came on the scene by storm. You know, you have these two crazy, Mad Max-style, liveried-up cars. What made you want to get into drifting and into this world? And not just getting into drifting so deep into this world. One of the very few female Formula Drift drivers.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: I started competing by accident. I've been drifting for about 8 years. I got in a drift car and was like “this is crack,” I have to do this all the time, and I bought this car. But, it was a stock KA that I bought on the street in LA and I imported it to Canada. I drove it that way for quite a while and then I had a shop convince me I should put 2J in it and that was a total disaster. Then, I lost the car for over a year and then I bought this car as a result. I just wanted a reliable car, just a stock VQ, Zee, I'm just going to drive the car and have fun. In 2018, I was working on a show in Quebec I shipped this car out, still totally stock, started doing angle, a few things here and there. The shop that I talked to the guy was like “why don't you put an LS in that?” and I was like “why don't I put an LS in that?” It just seemed like “okay, I want more power.” At the time, I didn't realize you really rarely need more power for so much longer than you think, as a driver and I think that more power is actually an impediment to growing the basic skillset. But, anyway, I decided to put an LS in the car and the company that I approached, LOJ Conversions, when I called the guy and said “do any like deals for stunt people that are bad with money and you know impulse control?” The guy was like, “well, would you go to LS Fest?”, I was like “okay what is that, that sounds cool?” So, he helped me out a little bit and he did the engine swap and I said I would compete at LS Fest West and then I was like that was really my first competition so I started prepping for it. That didn't go amazingly for me and that just opened my eyes to like “Oh, you might be good at your job but here's a whole world where you're not even close to the top 10% of what skill actually is.” For me, that's tantalizing that's like “well, do I want to just ignore where I could be growing or do I want to see what I can do?” and so that's kind of how I started down that path. Then, I went to a shootout in 2021 and I got my license almost by accident. Basically, I got really lucky I realized I didn't think there had ever been a Canadian woman in FD. So, to me, it was like I have this door that's opening for me and for now only me and I don't know the next time it'll open for someone else. Because I saw so few women when I was coming up and drifting, I was usually the only girl there. It didn't really bother me but it is nice to see people who are kind of like you doing the thing that you love. Basically, the second I got my license I knew I was going to have to see it through.

[In vision] [Screen] Video footage of Zandara drifting on a track

LARRY CHEN: You actually, as a job, was a stunt driver for a long time before you even started drifting. What led you to that? Because the thing I find about stunt driving that’s interesting is there’s no set way to get into it. It’s not like you know you can talk to your guidance counselor in high school and say you want to be a stunt driver. It’s like cool, nice dream.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: It’s the number one question people ask me. How do I get your job? The way that I did it like I grew up doing trampoline and circus I was always really athletic. I became a motorcycle courier in my late teens and then I met somebody who worked in film and I somehow had never figured out that stunts was a job people did. When I discovered that it was, I was like okay this is the job I want to do and I really pursued it heavily, but I didn’t have any family. Nobody that I knew was in it I didn't have any connections and I don't think charming in the way that people are just going to give me jobs. So I started doing a ton of research – how do I get this job, what do I do to be good at this job? No one's handing it to me so how do I prepare for it. Through that was research into what the top stunt women had on their resumés what trainings they did and that took me to basically stunt driving classes. I did all physical stunts a lot of stuff. I still did quite a bit of firework as well, a little bit less getting thrown 40 ft and dumped on the pavement because now if I hit my head I lose a whole race season. It's not really worth it, but that was my start. My start was physical stunts and often what I say to people is you're not going to get an opportunity to hit someone with a car until you've been hit with a car. That seems like a very reasonable boundary, right? You need to understand the potential consequences of what you're doing. That was sort of my journey in my quest to pursue stunts in general. As a career, I started training in driving and I had an aptitude for it. Stunt driving is a lot more precision and there's a big element of traction that I always loved and that's why that when I got into a drift car and I was like oh this is just my favorite part of stunt driving, which is skidding, over steer and controlling it and putting the car where I want to. This is just that concentrated, it's not you know parking in a straight line with a badge a certain way over and over and over again. It's more the fun part.

LARRY CHEN: So, do you like the cars more? Or are you more just into the actual driving aspect of it?

ZANDARA KENNEDY: I didn't grow up – my family is not into cars at all. My dad's not a car guy like no one in my family is mechanical. I always kind of like cars and most of my friends were guys growing up so I was sort of around it and I liked cars but I'm not someone that's so in- depth into cars that I know what engine is in each car. Unless it's an engine that's in my cars and what came from. So I like the cars but I like the connection with the car. I like the human mechanical interface and how sensitive you have to be to what's happening. I'm a motorcycle rider also and for me like that's the number one human machine interface combo where you're just in complete flow state and you have to be in connection with what the vehicle is doing. I guess that's what I love, I love driving by extension because cars allow me to drive. I have become more and more and more in love with cars and knowledgeable about them. So, I will still do physical stunts. My last full-time stunt doubling job was in 2018. I also did a lot of stunt coordinating I had many really good opportunities to do that and that enabled me to not take quite as many physical risks, but still be really involved in the planning and I really like the broad strokes. How do we make this work? How do we tell a story? And that part wasn't finned by fall on the ground over there. I really like being involved in the whole process. So, as I started doing more of that and as driving became more important to me, I almost made the decision to do less physical stunts because I didn't want to put the driving at risk. I love stunt driving. Even now, there's certain crashes I would have to look at a calendar to decide if I wanted to do it because if I got offered a cannon, there’s a really nonzero chance I'll get knocked out, that's fine. If I get knocked out and I have a concussion and I'm not able to drive at the level that I want to drive for FD, which for me is only four events a year. What am I actually sacrificing?

LARRY CHEN: When you say cannon, do you mean when there's like an explosion in the car?

ZANDARA KENNEDY: We call it a cannon, it's not actually an explosion in the car, it’s the way that they flip cars for movie stunts. We call it a cannon, basically it's a hydraulic cylinder that shoots a spike down, usually the driver is the one that hits that button usually mid slide when they've hit the mark that they want to hit for whatever type of action they want out of the vehicle. So, you hit that button, spike fires out, car starts cartwheeling, at that point you’re job is done. You hit the button while driving sideways or however and there's a whole safety team coming to get you out. We don't know for sure if the car is going to land on its wheels upside down, we don't know the condition, we do everything we can to protect the driver. But, it happens that people are napping when we get to them. That's why we have a safety crew – it’s a risk we do our best to prevent but it still happens.

LARRY CHEN: Then that brings me to the question. I know it's going to be a lot and it's going to be hard for you to narrow down but maybe you can kind of give us some insight on one stunt that you're really proud of, or a couple interesting stories. Because, while I've been able to be on set for so many crazy stunt moments. Especially in the YouTube world with Jim Conna. I've never actually been able to be on a like a big Hollywood set which I can imagine it's just a completely different ball game.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: It really is and it really depends on the players that you have and who's doing the planning and what ingredients they know that they have. So, there's always going to be some element of rehearsal for anything that's complicated. For me, one of the jobs that I'm really proud of and that I'm nominated for a stunt award for right now is I did a bunch of driving for “The Adam Project,” which is a Ryan Reynolds movie for Netflix. And it was big car chase scene and they took these, they're not Broncos, they're jimmies from the 80s - they look exactly the same and they were calling it a Bronco the whole time. We did a whole sequence with that and there was one particular moment where I have to do a reverse 180 in the forest between two trees. When I got the job there were a few people that came out to kind of demonstrate their skills to see who should have the job basically. So we did a little parking lot thing and one of the things they did was set up some pylons in a parking lot and go “Can you achieve this?” Because this reverse 180 can be a totally straight line but there's a lot of ways to narrow the amount of space you take sideways and it has to do with weighting the car and all sorts of factors. But, it’s always you're just relying on timing and cues and a lot is happening. So, I got the job. It was 14-hour days of driving everyday car chases. It was amazing but that but it's all near misses. You have to be focused for that whole time and it was it was a really hard job but I was really proud of the work that I did on it. That one sequence when we did it, there are trees that they added in CG, in other places but we did that practically and I basically we walked to the forest and I looked and I was like “this feels to me like the biggest gap.” But, the gap was probably 8 inches longer than the car was diagonally. It was very tight. I had the arm car chasing me and I just have to ignore this car and camera in my face as I doing this thing and I was working with a cable cam. We did the shot 11 times and on time number nine, I scraped a reflector off, just ripped it off on a tree. That was the only damage, I had two stunt people in the car with me, no one's wearing helmets, it would be very bad if I crashed the car. We only had two of them! That for me, I know it's possible, I know I can't do it forever, but it's all on me. I love those moments of pressure - that was a really cool one for me.

LARRY CHEN: Do you think your experience from drifting and competing applied to that a little bit?

ZANDARA KENNEDY: Originally before I decided I want to see if I can make it Pro in FD, my goal was I wanted my working capacity to be so high that when I'm working at 70% it looks like 150% to other people. I'm totally in my comfort zone and I'm totally safe, that's what I wanted. I wanted to basically build my skill set for my onset work to make my job easy. I knew that I hit that point when I was doing a different chase scene for a different show and I had a near miss with another guy and it was just a part of a minute and a half long sequence. I go through all these cars, this stuff happens, and at the end of the sequence, the coordinator came up to me and he was like “You don't need to be any closer and maybe not even that close.” And I was like, “Was I close?”. It legitimately to me hadn't entered my mind as problematic in any way and that for sure is drifting because the amount of time we spend at the edge of traction very close to objects knowing that we're not going to hit them or knowing what our parameters are I would say it's increased my skills enormously.

LARRY CHEN: Then I want to flip that and ask if the stunt world has helped you in drifting in any way?

ZANDARA KENNEDY: The way that doing my job has helped me with drifting is I'm used to pressure.

[In vision] [Screen] Larry Chen in a garage

LARRY CHEN: I hope you guys are enjoying this episode. We choose Pennzoil because of what they stand for. This year their campaign is Long May We Drive. What does that mean? Well, they just want to make sure the culture that we love and the things that we love to do which is driving cars, enjoying cars, they want to make sure it lasts as long as possible. That means ultimate protection for the engine however high performing it is and also that means better gas mileage. Thanks to Pennzoil for supporting this project as well as supporting everything that we do.

[In vision] [Screen] Larry Chen and Zandara Kennedy conversing

LARRY CHEN: It's kind of sad to say but when you tell people, “I just have to win five battles” and that's it, it sounds so easy but it's really really hard.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: It's really hard and what I really struggled with is I really wanted to have a different rookie season in FD. It was very educational I think it was probably the season that I needed. It wouldn't have been possible without the resources and the people that I had helping. But, it was still a rookie season and no matter how much you think you're prepared for FD, you're not. It's just a totally different level. New Jersey was cool, the last time I had driven the car was in Atlanta. I put the car into a wall and I was terrified of it because I went straight into it. I went to Orlando and added nitrous just to help with bottom end and being in boost. Tested the car for half a day at the track across the way so, coming into New Jersey I was still feeling a little ashamed of what happened in Atlanta and not fully comfortable in the car. We had some practice in New Jersey at least we had enough practice so I started to feel that the car felt pretty good. I went into qualifying, my qualifying was okay. It wasn't amazing and of course my first battle was Dmitriy Brutskiy. He’s two time Champion, but to be totally honest I never watched FD until I was going to compete in it. Now, with all of this stuff I don’t exactly have the time to go back and really learn the history. I knew it was kind of a big deal that I was battling him and I wasn't feeling super confident but I was like “Hey, worst I can do is what people are expecting me to anyway which is not win this battle. So, I might as well bring everything I can to it.” It was pretty cool, I wasn't expecting it to go one more time. Definitely the first battle was better for me and I know that was a very polarizing battle for some people. It was pretty cool to have my first actual battle in FD be a polarizing one, and have people go “Oh no, she could drive!” Which coming out of Atlanta was something I didn't feel I had demonstrated very well. So, that was cool. Just before that battle I put the whole rear end of the wall – I got a little excited, hit the wall, we replaced the whole rear corner just before that battle. That's why a team is so important and a team that understands the pressure of FD, the time frame, and just how to get what's needed done in the time frame that you need it to be.

LARRY CHEN: St Louis was a very historic moment. I was assuming that it was the first female battle ever in FD. But, I didn't know for sure. Now, it's confirmed that it was the first.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: That's my understanding, that's what the announcer said. I was trying to think when - Kelsey would have known if she had battled Amanda before. I don't think before Amanda and Kelsey were in FD that there were two women at the same time in FD.

LARRY CHEN: What does that mean to you? Is that something that means something to you? I guess it doesn’t matter, you could battle anybody.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: I could battle anybody. Kelsey was not the first woman I've ever battled, but it was Kelsey's first battle against another woman. I had battled Amanda at LS Fest the previous year, but the fact that it's notable anytime that we do, that says something. It says a lot that a girl can watch Formula Drift on the live stream and see two women driving at the same time. Being able to be a part of people seeing what I couldn't see is really important.

LARRY CHEN: I don't really understand why there's not more women in drifting in the US because when you go to Japan, they have an all women series, they have all women track days. I don't know what it is but hopefully because of the fact that you know the car community now more than ever is so inclusive, someone like myself, someone like yourself, is a good example of that. Being able to do what we love to do hopefully it changes you know hopefully it becomes better.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: I really think at least I haven't experienced every car community in North America. But, I really felt from the beginning that when I showed up to drift events in my first car, it was a Mustang GT, I had no idea what I was doing. If I showed up and I was trying because I loved it and I wasn't there to meet people or have dates, I was just there to drive cars because I loved it, I never felt unwelcome. I really think the fact that I always felt supported and could ask questions to people and there's people that I still talk to on Instagram from when I was drifting in Quebec, or a guy that I just met here, people are welcoming and inclusive and we just love our cars. So, if someone comes in you can tell that they love this thing the way that you do, I feel like people in the drifting community especially are really open to sharing their knowledge to sharing their parts and helping because they love it. They want to see more people love what they love, and that to me is what is special about the drifting community and the fact that I had the experience that I had really says a lot about the type of people that are in it.

LARRY CHEN: Tell us a little bit about this hot rod, this is an actual formula drift car.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: Yeah, this is my PROSPEC car. First off, when I bought this it was a teal S14 1996 stock KA, under the hood. This is not that car anymore. I think I'm now on my fourth engine if you don't include the KA. So, basically this is a 2J. I have a big single it's a Garrett GTX 35. We swap between the 1,000 and 900.

LARRY CHEN: Do you prefer driving a turbo car versus a natural aspirated car?

ZANDARA KENNEDY: When it's good, it's amazing. It's a lot more work so coming off of driving a V8 for three years I had a lot of really lazy V8 driver habits. In a V8 you expect to have torque immediately and therefore you can save yourself. You just floor it the car is going to break traction and go sideways. In this car, if I'm not thinking about whether or not I have boost I probably don't have boost. That is why I hit a few things with the front end at the beginning of this season.

LARRY CHEN: So, in this configuration how much power is it making?

ZANDARA KENNEDY: It's roughly 750, I would say. It's hard to know because this is an engine we made at the track at Utah out of two other engines. This is a bottom end that's upgraded with a fairly closer to stockish top end that was what was left that wasn't broken about my two engines at Utah. So, we put them together.

LARRY CHEN: So then, why the boss kit?

ZANDARA KENNEDY: I’m going to say something that might make people angry. I don't like S 14s. All the kits seem really outdated to me at this point. All the body kits are eh. To me, I really always felt that I didn't want to set myself apart for being a woman. I didn't want to pink car, I didn't want something that was like “Oh, it's a girl's car,” but, it's also not the aesthetic that pleases me. When I saw the boss kit for the first time there’s a build in Japan that's a totally apocalyptic boss S14 and I saw that and I was like “I want that car.” So, as soon as I got into FD I wrote to Kevin and I was like “Can I run a boss kit?” and he was like “Well, what headlights will you run?” “What will you let me run?” I just love it, I think it looks totally different. For me, I want to look at my car and be stoked. That’s a part of why we do this.

LARRY CHEN: So tell me about the livery. It is so wild and it's really pretty unique in FD to have something like this. It's ratty looking on purpose.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: The livery started with the Z. When I decided I was going to compete in the Z and I was going to really try to move forward in motorsport, I wanted my stuff to be unique and distinct. I wanted people to see it and go “Ah, I've never seen anything like that before,” and I wanted to love it. So, what's really cool about the Z and we'll talk about it later is how the wrap has really kind of aged. But, when I was going into FD, people know me for the Z already. I was like “how can I make sure that people know me?” like know it's my car immediately. So, I took a few elements – the fender, the spoiler from the Z, the skull on the roof. I talked to the designer that I worked with and what I had seen in some other series is people were starting to design cars for the drone shot. To me, most cars when you see them from above you still can't tell what they are or what they're doing so I sent her photos and I said “Hey, I really want to build something that creates an image from above when you're zoomed out.” It’s a drift car and not everything lines up perfectly, but the goal was to have something that was distinctive from up close and you could tell whose car it was immediately and that from the drone shot looked interesting. So, that was a lot of my goals were that. So I gave her those elements and then Taka pointed out to me that this car is the color of the ground. So, all of this brown wasn't in the wrap. This is aging, this is real patina.

LARRY CHEN: So, it's funny that you started off by trying to make it look really patina and then it actually became that way. Is this from a fire?

ZANDARA KENNEDY: Yeah, so this car burned for 12 minutes in January in Sonoma. It was awful and then I had to rebuild it in 2 months which was really stressful. But, this car has literally been to war but everything on it and what I love is that this car is getting that too. When I originally gave my design to the designer, I was like “It's a drift car, I'm going to mess it up all the time.” I need the damage that I do to fit in with the wrap not be something I need to repair immediately. I got very lucky that all the fire was contained to the firewall and the engine was fine – we didn't even open it. All the damage on this car is real. This kind of means a lot to me – I hit the wall at Evergreen in 2019. I rode off this corner of the car and I hit the wall exactly where Taka hit the wall. The only reason that I didn't break my leg is because Taka broke his leg. They added intrusion bars into the tech so Taka breaking his leg saved my leg, but I love that we were able to recover this. This is literally 80 miles an hour along the wall of Evergreen is how we achieved that look.

LARRY CHEN: You know the crazy thing is I was there when he broke his leg, and I've never seen anybody come out of a drift car and hop on one leg. He legit had to do that to get away from the car. They didn’t know if it was going to burn, but he changed the game. He started in FD from the very beginning and even two years before I started following the series. Over the years, it's been incredible to be able to follow his career throughout that time all the way to his retirement from FD. But now, of course he runs a drift school here at Willow Springs, which is great, because he's just making it so accessible for anybody who wants to learn how to drift. He has the cars, he has the knowledge, the experience and he has the time at the track to be able to teach an individual how to drift well.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: I really encourage everyone that I talk to save their own time and money and go there because I started working with Taka after about a year of drifting all the time. I had so many bad habits that I had to fix, that he saw in one day with me. I learned more from an afternoon with him that I did in a year of drifting with somebody else who's helping me or trying to learn stuff on my own. I'm still trying to break those habits. As a technician, as a coach, as someone who's been coached in other sports, to me he's really the best coach I've ever had in any sport. He knows what he's talking about and he'll be 100 feet away from me and be like “Why were you looking over there?” and I’m like “How did you see that?”

LARRY CHEN: So, I brought out my Supra Chase Cam and what I'll do is I'll follow you and then once we have a couple laps in, I think we should switch the camera around. I'll have somebody spotting for me because I don't know when she's getting close to me. I can't look backwards while I'm driving forwards, so I'm going to have a spotter and they can relay information to me about speed or whatever. But, this this is actually pretty exciting because we've done it from a distance but not really close before, especially here. So, I think it'll be fun.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: I'm really stoked to be your first time.

LARRY CHEN: This is going to be really interesting.

ZANDARA KENNEDY: I would just say the same thing that you would say to someone if you were chasing them. Be consistent and be predictable. I can adapt to you as long as you go somewhere I'm expecting

LARRY CHEN: In terms of line too, I’ll just try to think where you might be on the course, just from my limited experience on this track drifting my 3 DZ. I'll just do what I can and then and then we'll modify it and then it might take a couple times to get right, but that's okay. I think that'll be the fun part of it!

ZANDARA KENNEDY: In commercials sometimes they'll run a lens and they'll say “Okay, wipe through lens this way, or come right up to lens this way.” We can talk about a whole bunch of different types of shots that we can do to either feature different parts of the cars, the wide of what the driving is. There’s a lot of different things that we can achieve this time.

LARRY CHEN: All right, let’s do it!


[In vision] [Screen] Video footage of Zandara drifting around a track

[In vision] [Screen] LONG MAY WE DRIVE

Pennzoil connected with Zandara, learning more about her involvement in stunt driving and the sources of her inspiration behind her involvement in Formula Drift, along with her broader interest in motorsports.

PENNZOIL: Do you have any role models who inspired you in your career as a stunt driver?

KENNEDY: There have been many drivers and stunt women that I looked up to and tried to emulate throughout my career, including Kitty O’Neill and Debbie Evans. Kitty O’Neill was a pioneering stunt woman and race car driver who set multiple land speed records starting in the 1970s, one of which was only broken in 2019. She was restricted by sponsors to only breaking women’s records, and not allowed to drive faster than the men at the time.

Debbie Evans set records and broke boundaries in male-dominated motorsports in the 1970s, which led her to a career as a stunt rider and driver on projects including “Herbie,” “The Matrix,” and “Fast and Furious” franchises. I had an opportunity to work with Debbie on several projects, which was an absolute dream come true!

As I move towards the motorsport space in Formula Drift, I continue to meet and be inspired by women working in all capacities, in and around the cars. Women who are passionate about motorsports, at the top of their games, busy doing the incredible work they do, and never promoting themselves have made them hard to see from the outside. By taking them behind the scenes of Formula Drift, I hope to help open the door and expand their visions of their future and career options.

PENNZOIL: What does ‘Long May We Drive’ mean to you?

KENNEDY: For me, driving is freedom, connection, elation, self-expression. Driving provides me with the ability to explore the world, push my limits, and connect with the machine, myself, and people who share my passion. I am never more truly myself than behind the wheel, sideways. ‘Long May We Drive’ represents more than just cars, but the moments, lives, and stories that are possible because of them - the passion I am excited to share with everyone I meet and the commitment to keep this passion and the vehicles that embody it alive and moving forward.

PENNZOIL: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received thus far in your career?

KENNEDY: A mentor once told me, “Nobody on our crew has a first day,” on my first day doing a particular specialty driving job. The message was about showing up with the confidence and presence needed to do the job and doing it to the best of my ability, knowing the people around me had my back and believed in my skill set.

The third video shines a spotlight on Stephan Verdier, a stunt and precision driver that has been featured in various commercials and on- screen films including “Ford v Ferrari” and “Furious 7”. In the video, Larry Chen and Stephan discuss his experiences in rallycross and drifting, his participation in Formula Drift, and the beginnings of his journey into stunt driving.

TITLE: Drifting and Rallycross in ONE car: Stéphan Verdier’s Journey From Racing to Hollywood

[In vision] [Screen] Larry Chen in a garage with a Pennzoil logo behind him

LARRY CHEN: Hey everyone, Larry Chen here! As you guys know, Pennzoil is a major sponsor of this channel. This year, they are pushing the Long May We Drive campaign. That means we’re highlighting a lot of individuals that drive for a living, which means race car drivers, stunt drivers, anyone who is pushing the car to their limits. We featured a good friend Rhys Millen, and Zandara Kennedy. On this last episode, we’re featuring my good friend Stéphan Verdier, who is a professional racing driver and a stunt driver. We caught up with him at his house.

[In vision] [Screen] Video footage of Stéphan Verdier driving

[In vision] [Screen] Stephan Verdier @stephanverdier

LARRY CHEN: So, you’re saying this is actually where you built all your race cars?

STÉPHAN VERDIER: That driveaway, and I’ll show you some pictures after, is where I built my first car and drift car in that little garage. But, that’s where everything got built. It was the only garage I had outside. I even painted the car here, inside and outside. I built a little tent, a plastic tent and did all the painting inside.

LARRY CHEN: This is such a quaint, suburbia, Long Beach neighborhood. You wouldn’t expect race cars being built here.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: But if you see the signs in the streets, it says “No vehicle over 6 feet,” and that’s because of us! We showed up with a trailer and everything and the neighbor got tired of it. So, now they put up that sign and we can’t park anything over 6 feet tall.


STÉPHAN VERDIER: They got pretty pissed off. Like you said, it’s a really suburban area of Long Beach. We're right next to the university, but it still feels pretty quiet and everything.

LARRY CHEN: But, you’re starting the race cars here. You’re alarming all of them.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Oh yeah, we’re starting the race cars here. We never drove them, but if we did, it was just one pass to make sure that everything would work. But, there were long hours with the grinder and that kind of stuff at 1 in the morning.

LARRY CHEN: So then, the Long Beach race for you guys here, Formula Drift Long Beach, was a home race?

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Oh yeah! It couldn’t be any closer, we’re 15 minutes from the track.

[In vision] [Screen] Stephan directing Larry into the garage

STÉPHAN VERDIER: This is the garage. The first car was built in that garage, first rally car.

LARRY CHEN: In here?

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Oh yeah, in this little space. Only half of that space and that was the first toolbox we had! When I went to drifting, I got sponsored by Genius Tool, and those are still the same tools that I used for drifting to build the car. Yeah, that was X Games in 2012. You’ll remember this one! That was my only win in Formula Drift at Sonoma. That was pretty fun.

LARRY CHEN: This was such a historic moment for you. For you to build a winning drift car, here in this garage, it could not be further from what’s possible now. But, in 2008, that was very possible. I remember it very clearly, that was at Sonoma. While that sounds crazy, that’s not the craziest part. The craziest part to me is that, that was also your rally cross car.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Yeah, that’s the reason people say “Why did you pick a Subaru?” Well, a Subaru is not the greatest chassis for drifting. It’s a four-wheel drive car, so the balance is completely different, and if you get a 240, it’s so much easier for a car to drift. The reason behind it, because I didn’t have a lot of funding, everything was personal funding. I would work all day long and the money I would make would go to racing. If I was getting sponsors, it was just product. So, I came from rally. I don’t know if you see this but there’s a door of a Subaru I destroyed. But, if you look back there, do you see that Mazda trophy back there? That was my first rally car, the Mazda 323 GTX. That’s how I got into racing, I did a little bit of open wheels before, but that as my first race car. I won a lot of local rallies with it and then after that, I went to a Subaru. That’s how I got into Subaru. When I was rallying, that’s where I met Tanner and raced against Tanner, and Rhys, and we became frequent friends. Then, they went into drifting before me. Tanner told me “if you want to go into drifting, come over and there’s a spot at McKinney.” Tanner left McKinney to go to Papadakis, so there was a spot and I got into McKinney. We had one season and it was an awesome team, they were like family.

LARRY CHEN: I remember, that’s where I first met you. If you want to talk about a walk down memory lane, the first time we really had a chance to interact was China, of all places.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: That’s when we did the demo of the car and it blew up in practice.

LARRY CHEN: In Beijing! I remember they shipped this S14 240SX, it was yellow, to Beijing, where you actually flew in, drove it. That’s kind of when I met a lot of people around the same time, and then that year you also competed in Formula Drift, with their actual competition car. You drove that for a couple years and then that’s when you decided it’s a good idea to build your own car.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Yes, that was it. Like I said, McKinney was a family team and I didn’t do very good when I was with them. It was me learning how to drift and not knowing how to set up a drift car, so they kind of ran out of budget. They said we couldn’t do one more year, so I said “let’s build my own car.”

That’s when I said “let’s build a Subaru,” because of my rally background with that car. That way, I can go drift and rally, I can do the local rallies. So, I built the car, and people say it was a beast but it was a stock, STI. All the suspensions were 100% stock, the real differential was a welded STI stock, gearbox was a stock, and we moved the front and got less weight out of it. Everything, the front control was stock. The only way I could get more steering angle, because it’s a four-wheel drive, so there’s no steering angle, is I drill the pickup point on the hood, closer to the center, so it can move. I think I was getting 38-degree angle, that was my max. So, the car was all stock. For me it was a cheap way to run it, because I could go to the local store and buy the parts and it was an easy way to run it. If I needed to go rally, I would just take the gearbox out, put a stock with a front in and I got a rally car. Fortunately, the rally because of money, I couldn’t do both at the beginning because the car has to be street legal to go rally, so I only used it as a drift car. Then rallycross came in, and initially I thought I made a mistake to the car off because I couldn’t get the mechanical grip out of a Subaru then people were getting out of the other cars. It was working, but to be such on the edge all the time, it was really had to make it work. So, I thought it was a mistake to make the car. Then, rallycross came in and I’m like “Oh, now I have the perfect car for it!” Now, finally I can do it. When we did the first rallycross, which was Irwindale, and all the big names were there. The only thing I did on that car is Crawford was building my engine and they had a sequential gearbox, so I put that in it. We changed the suspension to gravel suspension and that was it.

LARRY CHEN: It was a huge jump and everything!

STÉPHAN VERDIER: The car would fly perfectly, and the car was made for it. It was amazing! I remember, which I’m still proud of it, it was my 30 seconds of fame. Grönholm, world champion in rally, was in the fiesta and I passed him on the outside on the bank after turn 3 or 4. I passed him in that bank on the outside and finished. At the end of the race, he came out of his car and looked at my car and my car was nothing special. He looked at it and he said “I can’t believe you passed me with that car.” He was just stunned – it was a drift car! It had a crazy end break and mine was plugged straight into the system. When I would pull the break, I got feedback in the break pedal. Every time I pulled the e-break, I couldn’t use the breaks. I didn’t know how to build a second caterpillar, it was too much money. I learned how to do it without touching the breaks. Even the first turn, it was still the cable breaks, it was not even the caterpillar. The first turn I used the stock e-break that is vertical instead of flat, that’s how I did it. Everything with that car was so simple. When I went to rallycross, that car was good. The motor has so much torque and it wasn’t the greatest, but it was good when we went to the X Games. I was in the final, in second place. In the final, it was me and Tanner and the last lap, my timing belt jumped and kept jumping and I lost the power. I went from second in half a lap to fourth. But, the car was good! It was a great car for rallycross.

LARRY CHEN: I think there was one where you were at the LA Coliseum?

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Yeah, that was the X Games. The weekend after that, we had to go to Vegas to drift! It was the exact same car, I brought it back here, tidied up and put my stock training back on. The drift suspension was tarmac suspension, and I put that back on. Boom, we were in Vegas two days after to do the event.

LARRY CHEN: That is even a crazier transformation than what Rhys did, transforming his drift car to a Pike’s Peak car. You changed it from two wheel drive to four-wheel drive! What blows me away is I don’t think people really understand how difficult this is. The fact that you had the energy and time to do it, while you were still doing a full-time job.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Oh yeah, I had a full-time job at a screen printing company. So, I was printing during the day and that was the first time I did rally and built the car at night. When I got to drifting, I think that was towards the end because Tanner came one day and was like “I’m working an event at El Toro for tracks, why don’t you come over and see what I do?” I didn’t know what he was doing outside of racing, and he was an instructor for Chrysler and they were doing a demo with Viper drifting and teaching people. I’m like “How much do they pay you a day to do this?” And it really opened me up to realize I was doing something wrong. The next week, I sold my business, and was like “That’s it, I’m not doing t-shirts anymore and spending 10 hours a day printing t-shirts. I’m gone!” I said “I want to be an instructor like you.” So, I sold that stuff and that was right at the same time that I was starting to do the Subaru. With the little bit of money I made, I don’t think it cost me more than 40 grand to build that car. Yeah, because I took two destroyed cars, one broken in front and one in back, cut it in half, and put it together to make the race car. I got the car for nothing. I would either work as an instructor during the day and then fly and work at night here. Like you said, there’s absolutely no way now I would have the energy to do that.

LARRY CHEN: So, a couple of things. This is a good time to talk about the series that I’m actually doing with Pennzoil. They wanted me to highlight people that drive for a living and this is a good part of the story, where it actually becomes your job versus before, you were paying to drive.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Exactly! I was getting sponsors and everything but never enough to make money out of it, it was always product. The first time I got a big sponsor was Disney! Disney XD came to me for the first X Games and said they would like to sponsor a car. They had that show “Kick Buttowski,” which was like a little stunt guy character, super fun cartoon. They gave me 60 grand to do the X Games. That’s what pretty much paid all of my credit cards that I accumulated from drifting and everything, and put me at zero. The following year, they wanted to sponsor me for the whole season and the car was MotorCity, the car was green. I went to Rhys and I was his teammate with the Hyundai, and that’s how I came out. At the same time, Rhys tried to introduce me to Hollywood, to the stunts and commercials, and was able to make a living out of driving cars in movies and commercials. I started doing it in the private tier, doing my own thing and working during the day and racing at night. Now, I transitioned to drive professionally.

LARRY CHEN: Let’s touch a little bit on that. But, I also wanted to touch a little bit about your history. Did you start on two wheels or four wheels? What came first?

STÉPHAN VERDIER: I came from an alpine skiing background. In France, I was raised in a ski resort and everything, so I came from skiing. I was part of the French ski team and did a few events, started to get pretty good and then I was tired of being cold pretty much. So, I moved to the US and my dad at the time had a restaurant in the winter and in the summer, he was a helicopter pilot. Unfortunately, he died from that in a crash. My main reason to come to the US was to do my commercial license for helicopter because it was so much cheaper than France. So, I came over and did it – did the commercial license and a friend of mine and I applied for a green card. At the time, the green card was a lottery. We applied and both of us got it. We’re like “Ok, now we have to stay in the US.” We stayed in the US, nothing to do with racing. The first car I bought was the Mazda, because my dad was against racing all my life. When I was here, I was doing a bunch of little jobs here and there, and once I had a little money I wanted to try rally. I went to an event called Dream of the World in Palmdale in 1999, and met a few people and bought that Mazda 323, which was my first car. I was already 31 years old when I first dreamt to do a race car. So, I started super late compared to everybody. From rally, that’s where I met Tanner and Rhys. Then, went to drifting and the rallycross and offroad and all of that.

LARRY CHEN: Wait a minute. So, when you actually got to X Games, you didn’t have really much experience?

STÉPHAN VERDIER: I had rally background, maybe 3 or 4 years of rally and 3 or 4 years of drifting, but that was my first rallycross. So we were like “let’s go for it!”

LARRY CHEN: It’s great that you have all these stories to tell about it! From what you’ve been telling me and from what I’ve been watching on the outside, luckily I’ve been able to capture a lot of these moments in your career unknowingly, just being in the same circles. It’s almost like you were just born to race and be behind the wheel of a car.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: I wanted to race from as early as I could remember. To the point that one summer, my dad got a lawnmower, and I sat it on it for two hours and they were having lunch and never moved. I wanted to drive so bad and I would go in the car and just start the car, waiting for them to show up. I just want to drive, I don’t care if I can make money out of it, that would be awesome. But, driving, just playing with that machine was what I wanted. I think that’s what got me through all those hours of driving and grinding. People always said I was crazy and wasn’t making money, but it was so much fun to drive. I love drifting, but I don’t care to watch it on TV anymore. Last year, a friend of mine had a beat up E36 and we went to Apple Valley to drift, I had a blast! It was just by ourselves, just drifting. The competition of it is how you make money, but it’s not the reason I want to do it.

LARRY CHEN: Yeah, but you’re a Formula Drift first place champion. I feel like nobody can take that away from you.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: I don’t even know where the trophy is, it’s somewhere!

LARRY CHEN: Well, I remember it and a lot of people will remember it forever. So, this is a good time for me to ask you a little bit about some of your favorite stunt driving moments for movies or commercials. This is so interesting because you’re getting paid to drive but not for racing, for in front of the camera.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Yes! The racing is fun, don’t get me wrong. There’s so much pressure that comes with it because you have to perform. Thanks to Ken Block, we’ll show them that winning is not the most important thing. I think kids now have a little bit less pressure because they don’t have to win every time. At the time, winning was everything. The amount of pressure you get from winning takes away from the pleasure of driving. Stunt work, there’s a lot of pressure because you have hundreds of people telling you that you’re not going to mess up the car. It’s not the same level, you can take your time to bring it up and give them what they want. Most of the time what they want is you driving at 70%, you don’t have to go 100% all the time. It’s a different style and you driving amazing stuff. I was on the Gran Turismo movie and we drove GT3 cars every day, full speed, and LMP2 cars. I’ve never driven in LMP2 cars, there’s no way I can go to the team and say I can’t drive the car. They gave me one chance in the car for the new two months. The only car I drove for three months was a GT3 or an LMP2 car, and we were going at high speed. Only in Hollywood you can do this, and they were paying me to do it too. There was no clock or timer, and it didn’t matter if you were 10 seconds slower than the other guy – have fun with the car and make it look cool. That’s the good part about stunt is doing that kind of stuff. Last year, we drove the first Tacoma. We were in Utah in those big hills and had a blast driving the car, sliding around. You just play around and we’ll film it and make it as cool as possible. There’s no pressure, just don’t crash the car is all they want. It’s much more relaxed than competing and you have fun. The problem with racing is that everyone is your enemy, you have to look at them as an enemy. Even if you’re good friends with them, when you put your helmet on, you can’t look at them as friends. When you’re in the movies, there’s no competition. We get to make a cool product out of it, so everyone works together, whether it’s the director, everyone is there to make the product as cool as possible and we work together to make really cool product. It’s a completely different set of stress, but it’s so much fun and you have the chance to drive amazing cars and do stupid things.

LARRY CHEN: That’s something else. It’s really cool that you’re able to follow your passion and maybe if you didn’t take the path you took going into drifting, then rally, then you would maybe not have met Tanner or Rhys and all these people that you work with all the time now.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Exactly! Especially the drifting, there are plenty of rally drivers that are not able to get into stunt because they don’t really know how to drift or they don’t have the reputation as a drifter. Drifting, especially when Tokyo Drift came out, that’s what kind of put those drivers on the spotlight. Rhys and Tanner got a lot of word because they worked on Tokyo Drift. Even though they were great drivers before that, that was kind of the spotlight. Now, when you say I was a professional drifter, it kind of opens a lot of doors because no one knows how to put a car sideways. If I wouldn’t have met those guys, maybe I would have gone to drifting, maybe not. It would have put me on a completely different career path. I think I would have gotten into motorsports way sooner, I would have done some rally and make a name for myself in rally, but unfortunately rally in the US is nothing. I don’t think it would have worked out, I would have been printing t-shirts still!

LARRY CHEN: I can’t believe you were making t-shirts in the daytime.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: Juggling in the winter between the skiing and building the car, then the summer was racing the car, working, it was insane. There’s no way I could do that now – I would die after a week! But, it makes it more rewarding when you win. When you win, people don’t understand. Guys like Rhys could understand because they know where I’m coming from, but when you finally got that win, it validates you and know it’s all worth it.

LARRY CHEN: There’s still some people that are competing now that have never even won one race.

STÉPHAN VERDIER: The competition now is just insane. You see the cars. I had a chance to drive the Need for Speed car for the Fast and Furious 8 movie, and Steph called and asked if I could drive the car during the day, so I said yes. I drove that car and the first time I slid, I thought I was going to spin. It’s impossible to spin that thing! I got out of the car and was like “Are you kidding me?” No wonder they do so much steering, there is no angle and it’s impossible to steer the car. It was so much fun to see the difference between the top car at the time and I hadn’t been in a car in 3 years. I was like “oh my god, that car is insane” – we didn’t even plug the nitros, we were just on the motor the entire time. That was 6 years ago, so I cannot imagine the level now. The cars now put on three wheels for acceleration, it’s insane.

[In vision] [Screen] Video footage of Stephan driving

Pennzoil recently had the opportunity to sit down with Verdier to hear more about his journey into the world of stunt driving, as well as discover his passion for being behind the wheel.

PENNZOIL: How did you get your start in the industry?

VERDIER: Thanks to my friendship with Rhys Millen, I was introduced to the world of stunt driving. My racing experience, including open-wheel, rally, drifting, rallycross, and off-road, equipped me with the skill set perfectly suited for precision and stunt driving in commercials and movies. With my background in driving, the transition to racing was seamless, and people knew I could do the job without damaging the car.

PENNZOIL: Do you have a favorite project you have worked on so far? What made it resonate with you?

VERDIER: My favorite job so far was shooting “Gran Turismo.” Over the course of three months, we had the opportunity to drive GT3 competition cars and LMP2 cars on iconic tracks across Europe and Abu Dhabi, including the likes of Nurburgring, Hungaroring, Red Bull Ring, and more. What made it so special was the fact that we were driving these awe-inspiring cars that I always dreamed of owning and being paid for it. During this project, I had the privilege of steering the Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Audi R8 GT3, Nissan GTR GT3, and the Norra LMP2—truly a dream come true.

PENNZOIL: What do you love about getting behind the wheel?

VERDIER: It’s not just one element; it begins with the fact that you control a mechanical machine, and you must unlock its full potential. Whether it's a high-powered 800hp race car or a modest 140hp streetcar, the fundamental principle remains the same: be one with the vehicle. Then, there’s the exhilaration of speed; I love going fast. The rush I get when driving in a car is all relative, and it’s always about pushing the limits of whatever I’m dealing with at the time.

On a stunt job, a new challenge comes into play. You’re tasked with translating a director’s vision into reality, and your tool is the car. Working closely with the stunt coordinator, you come up with a plan to make it work, where precision plays a major role in managing your speed and precisely positioning the car. The job is both challenging and stressful, with the entire production relying on you. Yet, this pressure makes it incredibly enjoyable and rewarding when you succeed.

PENNZOIL: What advice would you give to someone looking to get into stunt driving?

VERDIER: Buy a cheap car and learn the skills of driving; it doesn’t have to be a big HP or a new one. Get a Miata or an old BMW and do track events to understand the physics of driving. Drifting is another great place to learn because it’s easy to find a drifting group and get a cheap drift car to learn. The bottom line is developing skills that will make you precise and comfortable in any car. Racing is great but not necessary.

To get a closer look and learn more about each driver, visit Larry Chen’s YouTube channel to watch the entire series.