Getting BMW's M235 seriously sideways


By: Dave Abrahams

Cape Town - What does it take to get a BMW M235i seriously sideways? Quite a lot, actually. First you get the Drift Mob - five of the world's top drifters, including not one but three former world champions - together in Cape Town to shoot the new BMW 2 Series television commercial, give them five identical brick-red M235i coupés, then stand back and watch the fun.

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Five of the worlds top drifters came together in Cape Town to shoot a radical BMW television commercial.The cars look standard from the outside......But each has a welded differential and a rough-and-ready additional handbrake plumbed directly into the rear brake callipers.... To the entire satisfaction of 2011 Formula D champion Dai Yoshihara.Drifting is all about precision car control.....Which, when taken to the limit......Becomes a form of automotive ballet...That takes impeccable timing and teamwork.

Er, not quite. BMW wasn't able to supply manual-transmission cars and the traction-control software on the paddle-shift cars in these shots kept getting in the way. The inside rear wheel would lift, the standard, 25 percent limited-slip differential would do its best and then the electronic stability program would shut the power down before both rear wheels got properly lit up.

"It's like driving a computer."

Californian ex-motocross star Riley Harper, whose function seems be about equal parts ringmaster, choreographer and general go-to guy, explained: "We flew in a BMW factory technician to re-write the software - which helped, but not enough."

Finally Drift Mob's own MacGyver, known only as Zach, opened the differential housing on one of the cars and welded the crown wheel and pinion gears to lock it solid. Then he fitted a rough-and-ready additional handbrake, plumbed directly into the rear brake callipers, and that did the trick, despite the concerns of the BMW egghead that the car's sophisticated electronics would not take kindly to such cavalier treatment.


Zach then went ahead and modified the remaining four cars in one marathon session, so the five star drivers could get down to some serious practicing. Harper showed them on the paper plan what he had in mind, the drivers came up with a few outrageous moves of their own and rehearsals got underway, in a fenced off car-park next to the old Green Point Athletics Stadium, which is where these pictures (and video) were shot.

The actual commercial will be shot on a traffic circle in the CBD (which will be shut down for the occasion) on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, using as many cameras as possible, including cameras in the cars and a helicopter for aerial shots, so as to get as much footage as possible 'in the can' in a very limited time on set.


Samuel Hubinette from Sweden is a multiple world drifting champion, winner of the inaugural Formula D title in 2004, and again in 2006.

Rhys Millen from New Zealand, was a top rally before winning the Formula D championship in 2005; he now focuses on rallycross but hasn't lost his drifting chops.

Daijiro (Dai) Yoshihara from Tokyo started off street racing on a 400cc motorcycle before switching to four wheels, and winning the 2011 Formula D title.

Conrad Grunewald from Houston, Texas, a former drag racer and circuit racer, has been competing in Formula D since 2005.

Rich Rutherford from San Clemente is a stunt driver with more than 30 years experience in the film industry, including driving in Fast and Furious, Tokyo Drift and Fast Five, two Transformers films, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Iron Man 2.

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