Titanium Strong Blackout challenge: Drivers behind the laser-laden driving promo video talk the future of racing
One month ago to the day Castrol put out the latest promo for its latest motor oil. Oil, that's boring no? Not when there's budget and a bit of imagination. The proof is in viewership as the Castrol Edge Titanium Strong Blackout video has already racked up close to 7.5 million views on YouTube and counting.
It's easy to see why: the video is all awesome cars and lasers. Even if we struggle to find an explicit connection between lasers and a motor oil, our eyes were dazzled and it brought a smile to our face watching the four pro drivers take to the custom track in near pitch black darkness. Cue noisy Lamborghini Aventador, BMW M4, Audi R8 and Ken Block in a custom Ford Focus EcoBoost and what's not to like?
At the Geneva Motor Show back in March of this year we caught up with Castrol Edge at CERN and were given access to two of the drivers from the Blackout campaign, Augusto Farfus and Adrian Zaugg, BMW and Lamborghini drivers respectively, prior to its filming commencing.
So what of the minds of the pros behind the wheels? We talked the future of racing and electric car tech in the most apt of settings to find out what they make of it all.
There's so much technology in motor sport these days. How has that shifted the way you train?
Farfus: "Of course I think motor sport, but not only motor sport but every single sport in the last few years, has gone through a massive change in terms of how to approach it, how to prepare for it, and how to get fit for the sport. You can see the introduction of simulators. And they're not games: they're proper simulators. Like they use for planes and pilots. Now this has been introduced to the race cars as well as part of the preparation for the drive. And not only physically, but mentally.
"To train your body it's reasonably easy to get results: you run, you go to the gym to lift weights and then you can build a decent base which will probably allow you to drive a car. But to drive a car on top of that [physical element] you need to combine body power with your mind power. And that's the tricky side. Because to train the mind is something unique; something very difficult.
"You have so many procedures to perform in a race car nowadays because, as you say, the technology has come to the sport. So the car has become more sophisticated and there's not just 'push the button to turn on the engine and drive' any more. You have so many buttons and so many systems in the car that you have to be aware of and you have to manage yourself. You have to keep focus on driving, but also on what's around you."
Do you think it's easier or harder to get into the sport now? Concepts such as Nissan GT put PlayStation Gran Turismo gamers behind the wheel of real cars who went on to become proper - and sometimes successful - drivers.
Zaugg: "Yeah, GT Academy."
Farfus: "You have to [start out somewhere behind a wheel] because the sense of the limits or boundaries you will only learn by being present and by living in the moment.
"I like planes, and I fly myself. So I'm pretty involved in that. And once I had a discussion with the flight instructor and one of the main topics or problems that pilots face is that they do all the simulator they can - and they have to - and on the simulators they can always reproduce emergency situations. But deep inside of the brain they always know they will not die."
You mention death. Do you have any fear of it?
Farfus: "No, no you don't."
Zaugg: "It would be the wrong profession if you did."
We're talking about controlled conditions and known courses. Castrol has asked you to drive in darkness. It sounds a bit crazy?
Zaugg: "I'm sure they have the safety aspect of it covered. It's a priority."
Farfus: "No, no, no. You can't be a race car driver if you don't have a little bit of craziness in your mind."
Can you turn off something in your brain like you could in a car; like flipping a switch?
Zaugg: "It's not even that. It's more the passion that takes over. It's not that you even have to flick a switch. You want to push the car to its limits and that's what excites you. Then everything else you just don't really worry about it at that stage.
"We are aware that the sport is dangerous. Like last year my team mate died in an accident and that's what makes you aware when it happens so close. Because it happens in different sports and you realise, 'ok'.
"For me it's just destiny, you know? And I think the moment you start to fear about what is possible and what can happen, I think you just lose. Because emotionally you're not there with the same confidence. But I think it's always good to have respect for yourself and for the car, but to a certain extent you're always trying to push the limits of yourself and the car.
"In our sport I think it's more emotional. You're risking your health to some extent, so therefore I think it takes more emotion to deal with situations like that. And I think as a professional growing with the sport you learn to deal with it."
Farfus: "But nowadays the cars are so safe. So safe. If you look back to Formula's old time it's a different time. Accidents can happen, but it can it other sports too. But if you see how many races are going on around the world and how many accidents are happening."
Off the track what forthcoming cars excite you and why. And it doesn't have to be a Lamborghini or a BMW.
Farfus: "If you look back in the last 20 years there's been a huge change in road cars. It's a different planet. This is due to a combination of things. To throw Castrol in: it started from an oil that you don't really see through to a whole component; there's a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes that's important.
"Nowadays you get a lighter, more efficient car that's faster and safer. This is pushing the limits of what's possible. Now we're getting hybrid systems and electric cars are starting to grow. 10 years ago we didn't even imagine about having electric cars."
Which leads into electric cars in racing. Formula E is on the rise, but do you think we'll ever see a future that is all electric?
Farfus: "I don't think so."
Farfus: "Well I think electrics - and I'm not an engineer, so I don't have any basis to confirm it - but I still don't think electric is really the whole future. I think something new will come in the next 20, 30, 40 years. Something even newer will come.
"Nowadays electrics cars have their own limitations. But if you see where we started from 20 years ago and where we've ended up now, I just can't believe that this is the end. I think the next 20 years something even bigger and newer will come.
"At the end of the day a race car driver needs the noise. It's part of the game. I think this will still continue on and not disappear. I think electrics will take it over from a certain point, but I still have the feeling. This is my personal feeling."
You still need that visceral noise and connection?
Farfus: "I think it's part of the thing, you know?"
Zaugg: "And for the spectators' point [of view] too. You want to come and smell the fumes.
"I can't imagine going to watch a car which makes absolutely no noise; no smell. Where's the motorsport aspect of it? For me it would be missing completely. It's not that I'm against the evolution of things."
Farfus: "I definitely think electric is a way. It will be the way. But somehow I also have the feeling that it won't be the only way.
"Formula E is something nice because it's good to give the message to people that electric is also fun and also performs. Because when you talk about electric cars you always think about this 'bzz bzz' little car that goes to the supermarket and gets you home.
"One of the best cars I've tried so far - and not because I'm connected with BMW - is the i8. It's a hybrid, not full electric. It's a mixture: you get the sound of the engine - and it's a three cylinder turbo engine so you get a sporty noise - and the gasoline kicks in later. It's a nice mixture.
Zaugg: "Which is very good because electric gives you enough immediate power."
Do you think the sport will stay as it's been, and road cars will change?
Zaugg: "I think it's as Augustus says. Sooner or later there will be a change. I always say I don't want to outlive the fuel period of the cars - but that's just me."
Farfus: "Look at Le Mans now. We have hybrid cars running, there's this new rule for a set amount of fuel per lap. So they're kicking in some hybrid and electric stuff. But I think the spectators want to see and hear some screaming V8 and V12 [engines]."
And that's that. The two gents, dressed in their racing getup, have to venture onto their next meet. Probably in secret with Ken Block and Mike Rockenfeller who they also filmed the campaign alongside.
If you like supercars, generally insane driving videos and, obviously, lasers then head on over to Castrol's official site: castroledge.com/blackout
It's worth it just to see the smile on Ken Block's mid-donut face. And we don't mean the edible kind. And if you're super geeky you can go on to check out the full ins and outs about the oil too... Or just watch the lasers and behind the scenes footage again because it's cool.