Dirt roads, fresh snow, or even the odd rainy day. Many of us have been there – sideways.
Whether you were able to drive it out in style, or you ended up faced the wrong way around in a ditch, for a split second you may have felt like an absolute hero. Gigi Galli move over. But for some people, once, twice, or even 100 times is not enough. Sliding around corners becomes an addiction, and for a lucky few it can even become a career.
Just ask Tyler Witte.
If Tyler’s name sounds familiar, it’s for good reason. Back in 2017, we talked to the Cincinnatian about his self-produced, Gymkhana-inspired, Dream It, Build It, Shred It video, gaining an insight into the man and his home-brewed machine. Since then, Tyler hasn’t slowed up; if anything, he’s doubled down on his driving.
He’s also made another video, which we’re debuting right here, right now.
In Dangerzone, Tyler’s skill behind the wheel of his angry Subaru Impreza – aka ‘The Great GC8′ – is only amplified. It’s a must watch, so before you go any further with this story, I suggest you hit play above and enjoy four-and-a-half-minute’s worth of AWD fury.A Real-Life Hillclimb
As I just mentioned, for a fortunate few, driving at speed can be a full-time job – and I’m not only talking about being a professional race car driver. Tyler is a stuntman and driver for car commercials, television and online streaming series, and motion pictures.
For Netflix’s Extraction, Tyler operated the camera car during the fast-paced chase scenes, which for some shots required him to do it in reverse. Imagine doing that with the director and camera operator strapped to the back (front in this case) while driving at speed.
In the upcoming action thriller, Nobody, Tyler is the stuntman for the main character, Bob Odenkirk (the guy from Better Call Saul), playing a huge role in the fight scenes, falls, and car chases.
But when he’s not on set somewhere in the world, you’ll often find Tyler at one of the tracks in Atlanta, Georgia – where he now lives – competing in a local hill climb, or doing a rally event – the latter being the motorsport discipline that kick-started his driving career.
Rewind a few years and Tyler was competing out of pocket at rally events across the United States. One can only do that for so long before running out of money, but Tyler certainly hadn’t run out of talent.
He used the last of what he had to pack his bags and make a go at Hollywood. Fast forward a few years, and Tyler’s now living proof that hard work and determination can get you just about anywhere.Toys In A Sandbox
After watching Tyler’s first video and reading the interview, I was blown away by what he had created with help from just a handful of friends. I reached out to Tyler and told him that I’d love to shoot the next one.
We’ve been on a few adventures together since, but more recently I found myself in Tyler’s hometown preparing to photograph his follow-up video. We just had a 460-odd-mile drive from Atlanta to Cincinnati to complete first.
Before we could scout shooting locations, Tyler had some final car prep to take care of. First on the docket was some graphics.
Next up was the enormous plasma-cut ‘Godzilla’ that would shoot flames out of its mouth for one sequence. Tyler’s friend and local Cincinnati, Ohio artist, Jill Clearly, tackled the overall design along with hand-painting the giant lizard cut-out.
With the Subaru sorted and the huge art piece finished, we packed up for the evening and headed out to grab some food.
The following day we woke to rain, but that didn’t really matter as fine weather was incoming and the morning was all about shot planning. Some of Tyler’s fellow stunt and movie friends had come up up from Atlanta to help out and enjoy the fun few days of filming ahead.
With the day clearing up nicely and Tyler’s vision and direction for the project explained to all, the last thing left to do was offer a crash course in drone piloting.
A dry surface meant we were off to the races. One of my favourite things about working with friends is the ability for everyone to collaborate and throw ideas around.
One of the hardest shots to capture was the fire-breathing Godzilla sequence. With a can of brake cleaner and a blowtorch providing the flame, timing was critical. Add that to slippery concrete, poor visibility, and less than a foot of clearance to play with, Tyler had his driving work cut out for him.
But a few practice runs, a couple of bumper scuffs and a can of propellant later, he had the scene wrapped.
Next up were a few 360-degree spins and some connecting scenes. The latter were easy, but when its came to the 360s, Tyler had some mechanical challenges to overcome. Running on a grip setup with sticky Toyo Proxes R888 semi-slicks, and factoring in the Impreza’s notoriously-weak axles, he wasn’t sure how he’d fare.
He needn’t have worried though. In fact, the car performed so well that Tyler ran the sequence again just for the hell of it.
What’s the point of having stunt double friends if you can’t light them on fire and do donuts around them, right?
As it turns out, there is a lot more that goes into doing this safely than just stop, drop and roll.
A combination of fire retardant clothing, fire gel, more clothes, more gel, and a bit more gel to be safe.
The fire gel wasn’t just on Devin’s clothes, but also in his nostrils, ears, hair, and every other exposed region. People, don’t try this at home.
With the gag complete, the fire safety team extinguished the flames and Devin emerged smiling. Just another day in the stunt world, apparently.
With every other shot in the bag, all that was left to film was the finale. When Tyler first told me his plan to secure an I-beam to the ground and do the automotive equivalent of a skateboarding board-slide, I thought he was absolutely mad.
There was no mathematical equation or a stunt director on hand to choreograph the trick – Tyler did all by gut feeling.
And the final scene of the three-day shoot was worth the wait. Tyler didn’t mess about; he just sent it. Larry Enticer would be proud.The Car
The real hero of the film was Tyler’s trusty GC8. The car was originally built for Gymkhana GRID, but since that series fizzled out it’s been flogged at as many other events that Tyler can get it to.
With a 2.5-litre engine fed by a Garrett GT3076 turbocharger, the lightweight Subaru packs a solid 450hp. Getting that jam to the ground is a 6-speed DCCD transmission equipped with DCCD Pro, and 4D Engineering subframes are used front and rear. The wheels are Turbomacs from Fifteen52.
The car took Tyler’s Dangerzone beatdown like an absolute champ too. Sure, a few axles were sacrificed along the way and a strut tower blew out from the board-slide, but the Impreza is still ticking along.
Regardless of what you drive and what your dreams are, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to; Tyler is living proof of that. And even better, he’s just like you and me.