The term ‘test drive’ can be considered words signifying an exploratory trip. Through an actual automotive test drive, we engage ourselves in a way no virtual experience can replicate (It‘s also hard to go to your physical work location in the Ford Mustang you raced in Need for Speed). The tactile sensation of pressing the steering wheel for the first time, the initial press of the accelerator and the first sound of the vehicle’s engine is an opportunity that allows many of us to indulge ourselves in a different strata of existence. Though most of us only explore the experience of a test drive when we need to purchase a vehicle, a contest recently concluded by BMW welcomed test drive enthusiasts to compete.
BMW’s Ultimate Driver launched earlier this year with the grand prize to test drive every new BMW model introduced in 2014. A promotion for the new BMW 2 Series coupe, the Ultimate Driver challenge attracted 7,000 applicants through a multi-layered campaign. The first part of BMW’s Ultimate Driver used social media and an interactive simulation called EngineDare to place participants on a virtual lap. EngineDare encouraged precision and keen decision-making in order to advance to the next round.
Reducing the 7,000 to just 40 finalists, the virtual world became real as they were required to undergo a judged track day presided by the BMW brand ambassador Jake Humphrey and Andy Priaulx, driver of the company’s DTM program. Speed and precision were evaluated as each finalist put the BMW 2 Series Coupe through its paces in their quest for the ultimate prize in the Ultimate Driver match-up. Wheeling a BMW 2 Series Coupe through the competition, the 40 finalists were eventually narrowed to a single winner. At the end, Duncan Smart triumphed with the crowned of BMW’s Ultimate Driver.
While driving every BMW released in 2014 is a superb prize for the driving junkie, the stakes of the BMW Ultimate Driver are not as high other auto manufacturer-based driving competitions. Since 2008, the Nissan GT Academy has recruited Gran Turismo gamers into actual race cars for races like the 24 Hours of Dubai. At this year’s Le Mans race, Lucas Ordóñez and Wolfgang Reip are Nissan GT Academy winners who will drive the experimental ZEOD RC. Obviously, Nissan and BMW have found the wealth of virtual driving talent that can translate nicely to competitive, real-world test drives.