In mid 2011, Ford and Fuel TV launched a competition series called Octane Academy, something of a televised fantasy camp for action sports fans. Four camps would each be designed and run by YouTube darlings: Ken Block, Vaughn Gittin Jr., Tanner Foust and Brian Deegan. Thousands of fans and wannabe gearhead-gods alike submitted video applications for acceptance by the Ford drivers. Eventually each camp had eight hopefuls to compete against each other in courses designed to test their skill, nerve, courage and ability to learn quickly. The prize for surviving each camp was a custom Ford vehicle, and the opportunity to team up with their Camp Leader for a grand final “to become the champions of Octane Academy and win an exclusive prize – plus bragging rights for life.”
Each of the camps took place at different locations with widely varying contests. Camp Deegan was at the Metal Mullisha Compound in California and the prize was a Ford F150 SVT Raptor. Next was Camp Block in Snowbird, Utah with a Fiesta on the line. Camp Gittin Jr. was in Willow Springs, California and had a Mustang up for grabs. Last was Camp Foust at the Port of Los Angeles and a Focus ST up for grabs. The one constant throughout the series was affable and unflappable host Todd Richards. He seamlessly bridged the gap between the contestants and the viewers.
This series was primarily geared towards to the eighteen to twenty-nine year old (Millennials) demographic group, to which I most certainly do not belong. However, as a fan of Rally and RallyCross, I watched anyway. All camps featured challenges that required some driving skill while others didn’t. The general explanation was that non-driving/riding tests were to discern who had heart and physical prowess. Some of those challenges reminded me more of MTV’s Jackass than anything but apparently Millennials love fist pumps, back flips, dudes in drag, mud, puke and pain. Grown-up gearheads like me, waited patiently for the lucky competitors to get behind a steering wheel. That’s where this series started to look up and the demands set by the Ford drivers weren’t exactly low. I say this as someone with no motocross, rally, drift or stunt driving experience. Those of you with such abilities can feel free to nitpick. In the meantime, I’ll remain impressed with the courses designed by the show’s stars. Some of the kids went with little or no chops to speak of, and at least two per episode walked away having learned something.
I must commend the “motorsports kings” for their hands-on treatment of the young charges. In YouTube clips, we saw the professional drivers open up to dispense wisdom and enlightenment. It was the experience of a lifetime for the contestants. They had an opportunity to learn from their idols and even earn some respect. However, in the finale on Monday May 21, 2012 at 11:00 pm EST, it’s time for the young guns to give back. I have no idea what the grand prize will be, but my DVR is set. Race car drivers have incredibly difficult schedules. Even if there’s a second season of Octane Academy, who knows if it’ll be these four men involved? If Octane Academy’s an anomaly or phenomenon is anybody’s guess. For now, let’s just enjoy the shouting, fist-pumping, grunting, gesticulating and hooning outrageousness…because it’s fun.
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