Giant billboards and fancy TV ads with sophisticated CGI grab attention but Toyota wanted a much bigger and bolder platform to promote the handling qualities of its 86 coupe, the descendant of the legendary Hachiroku AE86 of the 1980s. It wanted to send out a message that could be seen from space.
That’s how a world champion drift king came to burn rubber around a skidpan to ‘paint’ the car’s now-familiar 86 emblem which shows a stylised ’86’ and also depicts four wheels sliding sideways in a drift!
The objective was to leave tyre tracks which would be large enough to be seen from an orbiting satellite. This was not simply a matter of driving a fast car in circles to smear ‘donuts’ on the ground. It called for precision planning, for the driver, the camera crew and the team plotting the exact time at which the satellite would pass overhead to capture the image.
The challenge recruited the best man in the business for car control, Fredric Aasbo, a Formula Drift World Champion. He tackled the task at the wheel of his Icom Toyota Express Service 86-X, a unique competition version of the 86 powered by a 3.4-litre turbocharged straight-6 engine and tuned to produce up to 1,150 bhp.
“When I was told about the project I thought, ‘Is this for real?’ then it was, ‘Heck yeah, let’s do it!’” he said. He executed the design on the 137-metre diameter steering pad at the Millbrook proving ground in England, working in centimetre-perfect synchronicity with two road-going 86 cars.
“Drifting is controlling a car that is essentially out of control,” Aasbo explained, “but this was the first time I had used my car as a paintbrush. It was epic and the highlight of my year.”
The production team collaborated with the aeronautics and space giant Airbus to schedule a high resolution image of the completed 86 logo from one of its twin Pleaides satellites, circling in space, 800 kms above the earth. Experts at the National Geo Centre helped calculate the precise time at which the satellite and 86 logo would be in perfect alignment.
The Donuts from Space project has been captured in a short film that was presented on YouTube.