We’re no strangers to working around the clock, but if you’re going to do an all-day work trip, you want it to be worthwhile. We’re well used to supporting our friends at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Europe for a 24-hour stint – as we’re preparing for again at this weekend’s Le Mans – but our recent visit to the team’s incredible Cologne facility was an equally satisfying feat of endurance!
We hadn’t graced the doors of the Marsdorf factory since February 2020, so it was a real pleasure to dust off the passport, search for the EU plug adaptor and make the comparatively short journey across the Channel. Of course, quite a bit has gone on since that last trip! For the sake of our own sanity, we’ll gloss over the agenda-delaying queue to get through border control.
A grey overcast welcome didn’t cloud the magnitude and mystery of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Europe facility. You can’t help but wonder what is going on in the myriad rooms and corridors that complete the labyrinthine factory. There never seems enough time in a day trip to truly explore the facility, and this occasion was no different as we were on a tight schedule of which even the Le Mans 24 Hours organisers would be envious.
In support of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s participation in the iconic La Sarthe race, we were tasked by TOYOTA Motor Europe to storyboard and direct four videos to premiere during the race week. The project was in collaboration with the event organisers Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to be promoted across their digital channels.
Working in partnership with the film agency ETX Studio, our mission in Cologne was to capture the footage for the first video focused on the team’s highly impressive driving simulator. Given that once you’re inside the TGR-E factory you are strictly prohibited from taking any photos or videos, you can imagine that access to the simulator and any other rooms within the facility are very much limited to invited guests only.
The simulator room is tucked away in a dark corner of a much bigger space, which in itself doesn’t sound that impressive. However, that much bigger space happens to be a secretive museum home to some of Toyota’s greatest competition cars from over five decades of racing. From record-breaking Le Mans cars to extreme Dakar vehicles, and iconic rally cars to incredible looking F1 machines, it’s a motorsport-enthusiast’s dream.
What makes it more impressive is that it’s not open to the public, therefore you stand there with all these awesome machines in front of you and no one else to compete for the same space or views. If you haven’t already checked it out, you can take a virtual tour here to give you a sense of the magic that lives underneath a giant wind tunnel.
A few short steps away from the mightily impressive looking GT-One Le Mans car, and via a very heavy and thick door, you find yourself in the ultra hight-tech and modern simulator room. The front half of a TS050 HYBRID monocoque sits on top of some imposing robotic arms with a giant curved screen in front of it, and a large computer and engineering room behind it.
Not only do we get to experience this facility in the flesh, but we also get an absolute treat of a three-time Le Mans winner sat behind the wheel providing us with a commentary of a lap around the 13.626km circuit! That person is of course none other than current Vice Chairman of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Europe Kazuki Nakajima. Friendly, approachable, polite, knowledgeable, patient… we could go on, but in short, he was an absolute delight and pleasure to work with.
While the three gentlemen from ETX Studios operated so incredibly efficiently, setting up and dismantling cameras in the blink of an eye, our role was to brief Kazuki on the script, ensure he was comfortable with what was being asked, lead the interviews, and make sure we had the right shots and right camera angles that were going to complete an end-product we could all be proud of. You don’t get many opportunities to be in this environment, so it was important we captured everything we needed… plus more.
Kazuki oozed professionalism and was a natural in front of the camera, which made our lives a whole lot easier. We were also fortunate enough to get 30 minutes with Race Engineer Mathieu Galoche, an engaging personality who has, having previously been at Porsche, achieved so much already in his short career. Not as used to being interviewed in front of a camera, we had a job to do to ensure he felt relaxed and comfortable, of which he very quickly did so.
Just like that, three hours after we began filming in the simulator, our work for the day was done. ETX packed their bags as proficiently as they had unpacked them, we shared a final word with Senior Communications Coordinator Sebastian Klein who we have worked closely with for several years, and back out of the heavy door we went.
A punctual, on-agenda, and successful day. Shame the same couldn’t be said about the flight home…
After a couple of weeks of editing, finding suitable b-roll footage, and pulling out the appropriate interview footage from the hours collected, the video went live on schedule and with approval and commendation from all parties involved.
You can watch the final video here.
This Cologne trip catered for one of the four videos we were tasked with creating, therefore just a week later we packed our bags and went to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium to capture the remaining footage. More on that in part two…