Stephan Verdier on Snake River: “The RS5 Was Absolutely Fantastic”

Screenshot from “Return to Snake River Canyon”

Thirty-eight years ago, the late Evel Knievel attempted the most daring jump of his life: shooting his Skycycle X-2 across Snake River Canyon in Idaho. The jump failed when a parachute deployed early, catching winds and sending it back to launch side, where it crashed at the bottom of the canyon.

This year, Audi decided to come back to Idaho, launching their new model RS5 by literally “launching” it over the canyon. To do it, they brought along renowned stunt driver and Global Rallycross Championship competitor Stephan Verdier, who currently sits seventh in series points and was more than happy to do a commercial during the series’ lengthy summer break.

The ad, entitled “Return To Snake River Canyon,” lasts two minutes and 53 seconds, and shows the new RS5 returning to fulfill Knievel’s legacy. After strapping in and speaking with his engineers, Verdier takes the car to its absolute limits on the wide open Idaho roads.

“I do commercials a lot—that’s the other thing I do when I’m not racing,” says Verdier, who lists GRC manufacturers Ford, Dodge, Subaru, and Hyundai among his other commercial credits. “You normally never see my face, but this one they actually wanted to see me. The reason they asked me to do the commercial is we do so many jumps in GRC! (laughs) So that’s why they wanted me there.

Screenshot from “Return to Snake River Canyon”

“The commercial was really fun. We went to Snake River, we shot for three days, if I remember. It was three days with a great director (Loni Peristere) and Bandito Brothers (the production company).”

The RS5 model debuted at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. The 4.2-liter V8 produces 450 horsepower, goes from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds, and is equipped with four-wheel drive, earning it Audi’s famed “Quattro” designation.

“The car was absolutely fantastic,” Verdier raves. “That was actually the first time I saw the RS5. The RS5 is one that I always wait to see, and when I came out and the commercial was for that car it was perfect.

“It was a fantastic car, and we pushed it hard. We really went super fast and in the shots you see the car going 150, 155 miles an hour the road. And that was actual speed, nothing was altered on the commercial when you see how fast the car was going.”

But such a quick car also needs to have stopping power, and the RS5 delivers there, too. “One of the cool things on the car are the rotors,” Verdier notes. “We have wave rotors on the car. (They) remove six pounds of rotating mass off the whole car.” As for the dual-shift electronic gearbox, “when you go through the gears, especially when you downshift, the car does a fantastic blip. Downshifting it is amazing.”

Screenshot from “Return to Snake River Canyon”

Verdier adds that he had to launch the car about 15 times over the course of the shoot. As for the big question—whether or not the car actually jumped? “We did actually jump the car,” he laughs. “That’s all I’m allowed to say.”

The Audi RS5 is available now for a base price of $68,900. Stephan Verdier will be back in racing action in the next Global Rallycross Championship round at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 29.

– Chris Leone



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