‘License to Thrill’: What Happens When Gearheads Race for a One-of-a-Kind Prize

Lexus 'License to Thrill'
'License to Thrill' competition challenges racers to go fast for the chance to go home with a new Lexus IS 500.Courtesy Image

This article was produced in partnership with Lexus

License to Thrill is not your standard high-octane car race starring the usual cast of cool kazillionaire F1 types. This is a real race, in a pure performance sport sedan, devised for the everyday driver—pushing the pedal, sweating behind the wheel, pining for the prize.

Waiting at the end of this finish line is something way more thrilling than “points” handed out over an interminable championship season. In this case, the victor wins something tangibly huge: early dibs on the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance.

Sound like a race you’d like to watch? You’re in luck. The folks at Lexus filmed the competition—documentary style.

Red sports car to the left of three racers standing on podium
Courtesy Image

License to Thrill follows 14 amateur racers as they vie for a shot at owning the brand’s first-ever IS 500, before anyone else. The Lexus 2022 IS 500 encapsulates high-end comfort and performance—the latter thanks to a naturally aspirated five-liter V8 cranking 472 horsepower and 392 pound feet of torque¹ that eschews contemporary sotto voce for sonorous resonance.

The performance car community has a nearly unquenchable thirst for raw power, unbridled speed, and brawny grip. It was for this audience that Lexus crammed its hulking V8 under the hood. For fellow addicts with a need for speed, it’s an epic boost.

The drivers of License to Thrill come from a variety of backgrounds. What binds them all together? True gearhead status, and a fierce love of motorsport and car culture. The film follows the competitors from pro training through three rounds—capturing their passion for performance, experience at the track, and every intention to snag the prize.

Before Lexus waved the green flag and let the 14 competitors drop the hammer, racers were given a bit of tutelage at a driving course led by professional driver Townsend Bell, as well as Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Teltiz from the Lexus Motor Sports team.

Front end grille of red sports car
Courtesy Image

After instructions on racing lines, braking zones, and safety, the drivers then tested their mettle, each pushing hard to lay down the fastest lap.

Every driver’s story and journey is compelling, but in the end, only five drivers reach the winner’s circle and are afforded the opportunity to purchase a Lexus IS 500 before the rest of us. Spoiler alert: In a surprise twist, the brand hands over the keys to the driver with the fastest time of all—gratis. It’s the ultimate trophy.

From screeching start to razor-tight finish, the film is a thriller with all the drama of a great reality game show, but designed for car lovers of all stripes.

We won’t wreck the fun, but as the engines rev and the competition unfolds, we’ll tell you this much: License to Thrill is an aptly named, edge-of-your-seat ride.

Still have a need for speed? Check out the IS 500 in action at the License to Thrill documentary on Lexus.com.

Don’t miss our full review test driving the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance, Q&A with IndyCar Driver JR Hildebrand, and inside look at racing in a track experience for the first time.


  1. Ratings achieved using the required premium unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher. If premium fuel is not used, performance will decrease. Performance figures are for comparison only and were obtained with prototype vehicles by professional drivers.

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