Recipe for X-Cake: Take popular small cars, like Ford Fiestas, Hyundai Velosters, Subaru WRXs, and automobiles of that ilk. Shoehorn in, say, 600 horsepower, then lighten (thank you, carbon fiber) and trick out each car to within an inch of its life so that it resembles its nameplate only in shape and moniker. Add drivers from the far corners of the globe, wheelmen (and wheelwomen) known well to X-Games devotees and YouTube watchers – Tanner Foust, Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, Rhys Millen, the aptly-named Scott Speed. Let them loose in parking lots with serpentine courses and occasional dirt jumps to go at insane speeds, with acceleration in the unheard-of range – zero to sixty in 1.9 seconds. Go like hell for maybe six laps then chill over a Red Bull till the next heat starts. The top two winners of their heats advance. Basically, other than a few wild-card slots in the finale, it’s lose and go home, win and go on. Repeat. That, my friend, is the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship (“GRC”).
Sound like fun? Try it from inside one of these bullets. Instructions are simple: wear a fireproof racing suit; pull on full-face helmet; slither in to an implausibly tight space; strap yourself in so that you’re still able to breathe, a little anyways; hang on; and try not to toss your cookies as the driver shows you that the shortest distance between two points may be a straight line but, in GRC land, getting there sideways, and whipping side to side, provides far more entertainment for the crowd.
You might call them “angry little cars” but then, with all of that power and speed and agility, they’re more like rocket sleds on elastic rails And what a great concept to bring racing to the neighborhood; not on a purpose-built circuit or huge tract of land where viewers see but bits and pieces, but in a parking lot near you that’s been turned into today’s venue – typically with a surface now comprised of 70% asphalt and 30% dirt — where you can see much of the ½- to one-mile course from every vantage point. And borrowing a trick from ice hockey, miscreants during the scramble are forced to pull into a side area and wait the assessed delay before rejoining the race – no stopping the race in this series. Spectators want speed and they want it now!
The year’s series started in May in Barbados (the location which qualifies the event as “global”), went on to Austin then Washington, D.C. in June, followed by New York and Charlotte in July, Detroit and Daytona in August, Los Angeles then Seattle in September with the finale in Las Vegas early in November. (For more details, see www.redbullglobalrallycross.com.
The idea behind GRC came from Brian Gale and Chip Pankow, who founded GRC in 2009, and it quickly became a popular action-sport, X-Games-style motorsports attraction with stops in the United States and at least one other country. Following Colin Dyne’s purchase of the GRC series in 2012, the marketing guru in 2014 snared Red Bull as the main corporate sponsor, a match made in heaven as the GRC series seems like it runs on the juice.
Peruse the list of drivers and cars and you’ll see lots of familiar names, like the aforementioned Ken Block (Ford Fiesta), Tanner Foust (VW Polo), Rhys Millen (Hyundai Veloster), Travis Pastrana (Subaru WRX STI) and Scott Speed (VW Polo). And the distaff side of GRC racing is represented well by Australian drifting pro Sarah Burgess (Chevy Sonic) and New Zealander rally veteran Emma Gilmour (Hyundai Veloster).
This is an exciting and very fast-moving sport, for some a very welcome change from the ovals of old or even the road courses where viewers are limited to seeing just a small part of the action. There is good footage of the experience in this video from Barbados. For another entertaining film, with GRC competitor Rhys Millen on the roads around Washington, D.C. and on the track, click here.
To read more about the dates and locations, and to purchase tickets (which at some tracks start at under $30 for one-day general admission on day one of a two-day event), visit this site. GRC events also are broadcast live on the NBC networks.