AutoMatters+: Red Bull Global Rallycross 2015

Whether you watch in person or on television, there is nothing quite like the thrill of car rallying. Dirt flies as the rally cars scream and claw for grip, their adrenaline-charged drivers competing fiercely against each other.

In addition to racing on dirt, gravel or sand, Red Bull Global rallycross adds pavement, a signature jump and plenty of car-to-car contact for a truly unique motorsports experience. The modern-day gladiators do battle on purpose-built tracks in or near urban areas, to make it easier for fans to attend.

As a fan at a Red Bull Global Rallycross, you will have what amounts to an all-access pass. Have a seat in the grandstands as you watch and listen to the intense racing. Look at the exhibits. Walk through the pits and examine the cars from close-up, as the mechanics work on them. Strike up conversations with the crews and drivers, get some autographs or maybe even get your picture taken with your favorites at the driver autograph session. Be sure to pick up some of the very cool memorabilia and event merchandise. Needless to say, be prepared to spend the entire day.

Supercars

These heavily modified production vehicles produce around 600 ground-pounding horsepower, and are capable of near rocket-like, all-wheel-drive acceleration. Zero to sixty arrives in less than two seconds.

Supercar manufacturers include Ford (Fiesta ST), Subaru (WRX STI), Volkswagen (Beetle and Polo R), Hyundai (Veloster Turbo) and Chevrolet (Sonic).

GRC Lites

The purpose-built Lites are anything but, featuring 310 horsepower and all-wheel-drive. The emphasis in this, the official feeder series and training ground for the Supercars, is on driver skill. The drivers compete on the same courses as the Supercars.

The Competitors

Drivers come from a wide range of disciplines. Last year’s fan favorites in Supercars included Tanner Foust (rally and TV – Top Gear), Ken Block (rally, stunt driving and Internet videos), Nelson Piquet Jr. (Formula 1 and NASCAR), Scott Speed (Formula 1 and NASCAR), Rhys Millen (rally), Bucky Lasek (skateboarding sweep of the gold at X Games) and Emma Gilmour (New Zealand Rally Championship).

The Racing

The action takes place on dirt, gravel or sand; on pavement; and high in the air as they soar over the signature jump – often side-by-side, which makes for great photo ops. Factor in the course (everything from tight turns to straightaways) and moving chicanes (the other cars).

There are several short, high-intensity heats (semifinals, last chance qualifier and the final), which guarantees plenty of wild, door-to-door starts, turns, jumps and winner-take-all finishes. To keep things really interesting, there’s a Joker Lap where once per race the drivers shortcut the course, mixing up the racing order.

When drivers misbehave (jumping the start, overly aggressive driving or taking the Joker Lap more than once), they’ll have to pay a quick visit to the trackside penalty box.

Unlike in some forms of motorsports, big points swings can and do happen in Red Bull Global Rallycross. A driver could be on top of the standings one week, and then way down in the order after just a couple more events. It really is not over until it is over, as last year’s points battle proved.

Be sure to bring your camera. You will have plenty of great opportunities to take exciting pictures.

Dates & Places

Red Bull Global Rallycross returns for 2015 with an exciting 12-race, nine-city schedule. This will be the biggest season yet, beginning on May 31 in Tampa, Florida and culminating on November 4 with the season finale once again taking place at the foot of the High Roller at The LINQ – a 55-stories high, gigantic wheel with spectacular, panoramic views of Las Vegas.

In between there will be events at Daytona International Speedway (June 21), on an active military base (on July 5, location TBA), in Detroit (a doubleheader on July 25 and 26), in Washington, DC (August 15), in Seattle (August 30), in Los Angeles (another doubleheader event on September 12 and 13) and in Barbados (a doubleheader on October 3 and 4).

Whether or not you can be there in person, you will also be able to enjoy the racing action on TV, thanks to 14.5 hours of programming on NBC Sports. That’s up 4.5 hours from last year and, for the first time, GRC Lites will have their own broadcasts, airing weekdays on NBCSN.

For more information, including tickets and race results, visit www.redbullglobalrallycross.com.

As always, please write to AutoMatters@gmail.com with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters+ #369

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