AutoMatters & More: Red Bull Global Rallycross LA and “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”

Red Bull Global Rallycross Los Angeles Doubleheader

Red Bull Global Rallycross combines the most exciting parts of auto racing on pavement, on dirt and in the air. This past weekend, the show came to the Port of Los Angeles to contest the eighth and ninth rounds of the Championship.

The course — basically a loop within a loop — was great for spectators. The cars passed by twice each lap.

The course was very tight, which made passing difficult. That prompted desperate moves. Almost all the turns were to the left, which was hard on the tires. The track surface — thanks to the dirt — was slippery. As the photos suggest, collisions were frequent and often spectacular.

The racing is divided into several short races: qualification heats, semifinals and finals, which promotes plenty of close racing action.

There are two divisions: 600-horsepower, all-wheel-drive Supercars; and Lites. The bodywork, emblazoned with colorful racing graphics, covers what are essentially tube-framed, purpose-built racecars. As one crewmember said, the bodies are sticker holders. The cars do not need the bodywork to run, but the sight of torn and broken pieces of fiberglass as the races proceed certainly adds to the excitement.

The fans are welcome to walk through the series paddock, to get a close-up look at the cars. After all the races are over, the broken fiberglass bodywork is removed, revealing the cars’ tube frames underneath. Several lucky fans walked away with some great racing souvenirs.

A noteworthy feature of the LA races was a sturdy, yet temporary tunnel that was built so that the track could cross over itself. As usual, there was a jump, which allowed the cars to get plenty of air.

The once-per-race Joker Lap shortcut the course, intentionally giving the drivers an advantage when they chose to take it. That brought the cars closer together on the track.

The stars of the show are an international group of drivers. One is Ken Block — an Internet sensation known for his spectacular videos, where he drifts his rally cars in carefully choreographed and precisely executed series of slides through buildings, and around moving motorcycles and planes.

Nelson Piquet Jr. was this year’s Formula E series champion, and the Long Beach e-Prix winner.

Located within the busy Port of Los Angeles, the setting was picturesque and unique. As the racers raced alongside the waterfront, sailboats and commercial vessels passed by. Spectators stood on the decks of the nearby Lane Victory.

Tanner Foust is well known for his starring role on the U.S. version of “Top Gear.”

Heading into LA, Ken Block seemed to have a commanding lead in the Championship battle, but he suffered an uncharacteristically bad weekend that was marked by repeated crashes, knocking him out of contention in both races.

In contrast, Team Andretti’s Scott Speed and Tanner Foust have overcome the initial teething problems of their VW Beetles. Scott easily won both of the feature races, with Foust placing second in Saturday’s final and then third on Sunday’s. It was VW’s first one-two series finish. Michael Andretti was thrilled.

There are two events left. The next one will be another doubleheader in Barbados on the weekend of Oct. 3, followed by the finale in Las Vegas on Nov. 4 during the SEMA Show week. I’ll be there to cover it for you. If you will not be attending in person, watch the races on NBC Sports.

“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”

The first “Maze Runner” film introduced us to a group of young people who had been inexplicably trapped — some for years — in a secluded rural community. The only hope for escape seemed to be through a large, deadly maze. The film was visually spectacular in its portrayal of an often bleak and gritty reality, but the story was difficult to understand.

“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” corrects that deficiency. The suspense is intense, with an unrelenting series of plot twists and betrayals that have dire consequences.

The set design is magnificent in its portrayal of a decaying, utterly devastated city. The level of detail in the toppled buildings is incredibly realistic and foreboding. This is one of those rare films that I could not stop thinking about after I left the theater. It is both disturbing and entertaining.

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Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #402