If you are like me, the idea of sitting through a circular auto race like NASCAR or the Indy 500 is a bore. Watching a group of cars turning left around an oval, for hours, is just tedium. But not all races are built the same. Case in point, Red Bull’s Global Rallycross, GRC for short. A cross between road and rally racing, Red Bull GRC takes highly modified small-production cars—Ford Fiestas, Volkswagen Beetles, and the like—and pits them in fast-paced, low-lap heat races where drivers not only contend with full contact racing from other drivers, but also a track that throws in its own set of difficulties.
This year, Red Bull GRC’s 2015 season will open here in the Sunshine State. On May 30-31, the rally cars will rev to life on the seaside track in Fort Lauderdale’s Bahia Mar Resort and Marina, utilizing portions of the iconic Route A1A as part of the track. The weekend of races begins on Saturday, May 30, with gates opening at 11:30 a.m. and four hours of practice, with both GRC Lites and Supercar learning the intricacies of the track—and its jumps. Qualifying begins at 4:45 p.m., followed by five heats (1A-1C in Supercar, 1A-1B in Lites). On Sunday, May 31, the racing begins early. Gates open at 10 a.m., with heats beginning at 11:45 a.m., semifinals at 1 p.m., last chance qualifiers at 1:45 p.m., and finals beginning at 2:35 p.m. All said, this is a compact weekend of racing, with no shortage of horsepower and drama. A little confused about the race? Let me explain:
Red Bull GRC, even with its tabletop jumps, seems to have a closer connection to everyday driving, mainly because of the cars zipping around the track—aside from the sponsorship stickers plastered bumper-to-bumper, these cars look like they could be cruising I-95. But make no mistake, these compact racers are packing some serious heat: at just 2,500 pound, there is 600 horsepower under the hood, making these mini flamethrowers that can go 0-60 in 1.9 seconds, all while being tough enough to withstand 70-foot jumps. Seriously, these little burners are bad.
As for the race itself, well, these are more akin to hockey matches, where a bump and run is not so much an accident as it is a tactic—there is even a “Penalty Box” for drivers that are a little too overzealous on the track. The tracks, half-mile to mile long, depending on location, and take on a road course layouts, complete with chicanes, hairpins, and straightaways, with a bit of rally racing peppered in: tarmac gives way to dirt, as well as tabletop jumps, and other various obstacles.
The races take on a slightly different format from standard auto sport setups, opting for two days of heat races for both car classes, Supercar and GRC Lites. Racing consists of one or two rounds of heats, of four cars running six laps, with each heat earning championship points (up to three). The field is then combined to two groups (of equal size) for the semifinals—also six laps. The top three racers from each semifinal run will move onto the final heat, with four “at large” spots for the top finishers of the last chance qualifier run—a four-lap mad dash with all the cars that did not qualify in the semifinals. The final heat pits ten cars in a ten-lap race.
Races begin with a standing start, with racers given 30- and 10-second intervals to activate launch systems—including an anti-lag system—and start. The course has two routes in which the racers must take in a heat: the main route, and a “Joker Lap.” Each driver must take the Joker Lap once each race, but is up to the driver when to take. The Joker Lap shortens the overall length of the course, however, depending on the course layout, it may be rife with obstacles, making it much slower going.
The races are fast paced and intense, with each heat taking only a few minutes to complete. This means racers have to be on their game, with hair trigger responses, and formidable driving skills on a multitude of track styles. Red Bull GRC is not your everyday racing: it tests the limits of what these cars can handle, while being short enough to keep just about anyone’s attention span—this is the future of sport: short bursts of action digestible in 10 minute windows.
- Tickets cost $55 for two days, $30 for single day general admission. For more information, visit redbullglobalrallycross.com.
Photos and video courtesy of Red Bull Global Rallycross.