Ever been to the races? Well, that probably depends. What kind of races are you talking about?
Horse racing? Yep. Been there, done that.
Bike racing? Briefly, from the comfort of a barstool in a streetside tavern.
Pig racing? Yes, I’ve even done that one.
When it comes to car racing, there are usually just a few American standards that come to mind: Indy car racing and NASCAR.
You’d think I’d be well-versed in both considering my dad has always loved Indy car racing and the fact that I lived in North Carolina for 17 years (where NASCAR is practically the state sport). I’ve never been to either, though, but I certainly would consider it.
I guess that’s why I barely read the email invitation to attend the Red Bull Global Rally Cross in Washington D.C. until I saw the words “high-intensity action” and read the description,
Featuring a jump and dirt/asphalt track, the race promises to be a thrilling one as the drivers race, slide and muscle their 600 horsepower vehicles (some accelerating from 0 – 60 mph in under 2 seconds) around hairpin turns and obstacles.
They had my attention. I thought it just had to be fun. And it was.
If you’re a bit of a racing novice like me, you might actually become a fan after you hear about my experience.
Family-Friendly Fun at Global Rally Cross
The invitation to attend the Red Bull Global Rally Cross came from BFGoodrich, who invited me to attend as a media guest. I was happy to go, but I knew it would be a much better experience if I could bring my husband and son with me.
While the biggest demographic in the crowd was young males (the drivers are actually as young as 12 years old!), I saw plenty of men, women, and kids at this free form event. The races occurred throughout the day with heats, semifinals, and finals between the “Lites” which, as the name implies, refers to lightweight super cars, usually driven by more junior competitors, and the “Supers” or the super cars which are the stars of the event.
The bleachers or grandstand is small as most people sit or stand during the short races and spend the rest of the time exploring food vendors, consumer booths, and the pits.
That’s right. You can walk right into the pits and watch crews and drivers prepare their cars for the races. The barrier between spectator and driver is very small and for kids looking to get up close and personal, they’ll get their chance.
Behind the Scenes at the Global Rally Cross
Even better than going behind the scenes at the Global Rally Cross was going behind the scenes with a personal tour guide named Andrew Comrie-Picard. A tour with Andrew, or ACP as he’s commonly called, was part of the BFGoodrich package and I had no idea what a treat I was in for.
As we walked along through the different pits, he pointed out a famous Swedish guy and some other famous skateboarding champion. I think someone more knowledgable would have freaked out. I was actually ribbing ACP while being completely unaware of his FULL FLEDGED SUPERSTAR status. Damn, I wish I’d taken a picture with him.
I did get a chance to meet the drivers, ALSO SUPERSTARS, from the Volkswagen team. Thank God I had my husband with me to tell me that Tanner Foust is pretty well known (he’s one of the stars of the U.S. version of Top Gear). All I can tell you is he is simply adorable.
Tanner gave us a tour of fellow driver Scott Speed’s vehicle revealing that while most of these rally cars have the shell of a recognizable vehicle, almost all of them have been completely rebuilt under that shell. Easy to believe since I know I can’t make a VW Beetle go 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds like they can.
The Global Rally Cross Race Itself
Here’s what we know: Global Rally Cross is a fun, family-friendly event. The drivers are usually young(ish), totally adorable males. And the sport is full of former daredevils picked from different forms of adrenaline-rush sports, like the X Games. As ACP put it, “as you age, you cage.”
But the race is the real star. The track is typically between half a mile and a mile in length featuring a mixture of dirt and tarmac, as well as a 70-foot jump.
If that jump sounds exciting, it’s because it is. That’s where the primary vantage points are. But my favorite vantage point was when ACP took us to the end of the track where we could watch the cars take their “Joker Lap” and make the hairpin turns (or NOT) just before the jump. As a bonus, we got sprayed with dirt and gravel and I took home plenty of souvenirs with me.
After several laps and a few missing parts here and there, the winner is declared. At the end of the day, it was Scott Speed who emerged victorious after the final Supercar race with my boy, Tanner, coming in third.
Honestly, it wouldn’t have really mattered who won. We just loved watching the races!
The Importance of BFGoodrich Tires at Global Rally Cross
What I took away from race day was more than an introduction to the sport. It was knowledge about the important of BFGoodrich tires. Here’s why: they are the only provider of tires at the Global Rally Cross.
That’s right. Every single car uses the exact same tires. There is no tire advantage at GRC. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. BFGoodrich has an entire assembly line set up to de-rim each tire and put a new tire back on the rim. It’s seriously impressive.
In addition to that, each tire is bar coded to ensure that each driver gets only the allocated set of tires that they need. No deflategate here!
In fact, these tires are specialty tires – relatively soft to the touch with the ability to be modified as needed to satisfy track conditioned. Raining? No problem. They simply cut grooves into the tires to help deflect the water and avoid hydroplaning.
But the coolest part? What the BFGoodrich Racing team learns at events like these are used to engineer better tires for the consumer.
Check Out the Action at the Next Red Bull Global Rally Cross
There’s some good news and bad news when it comes to the 2016 GRC racing season. The good news is that it’s not over yet! The bad news is there are only a handful of rally cross events left. If you have the chance to go, I encourage you to take the family for this rain or shine event (the mud only makes it more fun!) and get your soft entrance to the world of rally cross racing.