Red Bull Global Rallycross makes its debut in Indianapolis this weekend, July 8-9, at Lucas Oil Raceway. What is it? It’s probably some of the best racing one can watch live.
It’s basically rally racing on a small circuit, between half a mile and a mile in length, with a handful of cars at the same time. The races, like the rally races they’re based on, are over tarmac and dirt with a few jumps thrown in. The small venue allows spectators to be able to watch just about the whole race from one strategic point at the track. The races aren’t too long, either, so those with OCD or requiring frequent bathroom or vaping breaks won’t miss a minute of it.
The teams and the drivers are pretty approachable, too, with all the work done between each race heat under a canopy near the team’s truck. The teams are manufacturer based and sponsored, so fans of Fords, Subarus, VWs, and Hondas can cheer for this own and each automaker has a stand with their factory cars and parts. All of that makes Red Bull Global Rallycross one of the most interesting race series to spectate.
The cars are highly modified production vehicles. By that I mean that at some point these race cars started out as factory cars and somewhere under there is the factory chassis. But these are not your typical rally racers. These are race cars only and unlike rally cars are not street legal – the headlights are fake. There is no seat for the co-driver either, as one simply isn’t needed. The chassis and suspension system are designed to handle seventy-foot jumps – something not seen in most rallies.
There are differences under the hood, too. Less restrictive plates allow more power – around 600hp versus 320hp for rally cars. Combine that with 650lb-ft of torque which goes through a sequential transmission to all four wheels and you got a vehicle that does 0-60mph in under two seconds. Finally, because of the frequent bumping and grinding of Redbull Global Rallycross, radiators have been relocated to the back, which probably cuts down on trunk space.
The race weekend begins with three rounds of heat races, consisting of 3-5 cars and five laps each, run for up to seven points. The field is then combined into two groups of equal size for the six-lap semifinals, which are run for up to 10 points. The top four finishers from each semifinal transfer into the main event, giving their teams time to work on their cars while others continue to compete. All drivers who do not make it into the main event via the semifinals will compete in the four-lap last chance qualifier for the final remaining qualifying spots. Ten cars then compete in the 10-lap main event.
During each heat, each driver is required to drive through The Joker once, which is usually a shortcut through the circuit, sometimes with more challenging terrain. A Penalty Box is designed to deal with on-track infractions without having to red flag or restart the race. In the event of a jump start, rough driving, or joker lap infraction, offenders pull into a 50 meter lane off track, where they will be held until a track official releases them. In the event that an infraction takes place too late in the race for the Penalty Box to be used, a time penalty will be assessed.
Racing in between the above cars are GRC Lites. These are smaller, rear-engined, AWD cars. They are powered by 320hp Ford engines and resemble Ford Fiestas. They are all identical, made to spec. This really puts more emphasis on drivers’ skills rather than the cars and this series is equally entertaining to watch.
Like most things Redbull, this Global Rallycross is nonstop extreme action. It is very easy and entertaining to watch for adults and kids alike. While rally racing is cool, being a rally spectator somewhere in the middle of the woods or half way up the mountain isn’t for everyone. Here, the cars come to you and are all around you as opposed to just passing you by sideways.
After this weekend’s Indianapolis race, Redbull GRC comes to Atlantic City, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Check out Bradley’s Enthusiasts’ Guide to the Redbull GRC – it’s a few years old but still relevant. And go see it, bring your friends and kids. The whole experience is totally worth it.
Images copyright: Subaru Rally Team USA and Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017