Red Bull Global Rallycross New England

Imagine that you went to see your favorite band in concert.

They opened with 30 minutes of the best they’ve ever played. Then they left for an hour, came back for 30 minutes of playing that topped the first 30 minutes. Then they left for an hour. And two more times.

So, to fill in the down time, you tour the sparse lobby, but there’s not a lot to see more than once or twice. You go to buy a souvenir from the event: there’s really not much to buy. Go to Plan C, the filling of the stomach. Now completely full, but still somehow unfulfilled, there’s the realization that you’re bored while seeing your favorite band doing what you love that they do.

That’s how I felt watching the Saturday edition of the Red Bull Global Rallycross New England race at Thompson Speedway, in Connecticut. A grey, blustery day did not seem to encourage a huge crowd, which TV showed shrank for Sunday.

Don’t get me wrong here: the cars are wild to watch, noisy in a great way and super interesting to look at in the paddock. They throw up impressive amounts of dirt and catch big air over the jumps, accelerating at a blistering pace with their high horsepower mid-engines and four-wheel drive.

Running combo pavement/off-road tires from BF Goodrich, the tires are slicks with two sets of grooves running the circumference, with 45º cuts. The traction is pretty good and they can be smoked while braking on asphalt and throw up huge roostertails on gravel and dirt. They have to be made to last through practice, qualifying and the heats. New tires go on for the finals.

The Red Bull Global Rallycross New England show

Each car from the top division does a burnout by itself up to the start line, dragster-style. Tanner Foust wins this hands down with out of shape runs to the line. Entertaining. After the standing start, racing gets as frantic as anything you’ve ever seen. I’ve never attended a rally, but I have seen it on tv and have been to countless roadraces. If the mission is to stuff both into sub-minute laps for six laps (8 in the finals), then they have succeeded in spades. Throw in a water splash and you have it all. The racing show is pretty darned fine, the top class supported by the spec GRC Lite Ford races. That was a fine body-shedding, dirt-flinging, car-flying show as well.

The problem is all the downtime. Unfortunately, the cars need lots of attention between heats. Cars are used and abused, shedding fiberglass like it’s their Job1. The side-mounted radiator inlets for the mid-engines need to be cleaned. There are no front radiators as they would be blocked with goop in no time at all. However, the cars do tear up the dirt/gravel sections pretty well, and bulldozers move in to smooth the rubble.

Make the races 10-15 laps long, and now you’ve got my attention. Instead of the fans cooling their heels during the pauses, how about something interesting in the midway? RC cars on a similar track, or a bunch of GRC video simulators would make everybody happy, as would some decent souvenirs. Really Red Bull, this is the best you can do?

Teams present were impressive

Their paddock setups were a match for anything I’ve seen at any race. Top teams from other series’ are present: Andretti Rallycross VW, Bryan Herta Rallysport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Dreyer & Reinbold, and Core Autosport are involved, as is Subaru Rally USA and Red Bull Honda, and a few independents who are equally very good. Best transporter/setup was Andretti, which was too wide to fit it in this photo (they had 4 transporters for two cars), along with Red Bull Honda, whose canopy was all curved and looked like it had an auto dealer’s showroom roof. Stylish.

There are some very, very good drivers too, from F1, X Games, U.S. roadracing and European rallying. Colin Braun and Jon Bennett of Core Autosport helicoptered in around 5pm to compete here, straight from competing in the IMSA race at Detroit earlier in the day. Other team members substituted on Saturday; Braun and Bennett raced on Sunday in GRC Lites.

On this day, Andretti VW was dominant; Tanner Foust was visibly the best all over the track. Scott Speed was really good, and came second. There was action all over the place, and it seems any team or driver can win on any given day, but Tanner Foust had ‘em smoked in his Beetle today.

Tanner Foust, #34 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross
Scott Speed, #41 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross
Mitchell deJong, #24 Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE
Steve Arpin, #00 Loenbro Motorsports
Austin Dyne, #14 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Steve Arpin, #00 Loenbro Motorsports
Scott Speed, #41 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross
Chris Atkinson, #55 Subaru Rally Team USA
Mitchell deJong, #24 Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE
Patrik Sandell, #18 Subaru Rally Team USA

An assortment of pix from Thompson