Rallycross event on Belle Isle promises thrills
Detroit — Think of it as the X Games meets the 104-year old motor sport of rallying on Belle Isle this weekend.
Truck in about 100 big rig loads of dirt. Put it down on the IndyCar track on the island, leaving parts of the asphalt and concrete exposed to create a hybrid road, off-road course.
Set up a 190-foot long jump, that will send cars 20-25 yards through the air.
Green flag a standing start from a zero-to-60 in 1.9 seconds.
Send 600 horsepower, racing-rigged, factory production Chevrolet Sonics, Ford Fiestas, Subaru WRXs, Volkswagen Beetles and even Citroen DS3s from France around the circuit at top speeds of about 130 mph.
Add lots of door handle-to-door handle racing, an effort to provide significant fan access to the pits and some talented racers experienced at Formula One, NASCAR, motorcycle racing and even skateboarding and other extreme sports.
Get some frontline race teams like Andretti and Chip Ganassi involved, a title sponsor obsessed with motor sports, Red Bull, and let auto-related companies like Lowe’s, Cobalt Tools, Yokohama and AutoZone kick in some dough.
And secure national broadcasting on NBC.
It all adds up to some motor racing in Detroit: The United States version of Global Rallycross (GRC).
Local NASCAR and IndyCar fans will notice Global Rallycross is, well, different in the “X-treme.”
It is also a lot different from the first rally in 1911, when 23 cars that started at 11 sites in Europe all finished in Monte Carlo under the auspices of Albert I, Prince of Monaco.
“Rallycross is very different from any other motor sport that race fans in Detroit would have ever seen,” said driver Tanner Foust, the 2011 and 2012 Global Rallycross champion.
“It’s really motor sport for someone with attention deficit disorder, I think.
“We’ve got all the cool kinds of motor sport you can see in about three minutes, from one seat,” said Foust, who also is a host of the racing program “Top Gear.”
“So, you’ve got drag racing at the start. You have door-to-door racing, you have crashing and pushing and jumping, gravel racing and all of that on a course that is a tight little track.
“The cars are quick. You wouldn’t consider them fast. But the speed at which they get up to speed is really fast.”
Unique to this Global Rallycross event is the use of part of Detroit’s IndyCar track, Foust said.
“We get to come to Motor City USA and bring this really young motor sport right into the backyard of the fans there,” he said.
With competition virtually in the shadow of the two United States manufacturers, motor racing in Michigan always brings a bit more of an edge to the competition, whether in Detroit or Brooklyn.
Global Rallycross started in 2010 as a motor sport component of the X Games. The last two years, with national broadcasting, the series has emerged.
The first races in Detroit — a Saturday and Sunday doubleheader, like IndyCar — are important to building the brand.
“Detroit is a stop we had an idea of on our calendar for this year,” said Colin Dyne, chief executive officer of Red Bull GRC. “We felt it was important to go to the Motor City and race there, and we made it happen.”
The drivers offer an unusual assortment of resumes.
“We have actions sports heroes in our series — Ken Block (skateboarding, snowboarding and motorcross), and Tanner Foust (most decorated driver in X-games history) and Brian Deegan (freestyle motorcross) — and Scott Speed (Formula One, NASCAR) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (Formula One, NASCAR),” Dyne said.
“We have a standing start. In our final race, we start three-abreast in the first row so the cars will be racing extremely fast into the first turn.
“We like to say, you know, ‘If it ain’t rubbing, it ain’t racing.’ ”
The challenge is to bend the available design, mechanics, technology and driving toward the highest speed attainable, within the constraints of the financial resources.
Asked to describe the exhilaration for a driver, Foust said. “Learning a track quickly and getting the feeling of getting a turn right.
“It sounds strange, but it’s difficult to get every corner absolutely right, every time. I think it’s pretty gratifying when it all comes together.”
RED BULL GLOBAL RALLYCROSS
Saturday-Sunday, Belle Isle, Detroit
TV: NBC — 2 p.m. Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $35 daily, children 12 and under free with adult admission
10 a.m.: Gates open
11 a.m.: Supercar warmup
11:10 a.m.: Lites warmup
12:15 p.m.: Supercar semifinals
1:20 p.m.: Supercar last chance qualifier
2 p.m.: Supercar final
2:40 p.m.: Lites last chance qualifier
3:25 p.m.: Lites final
4:30 p.m.: Driver autograph session
10 a.m.: Gates open
10:40 a.m.: Lites qualifying
11:15 a.m.: Supercar qualifying
12:15 p.m.: Lites heats 1A-1B
12:45 p.m.: Supercar heats 1A-1C
1:25 p.m.: Lites heats 2A-2B
2:25 p.m.: Supercar semifinals
3:05 p.m.: Lites last chance qualifier
3:30 p.m.: Supercar last chance qualifier
4 p.m.: Lites final
4:35 p.m.: Supercar final
5:30 p.m.: Driver autograph session