The Atlantic City race weekend last season was kind of different for me. Okay, I’d been to a few Red Bull Global Rallycross events over the last three seasons and all had been pretty different from one another – it’s one of the series’ biggest selling points. Daytona 2014…Washington DC 2015… and now, Atlantic City 2016.
The only August round of the 2016 Red Bull GRC calendar was the championship’s first visit to Atlantic City – and mine too as it turns out; but I wasn’t there to be a tourist. I had a job to do, if you can even call it that.
As soon as we arrived in Atlantic City – and by ‘we’ I mean myself, Matt and Josh, two friends who were also working at the event that weekend who I was staying with/getting in the way of – we headed straight to the track. About that tourist comment – that wasn’t going to matter, I was about to get a pretty unique view of the city anyway.
So that evening a street parade was planned. This would see the police close nearly two miles of roads between Bader Field, the site of the race track, and the Boardwalk where an press conference and autograph signing session was due to take place.
After I’d said my hellos and got acquainted with the venue, Red Bull GRC’s media director Chris, who I was working with that weekend, and I met up to discuss the plan for the weekend. I had to be at the Boardwalk to capture some footage that evening, but walking two miles in a city I’d only been in for two hours wasn’t exactly smart.
Luckily, I found myself a ride. No, it wasn’t Uber, and it wasn’t a taxi either – although it was orange.
Before I knew it, I was sat alongside Steve Arpin in his Chip Ganassi Racing M-Sport Ford Fiesta ST rallycross car, and armed with a number of conveniently-placed GoPros – Perks of the job…or something like that.
So I’m sat in a surprisingly comfy seat with plenty of legroom – at first this felt somewhat better than my best mate’s Fiesta back in the UK. There was just one big difference…
…okay, two. There was no air-con and it was bloody roasting!
But yeah, the other difference – We were given the signal to leave and Steve fired up the 600 horsepower engine. That certainly reminded me that this was no one litre EcoBoost shopping cart, and I’m pretty sure that even now, months later, my ears haven’t recovered, Not that I’m complaining.
We were off. Kevin Eriksson in front, Nelson Piquet Jr. behind, and despite the average speed of about 20 miles per hour, this would turn out to be one of the most fun drives in a long, long time.
Pulling out of Bader Field, the convoy of 11 Red Bull GRC Supercars and 12 Lites cars, crawled onto a busy dual carriageway, passing countless cars as what felt like all of Atlantic City ground to a halt. We were soon crossing Inside Thorofare and heading straight into the heart of the city.
Now at this point it’s probably a good time to say that we should’ve behaved ourselves. We were on public roads after all. Oops.
In between Facebook live streaming and video call to Steve’s wife back home in North Carolina, we found ourselves dropping back on more than one occasion, giving us the perfect opportunity to stretch the legs of the Fiesta. Doing zero to 60 miles per hour in less than two seconds on a track is special, but on a public road? It’s mind blowing! At one point, I was even shifting gears. Being used to not-so-great road cars at the time the solid, sequential shift was something new, radically different, and extremely satisfying – I was finally a racing driver! In my mind…
The Boardwalk approached and we gathered outside a seaside hotel before making our way up a ramp onto the wooden boards. Tourists looked on in shock, amazement, confusion, and astonishment as 10,320 horsepower roared past. People were taking pictures, waving, one kid even leaped into the air screaming as Steve planted hit foot to the floor, letting the Fiesta’s turbocharged powerplant purr.
Before too long though the noise quietened as the fleet of race cars parked up by the beach.
There I did what needed to be done, yadda, yadda…You’re not interested in that are you? So, fast forwarding to the ride back – yes, I even hitched a ride back. I wish commuting was always like this.
This time the journey was a lot quicker. We didn’t stop as often as we had to on the way to the boardwalk. In fact, there was only one memorable pause that I do remember. We could tell something was going on from the commotion over the radio, but we had no idea until three police bikes and a police car raced past. When we caught up we saw that someone had tried to join in the parade in his Hyundai Sonata. Okay, he probably didn’t intend to join in, but he certainly got in the way!
We were now metres away from the gates to Bader Field and the end of our ‘different’ day in the office, but the #00 Eneos M-Sport Ford Fiesta had one last trick up its sleeve.
The entrance to the venue was a 90 degree right hander, the perfect place to find out if the handbrake was working. With barely a touch, the car whipped into a perfectly-executed slide. Even the police didn’t mind a face full of dust on that occasion!
It was an unforgettable experience. But you see, I knew I’d be riding in a Red Bull GRC car that weekend – this wasn’t it…
Watch the the video below: