This weekend motorsport will return to Washington DC after a 12 year absence. Unlike the sports car race which took place on the streets of the capital city over a decade a go, this weekend's event will be the third round of the ever growing Red Bull Global Rallycross series.
To get an idea of what Volkswagen Rallycross DC will be like, I spoke to Bryan Herta. The owner of the Barracuda racing team in Red Bull GRC took part in the race back in 2002, making him the perfect person to get a perspective of round three of the 2014 Red Bull GRC season.
Dominik Wilde: With you taking part in the last race in DC, now owning a team in Red Bull GRC, your son racing in GRC Lites, what's your take on racing returning to the capital city?
Bryan Herta: I think it's fantastic. The last event really was good, but I guess maybe because it's in our nation's capital, in Washington DC, you know, everything seems to be very political and I remember there was a lot of people talking about all of the noise, there was concerns and the race just never came back and I don't know if it was because of those reasons or others but it was really a cool event, it was well attended and I think it's great that we're going back there with the Global Rallycross series. These cars being turbocharged and everything I thing they're probably a lot quieter than what the sports cars were so hopefully the residents are going to be a lot happier with that and racing in the shadow of all the monuments and historic DC buildings, I think it's emblematic of the progress the series is making and the type of venues and the type of places that the series is going, from even a year ago certainly from two or three years ago, you know you look at the schedule now and it's a proper schedule with proper venues, great cities.
Dominik Wilde: So it's certainly come a long way in the four years hasn't it really?
Bryan Herta: It really really has. From the very beginning everybody saw the promise and the potential and the series is really starting to fulfil that now and that's great, I think that's why you're seeing me and other people from outside of rally, from other forms of motorsports, trying to look closely at it.
Dominik Wilde: And do you think, with all that in mind, do you think that the new event's going to be more successful than the sports car event? Do you think it has the potential to stay a long while?
Bryan Herta: I think so. I think so because it's really tailor made for these type of urban venues. The footprint that the rally track takes is much smaller, doesn't take up as much space so set up, tear down, all those kinds of things are much easier and like I said, turbocharged cars so they've got a cool sound but they're not as loud and when we were there for sports cars, I was in a Panoz which was a big thumpin' V8 engine and certainly there you're nearby to a lot of local residents so the quieter nature of this type of racing I think is less likely to impact people living nearby. And it's a cool, younger form of motorsports, the demographic are young, the style of racing is very exciting, I think it's really tailor made for younger kids. My kids really love it, they love the series of heat races and qualifiers leading up to a final, so I think it'll do extremely well. In the short time I've been involved I have not been to an event that I didn't feel was successful and going to continue.
Dominik Wilde: There's so many racing series throughout the world but, at the end of the day, no matter whether it's open wheel or sports cars they're all a similar kind of thing whereas rallycross it's unique, it's different, it's got something special that other series don't have and that's good for attracting these sort of venues as well isn't it?
Bryan Herta: I think it is, they bring a really unique show into town, in a lot of cases going to a place like Washington DC is probably something that local folks there have never seen before and that's kinda cool and it brings it's own kind of buzz and interest.
Dominik Wilde: And as well you mentioned about the teardown, it's only going to be there for, what, two days as well so the impact on the city as well, it's going to be minimal really isn't it?
Bryan Herta: Yeah, that's the nice part. When you're in the venue you're kinda fully immersed, it's an open paddock so people can come in and they're encouraged to come see the cars and look around and there's DJs and music and food and all that kind of stuff but outside of the venue you're not gonna impact anybody.
Dominik Wilde: So it's good for everyone. The residents get their city, the event gets it's event. Sounds perfect, doesn't it?
Bryan Herta: Yeah I think so, it's just a different thing isn't it?
Dominik Wilde: Yeah, absolutely!
Bryan Herta: You can't really compare to the sports car race that was there or Formula One or IndyCar or anything else, it's really it's own form of sport.
Dominik Wilde: And with that it's also got so much potential as well. You see and hear all these things in the other series about problems and things going downhil whereas there's none of that with rallycross, the only was is up really for it, it seems.
Bryan Herta: You are right, you've hit the nail on the head. It's really exciting because everybody is so positive about it.
Dominik Wilde: There's a lot to be positive about! Just one last thing. I just wanted to ask you about your son Colton's racing, because he's doing the (GRC) Lites, how has that been going for him and how has it been for you watching him in the GRC Lites?
Bryan Herta: Well he's actually been racing in the USF2000 championship over here, that's his full season program, and he did the Lites cars for the first time at the X Games in Austin which was great. It was a shame he had a bit of a rough go, he had an engine blow up so he missed qualifying and the heat and had to start at the back in the Semi so he just missed making the final but from an experience standpoint he loved it and for me it was so cool to see. I mean, he's young, he's just 14 and he's never driven a car with a roof, he's never driven on the dirt, he's never been over a jump, any of those things. His first time was at the X Games and he got stuck right in and he was, on pace, certainly quick enough to make the final and maybe even compete for a medal but the racing, missing that full day really kinda cost him and he was never able to overcome it but it was a great experience.
Dominik Wilde: Does it not tempt you to have a go?
Bryan Herta: You know, I've actually thought I might just hop in it towards the end of the year. I've driven so many cool cars in various series over my career but never anything like a rally car. I've ridden in one but I haven't driven one yet so maybe later on this year if we get the chance we'll go out to test or something and I'll get a chance to hop in and drive. I would sure like to see what it's all about because the performance is pretty incredible out of these cars.
Images: Garth Milan, Brian Nevins, Alison Padron, Indycar Media, ffcars.com, gtplanet.net