Red Bull GRC pulls no punches in its quest to build tracks that deliver nonstop thrills for drivers and fans alike.
Changing surfaces, tight corners and the ever-unpredictable joker lap are all key elements of an unforgettable rallycross course. These, however, are just a few of the factors that Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) considers in developing some of the most unique and exciting tracks in motorsports.
Unlike most motorsports venues, GRC courses pop up in a week in spots such as vacant parking lots, air fields and city streets – then disappear as quickly as they were built. What enables them to literally lay the foundation for top-notch racing?
Red Bull GRC founder and COO Chip Pankow launched the series in 2010 and took over course design in 2013. “I try to draw on my experiences as a driver and also an organizer, making sure that we have an awesome track for the drivers and a great experience for spectators,” he says. “Throughout the evolution of the series we’ve learned what produces the best racing and what works best from a safety standpoint.” Before the first rallycross car hits the start grid at the beginning of GRC season in May, the team has its work cut out for it as it sketches designs, configures computer-aided design (CAD) layouts, and figures in the many logistical components.
Are You Experienced?
Course designers work within the boundaries of each venue to figure out key elements, including the Armco metal barrier and strategic joker lap. “We want an entrance that flows naturally and doesn’t upset the cars on the non-joker line,” says Pankow. “For the exit, it’s important that the merge is safe. It’s similar in concept to a highway on-ramp. The cars should enter at a shallow angle and not directly into the racing line.”
The fan experience is equally critical. GRC races stand out due to short course lengths, which is usually under a mile, and track layouts that enable spectators to take in the action no matter where they sit. Serving fans is just as important as satisfying drivers. “We try whenever possible to make sure they can see all of the circuit,” says Pankow. “We try to place fan areas near the start-finish line, jump and joker lap.”
CAD for Atlantic City is used to survey and mark the course.
The idea behind rallycross is non-stop action, and we want to put fans in the thick of it.
Pankow and team use highly specialized motorsports materials, which are transported around the country for each race. Dirt, however, is sourced locally. The dedicated, world-class team of professionals travels to each event to ensure seamless course build.
The group of six track builders, three Armco fencing specialists, four structure specialists and four branding experts begins its work about a week before the race weekend. “We start by surveying the entire venue and marking where everything [will be] placed,” says Pankow. “This is accurate to one centimeter and comes directly from the venue CAD map. Then we begin installing the safety system – the Armco barrier and catch fence – dirt, timing loops and other safety equipment.” This is followed by paving and, ultimately, aesthetics.
Atlantic City GRC Course by the Numbers
The average course is 80 percent tarmac and 20 percent dirt. The trick is getting the two surfaces to work together. “I like to think of it as one big course since they have to flow together and work as a complete unit,” says Pankow. “The physicality of a venue helps determine some element placements, but [placement] also has to do with a variety of other factors, including track length and percentage of dirt.” Dirt placement, he says, must make sense in relation to the spectator areas, and tarmac/dirt transitions must be placed so that they don’t dust up too much.
As Red Bull Global Rallycross emerges as one of America’s best motorsport leagues, courses that challenge drivers and welcome spectators are a key to success. “The idea behind rallycross is non-stop action,” says Pankow. “And we want to put fans in the thick of it.”
The jump in Atlantic City required 350 loads of dirt and took three days to build.