Oh I do like a Red Bull by the seaside!
“I really like that hoody. With the sun and the two bulls coming in like that.”
Sometimes a simply innocent sentence can set the tone for the day. It’s not a particularly surprising observation, given that it was made within twenty minutes of entering the Red Bull Speed Jam, but perhaps the reason it epitomises the experience was who was wearing the oh so desirable garment. But you’re just going to have to wait…
Go Go Go…
Having only received the email with less than 12 hours to go, I was face with an almighty scramble to simultaneously unpick my plans and pray that train tickets weren’t about to bankrupt me. With crisis’ avoided thanks to a surprisingly understanding friends and a recently discovered student card, I was set for a day of unadulterated Red Bull love. Maybe word had reached them that I enjoyed my day with McLaren. But here we go back into the comforting surrounding of the fabled entertainment carriage(and yet again the promise of ‘entertainment’ was not provided via dancing grid girls), and as I crossed under the Severn I considered that this day would definitely under close scrutiny, something unthinkable a week ago. Last weekend I heard a Formula One engine live for the first time, seen a Formula One car driven live for the first time and seen my first Formula One driver in the flesh. Red Bull may have a lot to live up to, although they already have quite a significant ace up their sleeve with my favourite driver, Mark Webber, being in attendance.
A brief return to McLaren (I haven’t turned, I promise), a streak of rocket red was the first indication that there was something more exciting going on in Cardiff Bay than a trip to the coast. Having my eyes bathed in their particular colour of victory last weekend I was ready for the soothing tones of navy, red and yellow, but it wasn’t until I had successfully navigated my way to the Bay that I spotted my first charging bull. Penned in securely behind a fence, I got as close as I dared to marvel at the hand painted artistry before edging closer to the sea to see another staple of the Formula One weekend. Jake Humphrey, in a spectacular coup by Red Bull, would be presenting the day alongside Lalya Anna-Lee and giving the lucky spectators a taste of Formula One, BBC style. Watching his subtle and oft fruitless wrangling of Eddie Jordan had become an integral part of my race weekend, and as his familiar voice crackled through the speakers I spotted the even more familiar no. 83 NASCAR Daniel Ricciardo would be smoking up later.
What’s more British than a day trip to the seaside with a waterproof jacket in tow? Queuing. They may be an Austrian company, but the racing team has enough Anglophilic influence to keep us Brits safety within the nation’s comfort zone. Setting up for the long haul a quick perusal of Twitter informed me I was in the queue with some of my followers, and by the time I handed over my golden ticket, had my bag checked and was tagged it took a matter of minutes to find one of them. So with fellow Red Bull Factory Tour Alum, @xxvickiixx, and @kellyashbridge we embarked on a grand tour of the newly transformed Roald Dahl Plass. With the sky overhead threatening to officially signify the end of the lacklustre summer we’ve been suffering, our wanderlust saw us encounter the car that would be taking to the Monaco-esque circuit that had taken 48hrs to construct. Just missing out on the chance to slip past the hallowed velvet ropes (okay, I’ll be honest, there was no velvet), we tore ourselves away from the number 2 car to continue our journey.
Passing the waiting NASCAR the quote of the day was uttered, to notice the hoody first is perhaps a greater feat than to recognise the owner, and as Kelly said it the realisation came that it was in fact a Formula One driver. “That’s Daniel Ricciardo!” The newest rookie on the block was casually chatting with a couple of fans as we quietly approached, I was slowly entering a mild-manner meltdown but surprised myself by keeping it together. Enough to actually get a coherent sentence out, which I thought wasn’t bad considering how starstruck I was at the time. For the record, his smile really is that big. Reeling from the impromptu meeting, I look up to see Jake Humphrey is coming our way! More photos and another autograph to add the ‘sign here’ page in the free programme we had picked up earlier, thanks Red Bull! So where do we go from here?
Oh yes, seeing Mark Webber drive his car. However before I could reach an ambition I’ve been working towards for several years, there was the rest of the entertainment to enjoy beforehand. This wasn’t just a Red Bull Racing event, this was Red Bull Speed Jam and speed weaved its way though the sky in death defying stunts, two planes dancing 10ft apart above you tends to make you wince as they hurtle towards the earth. Speed surprised on the ground as the Red Bull Kart Fight semi-finals got underway, reaching 60mph around a circuit with several surface changes and a splash of water had the crowd enthralled. It was an excellent display of skill and fierce competition.
On Your Marks…
The British summer proved itself to be a work of cruel irony, as the moment the Red Bull screamed into life the heavens opened, but not before those lining the track were treated to the sight of Mark Webber chauffeuring Daniel Ricciardo around in a gold cart. I’m not sure why, but the image of two Formula One drivers pootling around in a battery powered machine was hilarious…ah. Better get used to that if the FIA get their way. So, timed to perfection the closest man to Sebastian Vettel would have to tackle the Cardiff Bay International Circuit in the wet. And on slicks. A peal of Formula One rang out into the sea air as the Australian hit the tarmac. Nursing himself around in the downpour (waterproofs were a necessity by now) he was forced to carefully navigate the hairpins and the bus-stopchicane. Keeping my eyes trained on the sound of the fastest car in Formula One right now, the famous yellow tipped nose edged around the corner and my heart leapt a foot in the air.
The feeling of watching the number 2 car race past was immense, this was a driver I have supported since 2002, and there he was driving his car a couple of feet in front of me with that unmistakable yellow topped lid peeking out over the top of the monocoque. The very driver I have cheer for, groaned in frustration about and shed a tear over (2009 win…about bloody time!) was just over there in one of the best cars, which makes the race weekend a little less fingers-in-the-ears-hiding-behind-the-sofa (although after that start in Belgium…). But as soon as he made his appearance he had retreated to his makeshift garage with a fire extinguisher deployed at the right rear tyre. Well, they don’t call him unlucky for nothing.
I may have just become a close, personal friend of Daniel Ricciardo, but the draw of an Aussie in an Aussie bar was just too much and I sidestepped the NASCAR demonstration (although I had timed my return to watch the replay on the numerous big screens, and his interview with other new best friend Jake Humphrey). I learnt a couple of things about hosting a Formula One driver appearance, which will happen one day inevitably for sure, firstly if microphones are involved just give them a test just to make sure the interview can be heard. His praise of Fernando Alonso’s driving abilities went down as well as saying he was glad to be in England earlier on in the day. Badly. Another tip it to ensure that stag do guys who think chanting ‘Webber’ over the already indecipherable chat are siphoned off somewhere else. Rant over, I had the pleasure of meeting my very first Hornette, they’re completely nuts for Christian Horner and so appreciated my candid snaps of the owner of the bouff from last year. Despite the dodgy sound system and chanting stags, the Q&A was worth the detour, if not for the smile I got for wearing Mark Webber shirt and the excitable fans.
With the slicks still bolted on, Webber ventured onto the track once more, and just like Jenson Button’s second run this one was a bit more eventful. Emulating the karters that ran before him, he couldn’t help getting fresh with the scenery and gently rubbed his front wing against the water-filled barriers. Ever helpful marshals proffered their expertise, and he was revving that beautiful engine once more towards the main arena to leave his mark on Cardiff in the form of a rubber signature. Alongside the one left by Daniel Ricciardo, Cardiff Bay had the indelible mark of speed, genius and jam left upon its face. So was it a resounding success? Judging by the reactions of the crowds (my own included) it was a day invented for the petrol-head. Cars, bikes, karts and planes came together to make as much noise as their respective power houses would allow, and perform awe inspiring feats that only their handlers would dare. With limited tickets available the inner sanctum never felt crowded, which made me think a few more could have been invited, however this allowed the day to feel particularly special as everyone could have a front row seat.
Red Bull Speed Jam, we salute you!