Yep folks yours truly (me) got the opportunity from Ford Performance to ride along with non other than Global Rallycross star Steve Arpin in a Chip Ganassi Racing / M-Sport GRC Ford Fiesta in Washington D.C. ....so I figured I would share .....
We were invited a week ago by Ford Performance to attend the Red Bull Global Rallycross in Washington D.C. for a ride along with Steve Arpin, driver of the “00” Eoneos, Loenbro, Chip Ganassi Racing , M-Sport built GRC Ford Fiesta.
Leaving NY in the wee hours of the morning we arrived in DC by 7:30am, and were greeted by Jordan, a representative of Ford Performance.
The sun was already baking the tarmac at the RFK Stadium, so it was certainly going to be a hot day, off & on the track!
We were originally scheduled to be 5th in line, and had already signed the waiver to the Red Bull GRC powers that be, while perusing the cars lined up for the ride along, we are called, and as destiny and the guy upstairs have a sense of humor, we were moved to be 1st on track …time to go suit up.
Now in an FIA approved sparco race suit and helmet, adorned with the blue oval name and ford performance, I now look even more the part. (big smile!)
Having attended many rally / rallycross events to photograph around the world over the years, I have only sat once before in a rally car…and back then they never came with 600 horsepower or a similar amount of torque! The last time that kind of power was around was when Group B was in World Rallying, and that was back in the 80’s …1980’s …I’m not that old (laughs)
Getting into a rally car is not too easy, …being a gymnast or yoga expert would of made it easier …alas I’m neither, so the body had to relearn a few new angles!
If you have never been to a GRC event, the driver also has an assistant, what did you say?…yes, he helps the driver especially with the harness (seatbelt). Its not the regular grab and click type in your family car, its a 4 or 5 point harness.
Once into the passenger seat, which is very narrow and tight, I’m thinking now afterwards my childbearing hips have being modified! (joke)
Ok, so we are both securely strapped in. Steve is ready and he presses the start button …brmm brmmm (technical term for engine sound upon firing up) …we move to the start line …the track marshal in front of us sees that we are lined up and in position ready to go. Steve is now explaining the launch control and ALS (Anti Lag System), and through my helmet with the sound of the car idling (to be honest it is kind of tough to hear), he explains the ALS and its 4 different settings and the rpm’s. He proceeds to explain the handbrake, which if used, disconnects the differential from the drive shaft and helps rotate the car around tight hairpin corners.
Steve is telling me now that he is talking to his spotter and we are now ready to go!
The cacophony of sound, my adrenaline now feverish, then BANG! In a fraction of a second we are gone! "launch control we have lift off” (my best NASA voice).
The velocity that the GRC Ford Fiesta rockets off the line pins you well in the seat. In a blink of a eye and in seconds that only the worlds best timing gear understands, we have literally gone from the start line and thru turns1,2 & 3, and we are now hand braking thru the hairpin and heading down the back straightaway. The astounding level of grip from the Yokohama tires and the veracity of the Ford’s AWD system is truly amazing!
After the straightaway, we are now braking and left turning into the shortest gravel/dirt section in the GRC calendar, heading to the jump! From inside the car it looks steep, and we ease off a little to take it, and land nicely. This is not your average car suspension either. The suspension system in these cars can cost as much as your basic family sedan.
That was it for the gravel/dirt. We now have 2 double apexes, and then back through turns 1 & 2 to cross the finish line for our second lap. Time it took for 1 lap, under a minute!
I’m watching Steve ply his driving skills to this GRC Ford Fiesta as we literally low level fly around the track. It is truly a sight to behold in person. How they do all this and watch out for the other cars, while vying for positions when the real racing & rubbing happens, is a testament to the prowess and professionalism of the drivers of these present day supercars.
After we finish the second lap, we return to the paddock and the assistant returns to help me with the harness. I then get to reverse gymnast maneuver my way out!
My brain and senses are still trying to analyze and absorb everything that just happened. This was the quickest less than 2 minutes of my life!
It was a phenomenal experience that will never be forgotten.
Our many thanks to Ford Performance for the opportunity, and to Steve Arpin / Chip Ganassi Racing.
Steve finished 4th in the Final of the Red Bull GRC event in Washington D.C.