I first heard that the Red Bull Speed Jam was coming to my current residence of Cardiff a while back, but not being a great fan of the drink and my support of the F1 team waning in recent years, I didn’t take much notice of exactly where or when.Then on the last day of August I suddenly became aware of the event again and that it was being held in Cardiff Bay that coming weekend, also I discovered that not only would it have the F1 car driven by Mark Webber and the Kart Fight finals but that it would feature stunt ‘planes, stunt bikes and Red Bull protege – and current HRT F1 driver – Daniel Ricciardo, blasting around the streets in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota Camry. That I had to see!
So I looked up the event online and when I found out it was ticket only and all the tickets were handed out to competition winners and invites only I realised it would be near impossible to go, so I made a last minute request on Twitter friday evening before I went to bed. I got up for work at 4:15 on saturday morning with no responses to my request so resigned myself to the fact I would miss out on the Red Bull Speed Jam.
Work was rather frustrating as usual and just after 10am I decided it was time to stop for a bite to eat. I wondered if anyone had anything interesting to say on facebook for a change got my phone out to check and there it was, the status update from Mr. Neil Berrill (who has stuck with the team as a supporter since the Jaguar days) that would change my life “I have a spare ticket for the Red Bull Speed Jam, message me if interested”. Unfortunately it had been posted about an hour before I saw it so I felt sure someone would have taken up his offer but messaged him anyway, amazingly no one had so after work I had a quick bowl of cornflakes and made the twenty minute train ride to the Bay!
As Neil and myself walked around trying to find the best vantage point for doughnuts and power slides one of the security guys opened up the barrier between the ‘track’ and the spectator area (there wasn’t many spectators there at this point) and out walked a shorter than expected Mark Webber! He walked right past us, if he’d been any closer I would have had to buy him breakfast on sunday morning!
Anyway we made our way around the ‘arena’ section, after watching the mechanics wheel Webber’s chariot onto the track and over to the preparation marquee they had, and found the BBC’s Jake Humphrey chatting away and signing autographs so we joined the queue and got a photo each with the rather tall young man. We settled a few feet away for the days on track action so we could see everything, the preparations on the cars, the karting action and most importantly the arena for doughnuts!
First up were the Red Bull Matadors, two pilots flying their small propeller driven planes above the bay performing loads of loops, spins and splits. Having grown up going to Airshows all over southern England most weekends of my childhood it was probably the least interesting part of the day, not that I want to detract from the pilots’ skill it was just a case of ‘seen it all before’ for me personally. Luckily while the planes did their thing overhead, there was someone driving a kart around the bay doing a track guide which led nicely to the first heat of the KartFight which was planned for 6 laps but following a massive second lap crash bringing out the red flag it was cut to four. I have no idea who won any of the karting except for the final due to my incredibly rubbish short term memory!
Mark Webber then took to the track in the Red Bull Racing F1 car doing a single lap with a few problems at the hairpins before executing the all important doughnuts right in front of us, we had chosen our spot well! It was the first time I have seen one of the 2.4 V8’s in person and I have to say that after hearing the 3litre V10’s and now the V8’s, the 1.6 V6 turbos that are coming in a few years have a lot to live up to! Jake Humphrey then interview Mark who got a chorus of boos from the majority of the crowd when he said it was “always nice to be back in England”!
We then had another heat of the KartFight, followed by Chris Pfeiffer doing his stunt bike show, I wasn’t expecting this to be a highlight, but how wrong I was! He was incredible, no-handed wheelies and standing on the bike as if he was riding a surf board, unfortunately as it had been raining he didn’t quite have the grip to do some of his stunts but he was well worth watching. We did see him later on signing autographs, but were too late and he
walked off as we approached!
Before the next round of karting heats took place some of the Red Bull guys wheeled the NASCAR Sprint Cup into position so they could get it ready for it’s run around the Bay, when we realised that it wasn’t going to go out for a while we went for a quick look at the merchandise stand where I picked up a new addition to my cap collection and Neil found some pin badges he hadn’t seen before.
We got back to the arena in time to see the end of the karting race and then the roar of the NASCAR V8 erupted and Daniel Ricciardo took to the streets with a trail of tyre – or should that be tire?! – smoke behind him. As he came back from his lap (where he too had big problems with the hairpins) in to the arena section he floored the throttle, dropped the clutch and disappeared into a massive wall of tyre smoke before going for another lap leaving a circular ribbon of black on the ground from the best doughnuts of the day. We hoped for more doughnuts when he returned from lap two but after sitting in the car talking to the mechanics he killed the engine and climbed out, standing on the car acknowledging the massive applause he received in true NASCAR style before running around throwing caps into the crowd, that guy definitely gained a few more fans that afternoon! Ricciardo later told Jake Humphrey that he didn’t do a second round of doughnuts as the car was ripping small stones from the ground and flinging them in to the crowd.
We then had the karting finals, although they were slightly strange as they went out for a couple of warm up laps before coming back in and dithering around for quite a while before finally going out and having a great fight, with Bradley Philpot taking the win and title of Red Bull KartFight Champion 2011.
Then came the return of Mark Webber who took to the streets for the second time, this time he got the drift around the first harpin just right and didn’t need a push, it wasn’t possible at the second but that was unsurprising! As he entered the arena section we all had our cameras and phones ready for more doughnuts, but wait, he’s not going to do any, was the fact that the NASCAR had thrown stones into the crowd earlier going to stop Webber from exciting the crowd? No, he was just going for a second lap with a little flick of the tail as he went around. At the first hairpin of lap two he replicated Schumacher’s parking at Rasse Casse in 2006 almost perfectly, only he kept the front wing intact! This time as he came back to the arena he didn’t disappoint and pulled some screaming doughnuts, himself ripping stones from the ground and pelting us with them, it was awesome! He then parked up the car and was introduced to the top 3 drivers from the KartFight before a final interview by Jake Humphrey who seemlessly segued into the KartFight prize giving before signing off on behalf of the Red Bull Speed Jam.
And with that, Neil and I headed off into the night after a fantastic afternoon with the sound of a Renault V8 still ringing in our ears.