Motorsport legends, world champions, thousands of horsepower on a uniquely designed street track less than an hour from where I call home. To me, this is the definition of “must see”.
After a record-breaking 2022 season, the Oracle Red Bull Racing team has decided to return to an event aptly named the Homerun. The celebration of success took place on the streets of Milton Keynes, the city that serves as the headquarters of the Red Bull Formula 1 team.
Eleven years ago I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, which is not being able to witness Sebastian Vettel celebrate his second world title in front of 60,000 spectators who were lucky enough to attend the first Red Bull Homerun. And from what I heard, not only is the event going back to 2022, but an even bigger crowd of current motorsport royalties, all plans have been put on hold and the cameras have been readied.
Arriving on Midsummer Boulevard, a busy street off the main shopping center of Milton Keynes, I immediately knew it was going to be a challenging day. I arrived almost three hours before the start of the event and the track was already packed with spectators hoping to catch a glimpse of Max Verstappen, Sergio ‘Checo’ Pérez and the rest of the cast.
Once I got down to the paddock area I was greeted by the unmistakable sound of a V8 emanating from the warm-up RB7 cars – a pair from the 2011 season selected for the drivers at the shows. It was time to find my place in the crowd and patiently wait for the action.
After entering the roundabout section of the track, I had doubts about my choice. Being a cold December morning, the ground had such a wet sheen and I could tell right away from the drifting background that this almost eliminated the possibility of tire smoke. Still, I was committed, and as soon as the first demonstration began, my doubts were instantly dispelled.
We missed Arūnas Gibieža, multiple title-winning motorcycle stuntman, who showed exactly why he received these accolades. After an exciting demonstration of wheels and various no-hands, Arūnas ended the show with one of his favorite tricks: the Watchtower.
After Arūnas, the action was thick and fast, with few breaks for the rest of the show. The next three shows brought us to the action on four wheels and first up was the Drift Brothers – Elias and Johannes Hountondji from Germany.
Normally the brothers compete in an identical BMW M4 racing pair, but due to other commitments only one was available. This meant that Elias’ trusty BMW E30, his former racing car, was called upon. The M4 was certainly a fan favourite, with plenty of noise from the crowd as Johannes expertly navigated the course.
After the first drift presentation, Red Bull NASCAR came. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know Red Bull was involved in NASCAR before and it was a pleasant surprise. Patrick Friesacher, Red Bull’s first junior driver, led the crowd through 10 minutes of roaring V8 awesomeness and endless burnouts.
Time flew by at this point and it dawned on me who was next: Sébastien Loeb in an M-Sport prepared Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1. It was a personal highlight of the day and really emphasized the belief that rally racers are just a different breed. A fast-paced display showed the crowd why Sébastien is the most successful driver in WRC history.
If the soundtrack of 4WD power slides and anti-lag starts wasn’t enough, the audience were treated to some show time as Sébastien brilliantly transformed the streets of Milton Keynes into his own personal special stage.
Halfway through the show, the fun changes from four wheels to two wheels, with trials accompanied by the royal riding of Dougie Lampkin. The man who once completed the complete Isle of Man TT course on one wheel, put on a thrilling display to show why he is one of the most decorated riders in trials history. A personal favorite moment was when Dougie ignored the edges of the track to go and interact with the ecstatic crowd.
When I switched back to four wheels, I already knew who was next – a man I’ve been following personally for a while, Conor Shanahan. At just 19 years old, you would assume that Conor is fairly new to the world of drifting. This is not the case. Conor first started drifting at the age of nine and has already achieved amazing success in the multiple championships he has participated in. As expected, he did not hold back and presented a wild spectacle to the audience.
And then the time came, each of the previous athletes warmed up the crowd for the much-awaited moment – the Formula 1 shows. Checo took the field for the first time and all expectations were met. I thought the previously mentioned V8 soundtrack in the paddock was incredible, but I wasn’t quite ready for those sounds to be amplified as they bounced off the surrounding buildings.
With burnouts and all the gear changes you could ever need, the commentators bring some great action as they talk about Checo and Max’s friendly competition to see who has the best show. It was time to see if Max could top what Checo had just accomplished.
Wearing his unmistakable golden helmet, Max took to the streets to celebrate with the Milton Keynes crowd. Max put on a display worthy of any world champion, replicating the energy of Checo’s display while adding a high-speed run down the hill. I’m pretty sure I saw several wheels off the ground in the same spot Sébastien had earlier in the day. Max’s final 10-minute show flew by, with the crowd cheering every time he saw the final moments of the booming RB7.
On the last parade lap of the track, Max and Checo joined Red Bull Formula 1 team boss Christian Horner on the back of a 4×4; the crew and spectators alike celebrated the results of the 2022 season.
That was it, the three fastest hours of my December had passed. As the crowd began to disperse and the feeling of accomplishment hit, one can only wish for the future: more World Cups, more street events and more Homeruns.
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