Motorsport legends, world champions, thousands of horsepower on a custom-laid street circuit less than an hour from where I call home. That to me is the definition of ‘unmissable’.
After a record-breaking 2022 season, the Oracle Red Bull Racing team decided to make a return to an event they aptly name Homerun. A celebration of success brought to the streets of Milton Keynes, the city where the Red Bull Formula One Team is based and calls home.
Eleven years ago I wasn’t doing what I do now, meaning I didn’t get to witness Sebastian Vettel celebrating his second world title in front of the 60,000 spectators who were fortunate enough to attend the first Red Bull Homerun. And on hearing the event was not only back for 2022 but lined with an even larger cast of current motorsport royalty, all plans were put on hold and the cameras were prepared.
On arrival to the Midsummer Boulevard, a bustling street just outside Milton Keynes’s main shopping centre, I instantly realised it was going to be a challenging day. I had arrived almost three hours prior to the event starting and the course was already lined with spectators hoping to get a glimpse of Max Verstappen, Sergio ‘Checo’ Pérez and the rest of the cast in action.
After making my way down to the paddock area, I was greeted with an unmistakeable V8 soundtrack erupting from the RB7 cars being warmed up – a matching pair chosen from the 2011 season for the drivers to use in the demonstrations. It was now time to find my place in the crowd and wait patiently for the action.
After setting myself up in the roundabout section of the course, there was some doubts to my choice. Being a cold December morning, the ground had that significant wet sheen, and coming from a drifting background I instantly knew this had almost eliminated any chance of tyre smoke. Nevertheless I was committed, and as the first demonstration began my doubts instantly lifted.
Down came Arūnas Gibieža, multiple title-winning motorcycle stunt rider, showing exactly why he has those accolades. After a thrilling display of wheelies and various no-handers, Arūnas finished his display off with one of his favourite tricks: The Watchtower.
After Arūnas the action came thick and fast, with little-to-no breaks for the rest of the show. The next three demonstrations brought us to the four-wheeled action, and first up were the Drift Brothers – Elias and Johannes Hountondji from Germany.
Normally the brothers compete in an identical pair of BMW M4 Competitions, but due to other commitments only one was available. This meant a call up for Elias’s trusty BMW E30, his previous competition car. The M4 was certainly a fan favourite with plenty of noise coming from the crowd as Johannes expertly navigated around the course.
Following the first drift demonstration came the Red Bull NASCAR. I’ll be honest, I did not know Red Bull were previously involved in NASCAR, and this came as a pleasant surprise. Piloted by Patrick Friesacher, Red Bull’s first ever junior driver, the crowds were treated to a full 10 minutes of roaring V8 greatness and endless burnouts.
Time was flying by at this point, and then it dawned on me who was next: Sébastien Loeb in an M-Sport-prepared Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1. This was my personal highlight of the day, and it really did emphasise the belief that rally drivers are just a different breed. A fast-paced display showed the crowds just why Sébastien is the most successful driver in WRC history.
If 4WD power slides and the soundtrack of anti-lag-heavy launches was not enough, the crowds were even treated to a bit of air time, with Sébastien magnificently turning the streets of Milton Keynes into his own personal special stage.
Halfway through the demonstration runs the entertainment switched from four wheels back to two, with trials riding royalty Dougie Lampkin. The man who once completed the entire Isle of Man TT course on one wheel, put on an exciting display to show why he is one of the most decorated riders in trials history. A personal favourite moment had to be Dougie disregarding the perimeters of the course to go and interact with the ecstatic crowd.
On a switch back to four wheels, I already knew who was next – a man who I have personally followed for quite a while, Conor Shanahan. At only 19 years old, you would assume Conor would be fairly new to the world of drifting. This is not the case. Conor first started drifting aged nine, and has already achieved incredible success in the multiple championships he has competed in. As expected, he didn’t hold back, putting on a wild display for the crowds.
And then it was time, all of the previous athletes had warmed the crowd up for the moment they were waiting for – the Formula One demonstrations. Checo took to the track first and all expectations were lived up to. 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 reverberated off the surrounding buildings.
A high-action run with burnouts and all of the gear shifts you could ever need was hyped up by the commentators as they spoke of a friendly competition between Checo and Max as to who could put on the best show. It was time to see if Max could better what Checo had just achieved.
Sporting his unmistakeable golden helmet, Max took to the streets to celebrate with the crowds of Milton Keynes. Max put on a display worthy of any world champion, replicating the energy of Checo’s demonstration whilst also adding in a high-speed run down the hill. I am pretty sure I saw several wheels off of the ground at the same place Sébastien had managed earlier on in the day. Max’s final 10-minute demonstration flew by with the crowds taking in the last moments of the roaring RB7 and cheering at every opportunity.
A final parade lap of the circuit saw Max and Checo joined by Red Bull Formula One team principal Christian Horner on the back of a 4×4; the crew and spectators celebrated alike for the achievements of the 2022 season.
That was it, three of the quickest hours of my December had passed. As the crowds started to disperse and the feeling of success achieved, there can only be one wish for the future: More world championships, more street events and more Homeruns.
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