Belfast City Centre, Saturday 3rd of November. I find myself briskly walking to the front gate from my hotel, which is now guarded by security. I show them my media band, and I become silently euphoric when they let me in through. I am in to chat and get a few pictures of world famous stunt biker Mattie Griffin, after receiving a brilliantly answered interview from him, thanks to himself and my aunt and uncle who set it up for me to do. I walk towards his van, but something else catches my eye.
In its makeshift garage there it sat, the legendary Red Bull RB8. The car that brought Red Bull to its third straight Constructors Championship in 2012, and the car that limped Sebastian Vettel to a third title victory after a first lap crash with Williams driver Bruno Senna, a narrow win by a mere three points from then Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso in that years furiously amazing season finale in Brazil. One of nine championship winning cars designed by Adrian Newey, and one that will be remembered as much more of a diva than any other of the Red Bull winning cars. I stare in awe at the machine I’ve only seen on television.
One of the mechanics notice my desire to get a good photo, and they invite me in to get a better view. He brings me round the side of the tent, rolling up a part of the tent to let me to step inside. I walk through and into the garage and there it was. I couldn’t get over the length of the car and instantly I scoped the car’s unique characteristics. That sudden slope on the top of the nose, The double exhaust and diffuser design and the unique steering wheel and tightly confined cockpit.
I didn’t only see the car, I stood beside it, I touched it and I got a view of every angle and curve. It was a beautiful machine and one I could not get my eyes off in awe. I looked a lot different than the RB8 you would remember from 2012, due to the fact that it traded its original livery for the one you would see on the current machines. I needed to proceed to my main target of meeting Mattie, and after bumping into and greeting none other than Conor Shanahan, also invited into the garage, I moved out and back around the garage, just as David Coulthard moved in, overalls and jacket on, to get himself geared up for the evening.
After meeting up with Mattie, having a good chat and getting some great pictures I moved back across the street. My girlfriend had also come with me for the weekend and was situated right across from the city hall. Fans and enthusiasts were lining the street for hours prior and just before the event kicked off, it became clear to me by the amount of people there that this was going to be an explosive event. After making sure my girlfriend was okay, I moved back to the first-floor balcony of Café Parisien, across from the City Hall. This was a vantage point only accessible by the media such as myself, but while chatting with Joanne, one of the Red Bull Media Centre people, who also so kindly suggested for me to bring my girlfriend up to the balcony. A small, but massive gesture for us.
We had a fantastic view of the road along city hall and seen all the nights amazing action and what brilliant action it was. Mattie was up first, pulling off his unique and spectacular tricks and results on his BMW F800 R, many ones I’ve had the pleasure of watching before. Next up was Conor Shanahan, who showed us why he, despite being only fifteen is one of Ireland’s most promising talents in drifting, wrestling his custom-built Nissan 180sx around the temporary street track. Then it was Irish bike racing legends Ryan Farquhar and Jeremy McWilliams, who hurtled up and down the road in breakneck speeds.
Then it was the main event. The car roared into life across from us as the team started up the 2.4 litre Renault V8. Having attended two races within the last two years, it is worth noting that both races featured cars within the 1.6 V6 Hybrid Formula that was introduced into the sport in 2014, power units that make significantly less noise then this V8 that came before it, and it let out a sound I was not ready for. A proper sound, one that stands for Formula One.
Coulthard would be pushed out the front gate of City Hall to line himself up ready for the first run. The scream of the engine almost painfully penetrated through my head as Coulthard took off, the car slithering and sliding as it searched for grip on the greasy Belfast tarmac. Coulthard took it easy on the first run, going nicely up and down the circuit to see how the car adapted to the track and what he could find out for his next two runs. A sighting run if you wish, much like the sighting lap drivers take on the first practice session to get a feel of the circuit.
The group would go two more times, Mattie going first and David going last. David pushed it a bit more on the second run, starting to do donuts and throwing the car around a bit on select points of the track. On his final run, he pushed really hard, and to end the amazing night, Coulthard pulled up right in front of City Hall and finished up with a spectacular donut, the car smoothly releasing a constant flame out of the twin exhausts as Coulthard spun around.
The crew would come equipped with fire extinguishers, covering the car with foam to cool the delicate machine. As the foam disappeared, Coulthard emerged standing on the car waving to the crowd. He would also go up and down the track once more in a beautiful red Aston Martin convertible to give one final salute to the massive crowd that attended, and within an hour, the crowd was gone, the gates were once again closed and the road reopened, with the public now driving seemingly oblivious to what had just gone on.
Looking back on my weekend, it was just unreal. This was my first proper media event, and I just cannot get over how open it was to me and how friendly everybody was. From DC himself to the other journalists and media crew, everybody was so helpful to me. Thanks to Mattie for being so helpful as well, making sure I had plenty of pictures and what I needed for my interview with him, which I hope to release in the next day or two for whoever is interested. I am only part time in journalism for the moment, but this weekend has proved to me that this is the career I want to chase and achieve.
Thank you to Joanne, Julie, Colm and everybody at Red Bull for what they’ve done for me. After all, if it wasn’t for Red Bull and my initial encounter with Daniel Ricciardo in Barcelona six months ago that gave me the amazing story for my very first article, who is to say I would be where I am today? Thank you.