After a nights stay in a16th century historic country inn, The Speed Journal ventured onto another part of our “German Excursion”. Traveling through the countryside we passed extensive mountains, rivers and towering forests while we admired the beauty and serenity of it all. Our destination, nestled amidst a sea of emerald greenery at the feet of the Styrian Mountains, was a ribbon of asphalt. The Red Bull Ring, Austria’s contribution to the world of Grand Prix racing, is a technical and architectural marvel, built to be modern while retaining the cultural and historical significance of the area.
The original track was founded upon the bones of an airbase and in June of 1957 the first international race was ran. Reworked in 2011 as a part of the Spielberg project, the course plays host to numerous championship series, including Formula 1, MotoGP, DTM, ADAC GT Masters, and the European Le Mans Series. Not only does the Spielberg offer a great grand prix venue, but the area is a host to many other activities from off roading, karting, trials bike riding, music festivals, even sampling fine cuisine. However, we were visiting for a chance to drive one of the same cars that participate in the Formula Renault Eurocup.
These Formula Renault 2.0s have been driven by a host of championship-winning drivers including Alain Prost, Kimi Raïkkönen, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Daniel Ricciardo. Essentially a scaled-down Formula 1 car, the Formula Renault 2.0 uses a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 210bhp and about 162 lb-ft of torque. Weighing in at 1115.54 pounds, this means the car makes near 400bhp (376.5) per ton and can reach 62 mph in 3.5 seconds.
The car does not allow for any adjustments to the ECU or engine mapping but does have a number of adjustments that a Formula 1 driver could make to maximize performance at a given track including changes to the aero setup, and multiple suspension tweaks. A seven-speed sequential gearbox with a clutch challenges drivers on downshifts while the 4-piston disk brakes help the car stop on a dime. The car is a major stepping stone to F1, with the Formula Renault 3.5 also being available to drive at the Red Bull Ring.
Sitting under the massive 68-ton Bull of Speilberg, team principal Jeff Francis could not wait to begin our introduction to the car and get ready to pilot it at this world-class track. Before getting to the classroom the track was inundated with the incoming ADAC GT Masters. Cars and trailers began to unload as the teams set up the garages. Audis, Lamborghinis, Mercedes and other racing cars, the buzz of a race weekend approaching added to the excitement. Finally we got to the classroom. Instructions were given in both German and English going over the controls of the car, proper track lines and safety precautions.
Getting into the car gives you the feeling of being a real formula driver. The cockpit is quite snug, you sit almost completely flat and getting in and out requires tucking in one shoulder at a time. It alone gives you an idea what you are in store for at the wheel. However, the weather had a turn for the worst and rain forced us into a wait-and-see situation. Slick tires, novice drivers and rain don’t go hand-in-hand in cars like this so we waited to see if the cars would be able to be taken out later in the day.
While the racing was postponed, we ventured around the beautiful grounds to go see what else Spielberg had to offer. We happened across another driving experience offered at the track, the KTM X-BOW. Track drenched or not, the X-BOWs were running and it looked like a blast, a grippy convertible rocket even in the rain. We also were able to take a look in the ADAC garages, getting up and personal with some of the coolest GT cars driving today.
Around 4:30 local time the instructors took out their 370z track cars (which are also available for a track-day experience) to check to see if the Formula Renaults would be safe to operate on track. Unfortunately, the track was still too wet for the slick tires on the Renaults and our stand-by status was maintained. Since the sun in this area stays up until around 9:00, we had until 6:00 to start our session so we stayed and hoped the track would dry up. Weather can be a fickle thing, and sometimes the enemy of the racing driver. In our case, our enemy came striking back at about 5:00 and permission for our group to go out on the track was not granted, disappointing many of the drivers that day.
Weather is a part of racing though and we were more than happy to get to tour the facility, the ADAC GT garages and see what else Speilberg has to offer. While we were forced to retire that day and we were not able to make it back to the Red Bull Ring to finish our track event, we will not be deterred from coming back to make the experience happen in full. Red Bull Ring, we will be back! Austria is an amazing beautiful country and the Red Bull Ring is equally impressive, if any of our readers are traveling to that area of the world, be sure to check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
The Driver’s Series scours the world to find and explore compelling driving experiences for anyone with a driver’s license and passion for speed. We send our resident driver Jeff Francis to get behind the wheel and report back to Speed Journal readers to ride along virtually or become inspired to take on the driving experiences themselves. Are you involved with a driving experience that should be featured on The Speed Journal? Do you have a driving experience suggestion for The Speed Journal to investigate? Please contact us.