This year I was fortunate enough to win some tickets to Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s annual event, known as Open House. It was without a doubt the most awe-inspiring, exciting and fulfilling day of my young life!
I got to meet so many incredible people, get up close and personal with some real stars, try my hand at go-karting; and maybe, just maybe, put my foot on the bottom of the journalism ladder while I was at it.
I won my ticket thanks to the awesome guys at Badger GP. They attended the event too and had some extra spaces, which they offered as a competition. My job was to write a tweet: “I want to go to #OPENHOUSE because…”
This was what I came up with:
It’s not the first time my stomach has got me places. The food reviews I have posted on this blog are some of my most well-recieved pieces of work. But I digress, here’s my account of the day!
After arriving at Milton Keynes Station and getting shipped over to the facility courtesy of a free private car (thank you Katie Tweedle!) we checked in and got some lovely Red Bull Racing merchandise, and got our loaner racing overalls.
Once suited up, I duly made my way out to the Red Bull marquee where I met Adam Mills and Craig Norman of the aforementioned Badger GP. After a quick chat and heaps of thanks, I wasted no time in spotting Daniel Ricciardo, shaking his hand and wishing him a happy 25th birthday. What an amazing start to the day!
My most famous encounter in the past had been a chat from a very hungover Kris Marshall, of ‘My Family’, ‘A Few Best Men’, and ‘Love Actually’ fame. To better that with F1’s newest race winner within 5 minutes of arrival was pretty intense! Of course, I was the epitome of composure when I shook his hand. I said “Hello Daniel! Nice to meet you – and happy birthday!”
His chirpy response was “Alright there mate, how ya goin’? Thank you!”
Professional indeed. That was until he moved away, when I fan-girled, squealing like a stepped-on cat.
After our two gargantuan grins collided for what I hope is the first of many times, I grabbed a few cans of Red Bull Cola, a beverage I fell in love with a few years back, ’til they pulled it after poor sales. It’s no longer retailing in the UK so I had every intention of drinking my fill while I was in its presence under the wonderful Red Bull gazebo.
The gazebo was the site of my second famous encounter of the day, with one David Croft. I spied the commentator sitting on his lonesome, and after a brief pause to switch on my ‘smooth’ setting (I don’t know why I ever turn that off, really) I waltzed up to him.
“Ello Crofty, you want some company?” said I.
What followed felt like a conversation between well-acquainted colleagues. He is SO friendly! He gave me a few tips about my journalism career to be, and bear-hugged me for a selfie!
“Would it be terribly inappropriate of me to ask for a picture with you?”
He replied “To be honest Charlie, I’d be disappointed if you DIDN’T ask for a photo! Get your phone out, it’s selfie central over here!”
What. A. Guy.
Adrian Newey was around too, but had to go shortly after lunch, so I made sure I snagged a picture and autograph with the genius behind the RB5 and all its predecessors.
Sebastien Buemi was my next scalp – he was a tad quiet. Maybe he was aware that Daniel Ricciardo had more attention due to it being his birthday and also being a current F1 driver. Nonetheless I congratulated Switzerland’s finest on his new drive in Formula E.
I grabbed Ted Kravitz and Jennie Gow just as they were leaving (for which I’m sure they were very grateful) for a quick piccie also, Jennie was super-friendly as Crofty was, and stayed to chat for a couple of minutes.
I was actually a bit anxious in my apprehension of Mr. Kravitz. The guy never stops – he always looks busy, and so I wanted to try and catch him when he wasn’t. I overheard him say “That’s us done for the day I think” so I proceeded to get a snap. Both of us squinted. It could have gone better. But it’s Mr pitlane exclusive himself, so, y’know. Had to be done!
Crofty then interviewed Daniel, Sebastien and Christian Horner, the trio all setting up little interview spots as well. I grabbed a picture with Christian and Daniel, as I already had one with Mr Buemi.
Who’s got the bigger smile? Could be a dead heat!
After that, a spot of lunch, some more free cola, and BMX stunt show featuring Red Bull athlete Kye Forte were the activities on offer. At 1.30 it was finally time for the main event – karting.
Danny Ricciardo briefed us on the layout of the track after we watched a video of Martin Brundle go over the basic safety principles.
Brundle: “Don’t take too much kerbing on the corners.”
Ricciardo: “It’s all flat.”
Perhaps if Brundle had Ricciardo’s mentality, he might have won a race! Just saying…
The forty-or-so of us that were in the fans category were split into 10 teams. Some teams had five drivers, others had four, and mine had just three: Myself, an Aussie chap called Nick, and Dan May, a Bristolian lad. Dan doesn’t have Twitter, but his motorsport-crazy sister Natalie (who was also at the event) does, and you can follow her here.
The three of us made up team Transport. Other teams were also named after areas of the Red Bull factory, like ‘Paint Shop’, ‘Composites’, and ‘R&D’.
The race was due to be a 2Hr 30Min endurance-style race with 4 driver stops per team (to even it out for teams with less than 5 drivers) with a 30Min Practice/Qualifying session to get used to the car. I managed to put our team 6th on the grid, and the boys said I could start the race for us.
I had been potting about fairly steadily in the practice session, learning the corners and getting a feel for the kart. Then on lap 3, a marshall stopped me and informed me that only one of my engines had been going the whole time! I thought I was going fast, so I was not prepared for the amazing acceleration when the second engine actually got going. It was incredible!
There was then a parade lap to warm tyres and get on the grid. Fourth place decided to go very slowly in front, but the guy behind him was weaving massively, clearly a pro karter! As the marshall waved the green flag to start, I gunned it, stuck my foot to the accelerator and let her rip. Nobody really gained or lost anything at the start, all ten of us piling in to turn 1 flat-out. Turn 2 was next, a braking zone with a 90-degree left turn. I sadly got too greedy on the brakes and locked the rear axle, spinning my kart in to 10th place. It was a huge setback, but with a clear track ahead of me, I attacked the asphalt, getting faster and faster every lap.
9th place had spun in front of me, so I was apprehending 8th place, Kart #11. I got within a second of them, I thought I would be able to line them up, perhaps in one more lap. But then to my horror, I spun the car again. Clearly I was too heavy on the braking, but the speed was too addictive – it was such a rush of adrenaline!
My favourite part of the track was the excellent turn 9 at the top of the hill – very bumpy, a tad scary, but amazingly good fun to take flat out. Craig and Adam will tell you of the bruises and aching muscles that the karts caused, and I’m fairly sure that all of mine were due to that corner; it was extremely bumpy.
At the end of my stint, it was announced that the race would only be one hour, rather than two and a half. This was a shame, but it meant that we only had to stop twice, rather than four times. This fact, along with obscenely fast driving from Nick the Aussie and Dan, meant that my first-lap calamity was cancelled out, and incredibly, with just fifteen minutes to go, we were in second place!
Dan had planned to come in with five minutes to go and let me drive for the last few laps, but when I saw him overtake the leader of the race, there was no way I could come between him and the glory of the chequered flag. Team transport won the race! After a brief pause, there was a podium celebration on top of the hill, where Sebastian Buemi presented the three of us with a trophy signed by himself and Ricciardo, and a lovely paperweight.
Not a bad finish to the day!
Myself and my buddy Kyran then set off back to Bristol before coming back to Newquay the following morning. It’s safe to say that now I’ve had a taste of the high-flying world of F1, I only want more, and will be doing everything in my power to do so again! It’s also given me a thirst for karting which i will be trying my best to quench this summer.
Thank you Red Bull and Badger GP, here’s to next year!