Last weekend, riders took part in the Red Bull Imagination, a one-of-a-kind event conceived by Tyler Bereman that blends art, imagination and sport.
In its third year, Red Bull Imagination opened to the public for the first time.inviting fans to get up close and personal with the more personal and creative side of riders.
As the event raises its status, the course gets tougher. The jumps are getting higher and the competition is getting tougher. This year the course was inspired by a skate park dedicated to other adrenaline fun and competition.
“There’s a lot of inspiration from other extreme sports,” Bereman told Red Bull journalist Eric Shirk as he prepared for the event.
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Bereman was a leading force in the creation of this event and the winner of its first run. In 2022, Bereman had to settle for second as Axell Hodges took the win at the biggest freeride track built exclusively for Red Bull Imagination.
Unlike other courses, Bereman gave designer Jason Baker the freedom to create obstacles and jumps on the go. And that was one of the components that helped the course imitate art.
Baker’s experience in track design comes from Supercross. In this sport, he had to follow strict rules and build a track of a certain length and distance. Bereman’s philosophy, from building the track to the final event, was to give every participant, from creators to riders, fans and beyond, the opportunity to shine.
He wanted the sport to be a bridge between racing and art.
Hodges scored 98 points over the course to lead Bereman by two points. Both riders used a huge variety of jumps to get the maximum amount of time in the air. Hodges’ first run included nearly every obstacle available, including a 180-foot jump before flipping over the main road.
The riders were able to get high scores in their first races. The wind then picked up for round 2. Christian Dresser and Guillem Navas were able to improve their performance in the second run by creating new lines on the course and showing tricks that did not require the hang time of previous runs. They were the only riders to improve from the first run to the second.
Since first and second were secured with their early runs, Hodge and Bereman teamed up to share their time racing parallel lines and creating tandem hits. The two competitors met in the center of the track at the top of the Fasthouse and started their engines in an embrace.
Julien Vanstippen took the podium with a final score of 92; his run included landing a 130-foot superflip.
To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long and unique journey Tanner Faust went through in his first season in the Extreme E series when he took early season lessons in Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he learned his lessons well.
McLaren announced in February that it would expand its motorsport program with the Extreme E. They signed two talented rally drivers, Foust and Emma Gilmour, and put them on the first round in Neom, Saudi Arabia, with just a few days of testing behind them. Scorched by the sun of the Arabian desert, it was tested by fire.
The duo performed well in their debut, advancing to the final round and finishing in fifth place. As the Extreme E heads into another desert halfway across the globe to stage four, it’s time to catch up with Faust and ask about McLaren’s progress. Last weekend in one of the most extreme regions of the world – the Atacama Desert – the Copper X Prix competition was held.
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“The shock in the first race was the speed,” Faust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than what we tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles an hour [in race trim] and our test speeds were more in the 60 to 70 mile range. Then when we sort of got around that, the car was upgraded so you can drive it even faster.”
In rally racing, some incidents are beyond the control of the driver. Even peeking out from behind another car can be dangerous due to potholes that have recently been dug into the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout between the circles. A couple of flips got Foust back on the ground, but the speed was there, and that was important.
“We’ve had some issues this season,” Fust said ahead of the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; reached the final, which is not easy to do in this series. I had two throws in the first three competitions, but each time I added. Now we come into the 4th round in Chile with a pretty strong position. We have competitive moments in the team. We communicate and think very well about this Odyssey car.”
Fust’s words proved to be prophetic.
He won the Crazy Race – the Extreme E version of the Last Chance qualifier – and did so after clearing the course. Similarly, he reached the Saudi Arabian final, but this time it was better. There were those hard-earned lessons to draw on, and Fust had representatives behind him. He wasn’t about to be taken by surprise by any random obstacles.
In the Copper X Prix final, he put pressure on one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.
At the end of his stretch, after pitching sideways through a tight southpaw, Fust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastian Loeb as they headed into the switch zone. There he will hand over the car to his navigator Gilmour.
The Extreme E series is designed for male and female drivers, and both are behind the wheel.
After a driver change, Gilmour momentarily lost the lead to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutiérrez, but as they raced to the finish line, she took the lead and slipped under the checkers first.
“What an improvement for the team compared to this year,” Fust said after the race. “We struggled with some events being in the first year of competition. This weekend we showed real pace; Overtaking Sebastian Loeb was a highlight.
“Emma did a great job in the final. I was lucky enough to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then to first in the final, but with some penalty flags, 20 seconds were added to our time, putting us in fifth place. It was great to cross the finish line first, I love this wide track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.
“Hopefully we can continue that momentum in Uruguay.”
Loeb and Gutierrez climbed to the top of the podiumbut the feeling of going under checkers first cannot be taken away.
Since the invention of automobiles, racing has played a socially responsible role in improving safety. As the Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing must adapt to these new needs and demands, and this is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.
The Extreme E experience is about more than just racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to repair the damage caused by climate change and erase the footprints caused by the events.
Faust, a biologist at the University of Colorado, had the opportunity to rekindle his interest and pay tribute to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.
Atacama is the oldest desert in the world, dating back 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth with the highest levels of ultraviolet radiation. Yet somehow life continues through underground rivers with oases dating back to Inca times. Fust was involved in preparing the local habitat for the reintroduction of the endangered water frog into Chile’s longest river, the Loa, meandering through the desert.
“I love this experience,” Faust said. “I put on a lot of chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I would never have come here otherwise.
“Honestly, I am honored to be a part of this sport. I firmly believe that motorsport has benefited us over the past 100 years. I think we benefit every time we put on our seatbelts and drive down the road to lessons learned from racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope that motorsport will continue this tradition.
“I think motorsport loves [Extreme E] does it in a responsible, gender-neutral and carbon-neutral way.”