In a delightfully unexpected detour leading up to the Austrian Grand Prix, Yuki Tsunoda, Japan’s rising star, claimed an impressive victory over double Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen in an exhilarating mega truck race held at the formidable Erzberg mine. Here’s all you need to know:
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The win backs up Yuki’s victory during May’s Miami Grand Prix week, where he downed Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo in a mini jet boat race. The series sees Scuderia AlphaTauri and Oracle Red Bull Racing go head-to-head in unique vehicles and locations.
The event was a part of the (Un)Serious Race Series, where teams from Scuderia AlphaTauri and Oracle Red Bull Racing embrace the unpredictable, trading their usual high-tech Formula 1 cars for, in this case, mega truck race. These monolithic machines, three meters tall, five meters long, and with a heart-stopping 500 horsepower, provided a unique challenge for the racers.
Set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the operational Erzberg mine, known as the ‘Iron Giant’, the race was as much about the stunning location as it was about the fearsome vehicles. The track was a whimsical interpretation of the Red Bull Ring, boasting three key areas: ‘The Car Yard’, ‘The Swimming Pool’ and ‘The Big Drift’.
Verstappen, known for his consistent performances throughout the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, started strong with a thrilling qualifying round, earning the pole position with a three-second lead over Tsunoda.
In the race Yuki rocketed out of second position, taking the lead into turn one and never looked back. Conversely, Max was dealt nothing but misfortune, his truck suffering a misfire and he could only trail Yuki home.
“Max had an amazing lap in quali, he was three seconds ahead. I thought ‘Ok, maybe I need to push more throttle’,” Yuki recalled of his race strategy.
Verstappen revealed: “I’ve never really done anything properly offroad. I have driven my dad’s rally car, but that was more on the tarmac,”. “Honestly, the approach of my qualifying lap was to survive! It was a lot of fun,”.
Tsunoda reflected on his strategy, saying, “Max’s strong qualifying round was a wake-up call for me to dig deep.” He added humorously. “I had a good start and used my momentum to the end. Unfortunately, he had a bit of misfiring…well actually I put a bit of water into his engine, but don’t tell anyone!” quipped Yuki. “That strategy worked, and I wanted to defend my first place from the first Unserious Race Series with Daniel.”
Verstappen approached the monster truck race with good humour. “We’re known for embracing these out-of-the-box challenges. This was just another adventure to add to our ever-growing list,” he commented, likening it to other adventures in Swamp Buggies, Reverse Racing and Caravan Racing, among others.
With the off-road race now behind them, both racers are shifting their focus back to the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix.
“The Austrian race has been good to us, and the track has a unique charm,” Verstappen reflected. “The expansive visibility from the grandstands creates a remarkable atmosphere.”
Tsunoda shared similar thoughts, stating, “I’ve had some good runs in Austria, even managing to score points in my debut race. I’m hopeful that this fun run at Erzberg will give me a boost for this year’s Austrian Grand Prix.”
The (Un)Serious Race Series will continue later this season. Yuki and Scuderia AlphaTauri are now back-to-back winners, with Oracle Red Bull Racing being in the unfamiliar position of the hunter, not the hunted.