Bucky Lasek looks over at me and pounds my chest, and without saying a word, he and I both knew we were about the have the time of our lives. At least I was. I was strapped into a Recaro racing seat that allowed for as much movement as Hannibal Lector in a strait jacket. We were both strapped into a 2015 Subaru WRX STI Global Rallycross car with 600 horsepower. Bucky Lasek had the throttle pinned and was waiting for the Global Rallycross crew member to give him the green light.
After a tap on our hood, Bucky drops the clutch and we launch forward with such a force that can only be described in the cliche description of a “rocketship.”
So how did I end up in a 600 horsepower Subaru WRX STI rocketship? Excellent question and one that deserves further inspection. It started one week ago, when I was sweating profusely because Bucky Lasek was going to give me a call to interview him, One week later, I found myself sitting in his Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC) car. Being launched in a Subaru WRX STI rocketship with Bucky Lasek wasn’t even supposed to happen, I wasn’t even on the list of media people to go on the ride alongs. It was by some magic or divine intervention that I was chosen to be one of the select few journalists, and that my driver would be Bucky Lasek. Blessed.
It started out as an overcast July morning in Washington D.C. As the sun started to rise, the clouds parted and it became a muggy, hot morning in DC. I began prepping for my day by longboarding, in honor of Bucky Lasek, to get my coffee in the morning. After filling up on liquid fuel, I had my friend drop me off at RFK stadium, where the Red Bull Global Rallycross event was being held. Despite my AM longboarding session in honor of Bucky, I still didn’t know who my driver would be for the morning. I had phoned my point of contact to find out where to meet up, and she said look out for the big Red Bull Global Rallycross tent. It was hard for me to believe that this was actually happening – I would soon have a taste of what its like to be a GRC driver.
I arrived at the the Red Bull GRC tent early and was greeted by Veronica, who welcomed me warmly and could sense my excitement. She handed me a name tag, and told me who I’d be riding with day. I looked in disbelief at my name tag which read “Mike Thompson/Bucky Lasek.” Just a week ago I was talking with Bucky Lasek on the phone, and today I’ll get ride in his GRC car! After trying to hide my excitement and play it cool, I realized there was no use. I was freaking pumped. I walked around the paddock trying to relax, but my heart wouldn’t slow down. I circled back to the GRC tent, and was asked to try on a protective fire suit. I selected a medium, all-black one piece fire suit and it fit like a glove. Next I grabbed a large DOT approved racing helmet and I was set to go. After a few minutes of nervously waiting in the Red Bull GRC tent, I was approached by a man from the Subaru factory team. He said since I was riding with Bucky, I should wear the factory Subaru racing suit. I felt instantly more important, and excited. With my new Subaru racing suit on, I felt officially, and it was just a waiting game now.
The rallycross cars started to line up outside of the Red Bull Global Rallycross tent, and I saw Bucky waiting by his car. He was swarmed by fans, cameras and other race car drivers. I was a bit intimidated by his superstar status, but decided to head over anyway. I introduced myself, and told him that I had interviewed him the week before. Our conversation was cut short as we were whisked to the front of the car for media pictures for what seemed like 20 minutes but was probably more like 5 minutes we took pictures, and kept taking pictures.
I honestly didn’t think getting into the car would be hard, but then again I had never been in a race car. The seat was a Recaro race seat, with a six-point harness, and neck brace. I put my helmet on, and crawled between two roll-cage bars to fit into my seat. I settle in, and two factory Subaru technicians get to work strapping me into this 600 horsepower beast. At first, the process was going well, and I was comfortable, that was until I realized I wasn’t all the way back in my seat, and needed to squeeze myself all the way in. It was like trying on your high school jean shorts – it was a tight fit. I mean, I used to rock “husky” sized pants back in the day, but I’ve lost some of that baby fat; even so trying to fit into these race seats was an interesting exercise.
After 10 minutes of two adult men, strapping in another adult man into a seat, I was ready to go!
Bucky fires up the Subaru race car, and it starts up and sounds like a dragon clearing its throat, vicious. The whole car is shaking, I can’t move my body, nor head, and can only look forward. I attempt to look over at Bucky with no luck because the HANS device isn’t restricting my movement. All we can do is use sign language and fits bumps to show our excitement, which for me was at a level 10, this is Bucky’s everyday job. After more photos, more video, the Subaru technicians close our doors, and we head towards the start line. Bucky is swerving back and forth to either scare the shit of me or warm the tires up, I’d assume the last option. Before we even get to the start line Bucky revs the engine, drops the clutch and does a smokey, proper burnout. Obviously to warm up the tires.
We pull up to the start line, and my blood is pumping and I’m saying my prayers. Bucky looks over at me, and gives me a final fist bump. I start swinging my arms in the air, and shouting, as if Justin Bieber just walked by my High School. Then Bucky Lasek drops the clutch and we hit 60 mph in less than 2 seconds. For reference Car and Driver tested the Porsche 918 Spyder and hit 0-60 in 2.2 seconds. The Porsche 918 Spyder is a million plus dollar supercar, and Bucky’s rally car could “smoke” it to 60 mph. I had never felt speed like this before, and I loved every second of it.
Once we had taken off and were on the track, things didn’t get any less terrifying. I thought I was going to be able to handle the speed and the cornering forces, but I wasn’t prepared for the intensity. For anyone out there who thinks you can be a race car driver; think again, this is no joke, and the physical toughness required is amazing. But even my fear couldn’t stop me from acting like a two-year old, I was screaming, clapping, kicking, and smiling ear-to-ear. I was having the time of my life, and I knew it was going to end shortly, so I tried to soak in every minute of it. The highlight was the dirt corner that led up to the jump. Bucky was pulling the handbrake to try and get the rally car sideways, and then we would hit a dirt jump and even got a little air (which I didn’t even think we’d get to do).
After three short laps, we were waved in. We rolled into the paddock area, where the Subaru PR rep and technicians were waiting for us, and I managed to squeeze easily out of my seat. Getting out was much easier than getting in. The Subaru PR rep interviewed me on the spot, and I’m sure I said some silly nonsense because my adrenaline was at an all-time high. I now understand why athletes say such silly things after winning championships. After I (unfortunately) had to turn in my factory Subaru race suit , and made my way to the Subaru team race tent because I had wanted to thank Bucky. By the time I got there, Bucky was already working on his car to get it ready for the next race. I thanked him profusely, and got out of his way as quickly as possible since there were some qualifying heats coming up in the next couple minutes.