Extraterrestrial Thrills as Top Drivers Race Hovercrafts in the Nevada Desert

Race week in Las Vegas kicked off with four Formula 1 drivers piloting out-of-this-world vehicles in three challenges in the Nevada desert. The fourth episode of the (Un)serious Race Series saw the quartet of F1 World Champion Max Verstappen and Oracle Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio “Checo” Pérez and Scuderia AlphaTauri aces Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo face off in two-seater hovercrafts. The isolated site is well known for a different type of hovering vehicles – alien spacecraft – so F1 drivers racing hovercrafts, highly unusual anywhere else, was par for the course.

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While it was a friendly competition, the competitive nature of the drivers shone through, leading to strategy discussions between teammates and on-track game faces appearing between the near-constant laughter. The 13-foot long, 26.5 horsepower hovercraft tested the drivers’ skills as they provided little traction and relied on counter-steering to glide through the course at 30 mph/48 kph. Dry desert wind and ample dust only added to the skill needed to tackle the unique challenge.

Daniel and Yuki, who were pitted against each other in the mini jet boats in Miami, proved a formidable hovercraft team. While Max and Checo won the first challenge and put up a solid fight to the end, the Scuderia AlphaTauri drivers could eke out the overall win by a 2-1 challenge tally. But there was nothing but smiles from all four drivers as the trophy was awarded against a crashed flying saucer not far away.

“It’s fun to be out in the Nevada desert ahead of the Las Vegas GP. I think the hovercrafts look cool, and they were entertaining to drive. They were slower than I thought, but you’re floating over the ground. The challenges are fun, especially when you do it together as a team with Checo and Scuderia AlphaTauri. This series has been fun this year. We’ve driven lots of different vehicles all over the world. I think that makes it beautiful,” said Max.

Regarding the hovercrafts, Checo commented, “I’ve seen them, but I’ve never driven a hovercraft before, so it’s my first time…and I ended up eating a lot of sand, so I don’t need lunch for today. They collapse and go into the floor when you unbalance them, so it was quite challenging – you have to think a lot while driving them.” He said of the upcoming Las Vegas race, “I think Las Vegas is a unique venue – with the fans, the racing at night for the first time here – I think people are really going to enjoy it.”

“I enjoy doing these things,” said Ricciardo. “On a race week, we race, and that’s our primary focus, and on track, everything’s so competitive, so to spend some time with not only Yuki but Max and Checo and to be out here in the desert in an environment where we’re all just laughing – these are probably the best workdays we can get.”

“I didn’t know how the vehicles behave,” said Tsunoda. “It’s a lot of fun and drifting, but simultaneously, you have to control the throttle precisely to make it turn quickly. You stop if you release too much throttle and touch too much ground. So there’s fine-tuning, which makes it difficult, but overall, it’s enjoyable.”

Here’s how it all unfolded:

Challenge 1: “Rescue Mission” – Max and Checo are victorious.

The teams took turns embarking on a tandem sprint through a course laden with obstacles in pursuit of a lockbox at the end of the course. Their mission: recover the lockbox, execute a driver switch and race back to the starting point. Victory belonged to the team that accomplished this rescue and return mission with utmost speed and finesse.

Challenge 2: “Crop Circles” – Daniel and Yuki make a comeback and earn the win.

Each driver was given 30 seconds to complete as many “crop circles” as possible around the pillars, creating crop circles. Victory would go to the team that finished the most doughnuts/circles. In an unexpected and humorous move, Max attempted to get a “leg up” on the competition by hanging out of the hovercraft and using his left foot to assist in completing tighter and faster doughnuts. Unfortunately, the out-of-the-box strategy was not enough to take the win.

Challenge 3: “The Final Race” – Daniel and Yuki are the winners in the Nevada desert!

With each team winning, they put all the chips on the table for the relay tiebreaker. In a head-to-head race, the teams made their way through a slalom course one driver at a time, switching drivers for the second lap. Daniel banked turn after turn before booking it down the straight, with Max just milliseconds behind him before Yuki and Checo jumped into the vehicles. In the end, Yuki was able to pull ahead and float across the finish line to secure the overall victory.

The fourth (Un)series, Race Series, unfolded in a typical lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek style. Through the year, the friendly – but ultimately somewhat competitive – series kept the drivers on their toes and challenged them in unfamiliar vehicles and terrain: from the waterways of Miami in mini jet boats to the Erzberg iron mine of Austria in 500 horsepower mega trucks, from Kei trucks in a Japanese-style game show to Renegade Hovercrafts in the Nevada desert.

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