Ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, Oracle Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri drivers made a Tokyo detour to visit the Ariake Stadium, where they traded their racing cars for Japan’s iconic Kei trucks, as a collision of motorsports and Japanese pop culture unfolded in a fun game show setting. The drivers raced these compact vehicles, better known for navigating the narrow backstreets of Japanese towns in the latest (Un)Serious Race Series. Here’s all you need to know:
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The Kei truck epitomizes the nation’s penchant for ingenuity in compact design and was initially conceived to meet the demands of Japan’s narrow roads and dense urban areas. To see them manoeuvred by F1 drivers, traditionally accustomed to vastly more powerful machines, lends the event an added layer of fun competition.
The Tokyo detour challenges seemed lifted straight from Japan’s most whimsical game shows, featuring oversized bowling pins and colossal inflatable balls. Yuki Tsunoda, the previously undefeated champion of this unconventional series, faced an uphill battle on home soil. In an unexpected turn of events, it was Verstappen and Perez who emerged triumphant, breaking Tsunoda’s winning streak in his native Japan.
Celebrating the win, Checo said: “It’s been a funny day. It’s great being part of the Red Bull family as we get to do many crazy events around the world; I’d have never expected to be doing this challenge here in Tokyo. I wish the Kei trucks had more downforce. ”
Verstappen chimed in with his reflections, saying, “First and foremost, it’s important to mention that we finally won the challenge. The kei trucks have been fun to drive. I haven’t quite found the DRS yet, though. It’s been good preparation for the race this weekend, and I have a lot of special memories from Suzuka. My favourite memory is winning the championship here and driving in my first-ever official practice session, too – on a track like this, it wasn’t the easiest, but I will remember it forever.”
Despite the competitive advantage of having driven Kei trucks in his late teens, Tsunoda remained relaxed at seeing his (Un)Serious dominance disrupted. “I drove Kei trucks a couple of times when I was 18. My grandfather had one for gardening. The truck was the perfect size, perfectly fitting, and fun to drive, very controllable and sharp. This series is always fun, but we are racing drivers and always competitive. So, at the same time, we are always serious. It’s an unserious vehicle, but serious racing.”
Taking part in the first Tokyo detour race in the (Un)Serious Series challenge, Liam Lawson offered insight into what went wrong in Scuderia AlphaTauri’s quest to make it three-round wins on the hop. “The highlight was the race at the end, stacking some boxes, and on the way back, Yuki made an aggressive turn that I wasn’t ready for, and I fell onto him and knocked it into neutral. So, the last 50m was just in neutral, on the limiter across the line.”
Previous races in the (Un)Serious Race Series have seen world-class drivers in many unlikely scenarios, from Mini Boat Races in Miami to Mega Truck Races in Spielberg.
The next stop for the four F1 racers is the legendary Suzuka Circuit, home of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. One of F1’s most iconic circuits, Suzuka was the scene of Max’s second title win last year.