Red Bull Motorsports
Red Bull Reverse: backing up with F1 aces Max Verstappen and Yuki Tsunoda
Max Verstappen and Yuki Tsunoda may be superstars in F1, but what happens when you put the duo in DAF 66s and tell them to race in reverse? Read on to find out.
Two cars sit on the track at Circuit Zandvoort, primed and ready to go. They may be twice the age of Max Verstappen and Yuki Tsunoda, but according to their owner, Hans Rodenburg, they are in tip-top shape. Both vehicles boast a 1.4-litre engine that allows for a top speed of more than 70mph. It may not sound much to the pair of F1 drivers, but there's something very special about these classic Dutch cars.
The cars in question are a pair of DAF 66s and what makes them stand out, is that they feature a Variomatic transmission. This means that they are capable of reaching the same top speed in reverse – which is why they have been fitted with a roll cage of four-point belts.
When Verstappen and Tsunoda confidently walk onto the track, the sunlit DAFs catch their eyes. After a brief introduction, both drivers immediately inspect their rides, which are just a little different to the F1 cars they normally drive. The suspension is given a thorough check, the mirrors get adjusted and then there’s a customary glance under the hood.
Just before the duo begin their first lap in reverse, Rodenburg can't help but grin from ear to ear as he gleefully nudges his granddaughter and says: "I would be honored to have the Formula One world champion put a dent in my car. I certainly wouldn't get that fixed."
Unfortunately for him, Verstappen proves to be too agile a driver to allow such a thing to happen. The Oracle Red Bull Racing driver speeds down the track, first up a narrow passage on the straight and then mastering a tricky chicane through the Tarzan bend and ultimately the roundabout.
After tackling the final zigzags and the banked Hugenholtz bend to the finish line, Verstappen rips into his handbrake, causing the DAF to come to a standstill amidst clouds of smoke and the sound of screeching tyres. The world champion is feeling confident and is ready to settle the score after losing to Tsunoda when they went swamp racing in Miami earlier this year.
When the race gets underway, Verstappen starts fast, but Tsunoda is hot on his heels as they approach the first chicane. A timely press of the brake, a savvy manoeuvre and a step on the gas sees them speeding off to the first roundabout. Tsunoda is gaining ground fast as he attempts to deny the Dutch driver victory on home soil.
I'd seen a few videos of reverse racing on YouTube before, but I never thought I’d be doing it myself. What a great experience
Verstappen eases past the Hugenholtz bend and can afford to ease off the power as he sees Tsunoda almost lose control of his DAF. But the Japanese driver's lightning-quick reflexes steer him clever of danger and he comes to a standstill on the grass, ready to admit defeat.
Emerging victorious from his DAF, Verstappen is all smiles and needs a moment to recover from the high-speed mayhem. "Driving in reverse is not uncommon in Formula One, but this was something wholly different. I'd seen a few videos of reverse racing on YouTube before, but I never thought I'd be doing it myself. What a great experience," he says moments after his victory.
The reigning world champion then adds: "These cars are able to hit a top speed of 75mph in reverse, but I wasn't comfortable hitting those numbers. You could feel the car become a bit shaky once it hit 50mph."
Even though he won this head-to-head with Tsunoda, Verstappen takes his hat off to the Scuderia AlphaTauri racer: "I was impressed with his speed. I think he even clocked in at over 60mph somewhere along the way. He really went full send!"
"It was an unforgettable experience for me,” says Tsunoda. “I never knew these kinds of races were held in the Netherlands back in the day. It's an absolute highlight for me and I had a great time."
I’m glad Max took this win, because that only adds to the thrill of our next racing battle
Despite not knowing much about reverse racing, it certainly didn't take Tsunoda long to get the hang of his DAF. "I actually felt it wasn’t too hard to get a feel for the car, even in reverse. There's no need to shift gear; it's either hitting the gas or pumping the brake."
Having triumphed in Miami and now lost in Zandvoort, Tsunoda was keen for another showdown with Verstappen: "I can’t wait for the next challenge. I'm glad Max took this win, because that only adds to the thrill of our next racing battle."
For Verstappen and Tsunoda, Red Bull Reverse proved a great warm-up exercise ahead of next weekend's Grand Prix of the Netherlands when the Orange Army will be out in full force. Verstappen will be looking to delight his home fans with another victory, while Tsunoda is excited to race on one of his favorite tracks: "I love the tracks of Circuit Zandvoort. It has turns and bends you can't find elsewhere and while it's quite technical, it's also really fast. I'm looking forward to the race."