On April 20th, 2024, Oracle Red Bull Racing shut down a length of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC to host a few cars, a motorcycle, and a Formula 1 car to drive up and down around a third of a mile of road and make some donuts.
The event started at 4pm, with the streets opening up at 1:30pm for folks to line up.
We arrived around 2:30pm, and managed to get a seat up at the front of the fence at one section of the track, towards one end.  There weren’t any bleachers or seating to speak of, so, to paraphrase the words of a race car driver, if you weren’t first (at the fence), you’re last (to be able to see cars spin donuts).
Around 3:25pm was the first sighting of someone on the track.  He was one of three or four people, spaced along the track, that would wave the green flag to give the drivers the green light to start their run.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 54mm, 1/800 sec, f4, ISO 100

At 3:30pm, the first cars hit the road.  It was a Red Bull-hosted event, which meant free Red Bull for the crowd waiting along the road.  As far as I can tell, Red Bull build these custom hatchbacks twenty years ago when the Mini Cooper was first brought to America, and hasn’t updated them since; these were the same cars that would randomly show up in college to ply teenagers and 20-somethings to drink Red Bull. 

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 64mm, 1/1000 sec, f4, ISO 100

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/1000 sec, f5, ISO 100

We didn’t have the best angle down Pennsylvania Avenue, but you can tell this section of road was intentionally chosen to give the Capitol Building a very prominent position behind all of the cars.  Note all of the Red Bull Minis down the street.
Before the event officially began, the drivers were paraded down in a trio of Ford F-150 Lightnings, complete with the dealer tags and paperwork still on the windows.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/1000 sec, f4.5, ISO 100

First was David Coulthard.  I remember watching him racing Michael Schumacher back in the late 90s and early 2000s in the McLaren.  In 2005, he left McLaren to join the brand-new Red Bull Formula 1 team.  He stayed with the team until 2008, when he retired from Formula 1. He now spends his time doing race commentary, and, apparently, driving Formula 1 cars on city streets.
From a photography perspective, this photo is heavily cropped to get this particular shot, but a mix of the camera resolution and viewing the photos on computer screens means it still works out decently.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/1000 sec, f4, ISO 360

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/1000 sec, f4, ISO 280

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/1000 sec, f4, ISO 360

Next up was Scott Speed, on the left.  In 2006, he was the first American driver in Formula 1 since Michael Andretti.  He drove in 28 races with Toro Rosso (effectively the junior team to Red Bull) until he was replaced by young upstart Sebastian Vettel.  Since then, he’s bounced around NASCAR and, most recently, rallycross.
Last to be driven up the street was Aaron Colton, on the right.  I knew right away it was him, because he had a stylistic version of his name embroidered on his jacket.  Everything I know about him from web searches is that he’s a professional street freestyle motorbike rider.
The first car to be given the green flag was this Ford Mustang GT3.  Since this was first, everyone had their phones out for this one.  It had been a long and warm afternoon waiting for some cars to drive quickly in a straight line, turn around, and then drive back in the other direction.
It was fun playing around with shutter speeds - at 1/1000, it captured the excitement and facial expressions of the audience, but misses the speed of the car.  The only lens I left on my camera during the event was my 24-70mm.  A lot of attendees brought long telephoto lenses, but the speed and proximity of the cars might’ve made them unwieldy to use.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 34mm, 1/1000 sec, f4, ISO 100

And the camera phones - so, so many camera phones.
I know there’s the mindset that it’s better to be present at an experience - see it with your own eyes, remember what happened, instead of through the back of a phone.
On the flip side, I love taking the time and energy to try and capture what’s there, plan out where to be and how to get a shot, then photograph either what it was like when you were there, or at least try and capture the experience of being there.
It doesn’t need to be a good photograph or video, but knowing you were the one there taking it yourself gives a chance to remember what it was like for you, specifically, at that time.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/1000 sec, f4, ISO 100

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 66mm, 1/1000 sec, f4, ISO 100

There were zero bleachers, zero chairs, just sidewalk and bollards.  A few folks braver than most took advantage, and climbed trees or light poles to get a better view.
Scott Speed in a Subaru WRX was next.  At this point, I started playing around with shutter speeds.  Dropping down to 1/60 and panning as he went by to try and freeze his movement and show how quick he was going.  The wider angle helped grab the crowds as well.
I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, or how I associate race cars with growing up, but it felt like the color needed to skew warm.  

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 37mm, 1/60 sec, f16, ISO 100

This also starts a fun game of “count the GoPros”.  I counted two on Speed’s WRX.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/80 sec, f13, ISO 100

I don’t know if it was intentional to have Oracle Cloud banners at the end of the road, where the burnouts occurred and the tires went up in smoke, but I’ll assume it was.  Again, so many camera phones.  Love that even the security had to turn around and see what was going on.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 55mm, 1/250 sec, f10, ISO 100

Faster shutter speed, and so much smoke from the donuts.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 45mm, 1/250 sec, f11, ISO 100

Count the GoPros. I’m looking forward to whenever Red Bull inevitably posts some sick YouTube video of the footage, combining the car GoPros, camera people along the side, and I have to assume at least three drones hovering overhead.
It was incredibly bright - even at 1/250, it was still shooting at f10.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 33.5mm, 1/250 sec, f10, ISO 100

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 43mm, 1/80 sec, f13, ISO 100

Aaron Colton was next, doing wheelies and other presumably dangerous, but extremely well-practiced, stunts.  It was about here where I realized that we had large, fast pieces of metal hurtling up and down the street with a single row of plastic bollards, and five extra feet of space, to protect the crowds.
Houdini apparently probably said that he makes sure his escapes are no more dangerous than sitting in a chair in his living room, and these drivers were confident and practiced enough to (assumingely..) make this experience about the same for the audience.
Managing to get the focus patch locked in and panning accurately on a motorcycle for the Z7 wasn’t its strongest suite.  This was the only sharp photo I was able to grab.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 43mm, 1/80 sec, f10, ISO 100

And, finally, the RB7 Red Bull, driven by David Coulthard!  The RB7 was driven in the 2011 Formula One season, by Sebastian Vettel (remember him from earlier?), and Mark Webber.  It ws a V8 with over 750 horsepower, claimed the 2011 Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship, and won 12 of the 19 races that season.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 44mm, 1/100 sec, f13, ISO 100

Count the GoPros.  I think I spotted six, including the cockpit cam.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 42mm, 1/80 sec, f13, ISO 100

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/80 sec, f13, ISO 100

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 42mm, 1/80 sec, f9, ISO 100

Oracle wasn’t the title sponsor for Red Bull back in 2011, but you can’t give old brands free advertising.  They gave the RB7 a new livery to make sure the right brands were in the right places for what was essentially a loud, localized, advertisement.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 70mm, 1/80 sec, f10, ISO 100

And, to finish if off, you needed some donuts.

Nikon Z7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4, 39mm, 1/60 sec, f20, ISO 100

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