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Friday favourite: The "rallycross on steroids" track that delighted a McLaren ace

In only its third season of existence, Extreme E has spread its wings across the globe to race in new territories. The Chilean port city of Antofagasta doesn't have a rich motorsport heritage, but its track in the rocky Atacama desert that hosted the 2022 Copper X-Prix immediately shot to the top of McLaren XE driver Tanner Foust's list of favourite circuits

With a long and wide-ranging CV in off-road racing and other disciplines, it’s fair to say that Tanner Foust has experienced many interesting tracks during his highly-decorated motorsport career. From drift racing to hillclimb, rallycross and Extreme E, Foust has seen it all. And perhaps unsurprisingly given his three rallycross titles across the GRC and ARX series, it’s his passion for the mixed-surface discipline that shines through most when talking to the 49-year-old about his favourite track.

Foust says that his “favouritism depends on results,” citing the Nitro Rallycross venue in Utah as one of the most fun to drive due to “a huge three-storey gap jump and big banked turns”. But, having retired from the final of that event in 2021, Foust concedes he had more success elsewhere.

“There's a rallycross track that isn't used much in Hungary that I think is one of my favourites, where I did have more success at,” he says of the Nyirad track where the 2011 European Rallycross Championship runner-up finished second in 2012. Located on a former quarry site, Nyirad's layout is nicknamed the ‘Red Cauldron’ due its red surface colour and big elevation changes.

But it’s a track from his first season in Extreme E last year that Foust has the fondest of memories of. Based in a remote mining area in Chile’s Atacama desert, the Copper-X Prix’s sandy and rocky layout - which was fast, wide and included some spectacular jumps - was not only a unique driving challenge but also provided plenty of overtaking opportunities.

“It’s like rallycross on steroids,” he says. “It's kind of inflated - giant machines and super-long [compared to] a rallycross track. Big rolling jumps, a consistent surface and very wide.”

The event itself proved bittersweet for Foust and his McLaren driving partner Emma Gilmore. Having won the aptly-named ‘Crazy Race’ to progress to the Grand Final, the duo went on to take an on-the-road victory before two time penalties for dropped flags demoted them to fifth. Nonetheless, the quality of the racing is what stood out to Foust.

Foust praises the wide open Antofagasta track for providing overtaking opportunities

Foust praises the wide open Antofagasta track for providing overtaking opportunities

Photo by: Charly Lopez / Motorsport Images

“I do like rallycross tracks that are wide that favour racing and side by side passing,” he explains. “You could have three, four cars wide sliding into a corner and not risk that only one is going to come out the other side. The racing was good with everybody, it was close door to door, very high speed in sections. It sort of checked all the boxes for me and I think it put on a great show.

“Hopefully when we go back to Chile we will have a track similar to that where we really can drive a little more rallycross style.”

Foust also enjoyed Extreme E’s most recent round in Scotland, a country where he spent some of his childhood, finishing runner-up alongside Gilmore in the second leg of the double header at the former Glenmuckloch coal mine.

"You could have three, four cars wide sliding into a corner and not risk that only one is going to come out the other side. The racing was good with everybody" Tanner Foust

"It all started here when I was 10 years old,” he reminisces. “I somehow convinced my Mom to let me drive our Volkswagen Bus to school and do more than just sit on her lap and steer. I had to shift the gears and work the clutch and everything. That was my first time really driving. Then I went back to the States at 13 and I couldn't drive for three years - we get our licences at 16 there. It was the longest three years of my life!

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“Then after that I have been a lover of driving and car control ever since and somehow turned it into a career. It's really full circle coming back here as a racer, especially for a team like McLaren. It's pretty surreal.

“I love the track in Scotland, it's very dynamic, but as far as racing and passing it doesn't lend itself very well to that, so I'd love to see more wide tracks where we can make passes.”

The quality of overtaking opportunities is an important element of an appealing track for Foust

The quality of overtaking opportunities is an important element of an appealing track for Foust

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

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