Improbable situations, unfathomable rules, excitable presenters and extraordinary vehicles. No, it’s not another Formula One reality show, it’s round three of the most formidable F1 competition outside of F1: the (Un)serious Race Series – The Super Ultimate Japanese Racing Challenge Show.
The 2023 off-circuit series, which stops off in Japan for this episode, features Oracle Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri drivers pitted against each other in peculiarly local vehicles. F1 World Drivers’ Championship leader Max Verstappen and Checo Perez take on local hero Yuki Tsundoa and up and comer, Liam Lawson across a series of challenges in a couple of very small trucks. Known as Kei trucks, the tiny, flatbed utility vehicles are normally seen ferrying (quite small) piles of goods around the narrow streets of towns and villages all across Japan.
Four competitive drivers, some elaborate, oversized props and an overly excitable host set a scene that channelled the spirit of Japan’s craziest game shows.
Assembling for battle at Tokyo’s Ariake Stadium, Max, Checo and Liam were keenly aware of Yuki’s current (Un)Serious Series dominance, with the Japanese driver reigning unbeaten across the first two events, in Miami and Spielberg. If they were going to beat the hometown hero in exacting challenges such as knocking down some supersized bowling pins, they’d have to bring their A-game – and a massive inflatable ball.
And they did. After a series of surprising challenges, it was Max and Checo who emerged victorious, shattering Yuki’s unbroken run and on the Scuderia AlphaTauri driver’s home turf, too.
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 lots of crazy events around the world, I’d have never expected to be doing this challenge here in Tokyo. I just wish the kei trucks had more downforce [laughs].”
Fellow winner Max added: “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, I have a lot of special memories from Suzuka, my favourite memory is of course winning the championship here and also driving in my first ever official practice session too – on a track like this, it wasn’t the easiest but is something I will remember forever.”