Red Bull Racing has been showing its wares to the American public in advance of next year’s United States Grand Prix late-season stop in Austin, Texas.
With David Coulthard at the wheel, RBR has brought a show car to Austin for the former Formula 1 star to strut his stuff on a ranch owned by track backer Red McCombs, at unfinished and unpaved Circuit of the Americas and in front of the Texas State Capitol Building, in an attempt to drum up interest in the race.
Yet an unheralded stunt – having actor Tom Cruise turn laps in the same Red Bull Racing Formula 1 show car – is likely to give the new race more publicity than anything Coulthard has done.
Cruise, who starred as NASCAR driver Cole Trickle in the seminal 1990 film Days of Thunder took several laps in the car at secluded Willow Springs International Motorsports Park in Rosamond, Calif., last week, with his prowess behind the wheel surprising F1 veteran Coulthard.
“Tom is the real deal. I was surprised that he picked it up so quickly and is such an accomplished driver,” Coulthard remarked. “His recall was incredible considering how complicated driving an F1 car is. He’s a guy who really pushes the envelope in real life; this day was not green screened. He thoroughly impressed me,” he said.
Cruise has driven various race cars over the years but until now has never sampled a Formula 1 machine. He reached a top speed of 181 mph – just 4 mph off Coulthard’s best – when exercising the 850-horsepower missile around the 2.5-mile Willow Springs circuit, replete with elevation changes and a long, kinked back straightaway and linked horseshoe curve.
Cruise completed only 24 laps during the seven-hour session. He started his refresher course lapping the track in a passenger car with Coulthard to gain some inkling of the racing line on this tough permanent road course.
Coulthard then introduced Cruise to the F1 machine and showed its quirks to the actor. Between stints on the track, the team went over the car’s telemetry data with Cruise, comparing it to Coulthard’s lap information so that he could continue to improve. By the time the day was complete, Cruise had picked up almost 11 seconds from where he began!
Cruise is currently producing and starring in the latest edition of the Mission Impossible franchise and also filmed Rock of Ages. He’s been a racing fan since meeting driver/actor Paul Newman during his NASCAR movie experience.
This story originally appeared at Motor Authority.