One look at Matt Halliday’s racing resume should be enough to incite deep jealousy in even some of the world’s most successful racing drivers. He’s competed in everything from go-karts to Porsches, A1 Grand Prix to the Champ Car World Series, and a number of V8 Supercar endurance rounds.
This weekend, he’ll add Red Bull Global Rallycross to that list.
Halliday joins AF Racing this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway, completing the GRC Lites grid. In a last-minute deal, the New Zealand native flew overnight from his Los Angeles office to Indianapolis to jump into a completely new form of racing and car he’d never driven before.
“I wasn’t organized for it, but these opportunities tend to come up like that,” he admitted. “When these last minute opportunities come up, you have to be prepared to put yourself on the line. I’ve done it a lot in my career. This is going to be a fun weekend!”
Born in Auckland, Halliday first competed in the United States as an Indy Lights driver in 2001 and returned as a Champ Car driver in 2007. A veteran of numerous European and Australian-based series, the 37-year-old (he celebrates a birthday next Friday) welcomes the opportunity to make his rallycross debut, citing both a relaxed atmosphere and a unique race format.
“GRC is a completely different format from other forms of racing,” he continued. “There’s potential for huge growth. It’s a form of racing where it puts the driver as the star, which is crucial. If you want to be a star, you have to be noticed—you have to go away from this part of the sport where dad has a lot of money, the kid can get in the car and then go to Formula 1. Those kids don’t attract the public’s imagination. The fan base drop off is huge. Long story short, GRC puts the driver in the front seat and it’s a completely different form of racing.”
But while he boasts experience in a number of the world’s top racing series, the Kiwi is the first to admit that even that may not mean much with such a different vehicle and course to conquer.
“I haven’t even used a gear stick in a racing car for years, at least since 2012, for a clutch and a gear stick!” Halliday said. “If you’re a racing driver, you like to think that you can drive anything. Obviously you can’t come into a race weekend without any practice, and the dirt is different.
“I’m just hoping that my experience will come to the front, because it’s hard to picture and imagine that stuff before you get in the car. I’ve driven so many different things in my career—hopefully I can pick and choose what to use and what can help me.”
At the end of Lites practice, Halliday ranked seventh overall with a best time of 49.898 seconds, just over a second away from practice leader Christian Brooks. But while he’s still adapting to the new car, one thing is clear: he’s having the time of his life trying something new.
“I’m not putting any expectations on it because it’s completely new for me,” he concluded. “I don’t think I’ve done something like this—I’m not sure what I’m getting myself into. It’s good to challenge yourself, and this will be one of those challenges.”