• JP

Gravity Dunes Buggy Racing Center


This is what a dream buggy racing experience could be. Located within eye-shot of the Phoenix, AZ skyline, this would be the authentic dune buggy racing experience. Several loads of sand are brought in, to add to the desert-like experience.


These racing buggies have onboard computer systems. The same GP2 processor is used for ultra-smooth horizon stabilization in the new GoPro Hero 10 Black. There are several ground detection sensors underneath the buggy and a 360 view camera. These feeds are all connected to the onboard computer. These sensors along with an accelerometer create the smoothest driving experience possible.


The suspension is electronically flexible. It adjusts itself in real-time based on the terrain. When landing from a jump, the tires lower down, to better cushion the landing. When drifting sideways, the suspension tilts the buggy at just the right attitude, for an ideal center of gravity. The cross weight is distributed evenly amongst all four wheels. In turn, this makes the buggy very hard to flip over while racing. It is close to being impossible. This anti-flip technology enables the driver to race with no fear.

The visual identity needed to accurately represent the emotions of such an experience. The most dominant color in the brand identity is orange. It drives home the feeling of enthusiasm and excitement that drivers get at this facility. The entire identity uses a warm color pallet to represent the weather climate of the Phoenix area.


The main font is intended to match the modernity of the technologies being used. The disconnected pieces of the letterforms add to the psychology of technological influence. The Bebas Neue font family is used for body copy, because of its simple nature and versatility.

A grunge texture is used as a subtle background element in some applications. It is intended to add to the gritty, daring feel of the experience.


As patrons enter the facility, their focus is drawn to the massive hill they will be climbing in the buggies. There are life-sized car exhibits in the lobby and several spots for family photos along the way. There are several elements to encourage patrons to go online and share their experience.

Before racing, all first-timers have to attend a safety briefing. The presentation is delivered on a massive theater screen after the driver checks in.

As drivers walk into the theater room for the safety briefing presentation, they are each given a magazine-style booklet, to familiarize themselves with the buggies they will be driving. The opening spread shows an illustrated map of the racecourse, with call-outs to specific places the racer will want to remember.


There are technical diagrams showing various areas of the buggy, along with the specifications. At the end of the booklet, drivers are given tips and tricks from some of the biggest names in off-road racing: Ken Block, Halie Deegan, Donny Schatz, and more.

The front straightaway is downhill, making it the fastest spot on the racetrack. Speeds could get as high as 60 to 70 miles per hour before the hard braking zone into turn one. Drivers must be careful not to brake too late, to avoid sliding the tires. There is a tight, technical section at the very bottom of the valley. This challenges the maneuverability of the buggies and the mental sharpness of drivers. The first few corners are banked. The driver will be pressed down into the seat due to the high G-force load of these corners. The track gets slightly narrow in this area for an added sensation of speed. So many buggies racing nose-to-tail in such a tight area will make for a dusty field of view. It keeps the driver on their toes, for an adrenaline-pumping ride.


The track flattens out and gets wide for two corners. The grip level is very low here. This is intended to force drivers to slow the buggies down. This off-throttle time allows for variance in driving style, and more importantly, side-by-side racing. The corner exit is completely flat. This makes throttle control and torque very important as they come onto the backstretch.


There is a slight valley before they begin climbing up the giant hill called, "Mount Dune." In the valley, the driver cannot even see the top. Drivers will have the pedal to the metal. The 225-horsepower Polaris motor, along with the adaptive electric power will get pushed to their limits.


Drivers will faintly see the Phoenix Skyline in their rear-view mirror. The Interstate will be directly in front of them. A right-handed turn comes out of nowhere at the crest of the hill, to begin the descent downward. There are sudden drop-offs and ramps to encourage drivers to catch air. Drivers can jump over 30 feet in the air on their way down the hill.

As the slope of Mount Dune eases back to the flat, there is a long, and wide bend. This is the last turn of the course. Drivers will keep going straight to enter the exit lane, which takes them back to the main building. To finish a lap, they will take the long, sweeping left-handed turn to the front-stretch and finish line. This is the best area of the track for high-speed drifting. As the driver stays on the throttle, they will feel the buggy begin to slide underneath them. This is when they will turn the wheel back to the right, and start the long slide. Drivers can do this with no fear, thanks to the onboard computer. Anti-flip technology is used all over the course for a smooth-riding feel.

After finishing their experience, racers get an infographic driver stat sheet. It shows their fastest lap time, their rank on the daily leader-board, average speed, along with top speed, throttle and brake percentages. There are QR codes designed to motivate patrons to join the app.

The app is completely tailored to each individual user, based on their skill level and how frequently they visit. Once patrons set up a driver profile, they will have access to a vast network page full of other racers.


The app is intended to encourage interaction between competitors, so there are notifications in the app feed. These show when a record has been broken, or a high-ranking driver is on the track. There are daily top tens in lap time, top speed, jump height, and more. Points are awarded for various daily challenges that are generated by the app. Each member has a driver score. The app attempts to pair drivers with others near the same experience and skill level for a more fair race.

All merchandising maintains the bar element from the logo for brand recognition. Discounts are offered to visitors who race often.

At the Gravity Dunes trade show booth, a buggy is hanging by cables from the ceiling of the expo. It is just above eye level for onlookers walking by. The table underneath is a digital screen, playing a looping animation of the technical details. There are LED lights flashing from the sensors in the undercarriage, that are color-coded on the technical diagrams.

The, "Dune Edition," campaign is a partnership with Hot Wheels, NASCAR star Halie Deegan and WRX Rally legend Ken Block. A 1:64 scale diecast model of the dune buggy is available in five variations. Each one has a unique barcode on the back. All five cars must be in one picture, uploaded to the contest webpage. One winner gets to race against Deegan and Block and have a private meet-and-greet with both of them. Only 3500 of these cars are produced. They are highly limited collectables.

Store signage, end cap displays, and banners are all great ways to get the buggy racing center involved in the Phoenix area conversation. The first retail partner I had in mind was Walmart, given their close association with Hot Wheels in the mind of typical consumers. Other partners could be Target and retail giants similar to them.

This billboard would be in the outskirts of Phoenix.

 

Gravity Dunes could be the ultimate buggy racing experience. What are your thoughts on this? Should it become a reality one day? Thanks for the read!