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Motorsports - now I get it

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And there were girls there too.

And there were girls there too.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of sitting in the Jim Beam Racing box above the pits at the Sydney Telstra 500, a very loud race involving lots of very fast cars, driven by very skilful men, backed by very earnest teams of engineers, mechanics and marketers.

I say "privilege" because it would have cost me and the other journos who populated the corporate box many, many hundreds of dollars to buy these seats, and there were literally thousands of die-hard fans besieging the track who would have swapped positions with us in a heartbeat.

I don't take stuff like that for granted, and I certainly don't bring a sneering let's-condescend-to-the-fans attitude to a sporting event I'm attending for the first time because I like to keep an open mind.

I'd never seen V8s race before Saturday. I've done formula one - at the very first (of the the new-look) Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide in 1985 - and lasted 10 minutes, mainly because I was so ripped on South Australian buds I couldn't see straight.

Anyway, last weekend, sitting on the train out to Homebush Bay, I did make a few "switch weapons from stun to kill" jokes about the Holden fans wearing flags as capes. However, the truth of it was I was almost as excited as those blokes were to see some action.

My mate Luke and I arrived Telstra Stadium, took the elevator up to the ground floor of the train station and that's when a wash of obscenely fierce noise hit us as V8 Supercars whipped past on the nearby track.

It was soooo loud and aggressive; if you'd heard the same engine noise on a public street, you'd have jumped back from the road, thinking: "Holy shit! Someone's about to crash!!"

That's when I looked across at Luke and said: "Now I get it."

V8 Supercars are all about the ridiculous: the ridiculous noise, speed, money, skill, safety measures, technology.

When you watch a V8 Supercar braking from 200+ km/h into a chicane, bumping off the apron, pitching up on to two wheels, then speeding off like an eel into a crevice, you can't help but be impressed by the incredible interplay of physics.

It's ridiculous.

Then you see 14 more cars follow it around the corner and they all do the same, all taking the same risk to maximise their speed and you realise how little separates the good from the great drivers.

Millimetres. Hundredths of a second. And millions of dollars.

Anyway, those of you who are motorsports fans are thinking "derr" and those of you who are not - or have never experienced it in person - are probably thinking, "Who cares"?

Well - as I was told by the very helpful Jim Beam PR fella, Dan Silburn, V8 Supercars is the fastest-growing professional sport in Australia, so obviously a lot of people do care.

Why? Well, it seemed to me there were a looooot of families out at Homebush Bay on the day I was there, and tons of kids.

There are few other sports where you can go out to the event and, an hour before the start, the absolute heroes of the game are signing autographs for fans: all the drivers were doing this - from Jamie Whincup and Saturday's eventual winner Craig Lowndes to the good ole boys from Jim Beam Racing, Steven Johnson and James Moffat.

There was also an incredible amount to see, from hot rods, to classic cars, the Supercars themselves (which would be racing only hours later), to the support crews, racing boats, a motorcross jump team and stunt drivers.

I was all over it - so I can't imagine how stoked a 10-year-old kid would have been by all the sights and sounds.

And then there was the racing - which, as I've said, was ridiculously loud and fast and also varied: V8s, Porches, utes, classic cars, midget cars (dunno what their real name is).

In short, I was impressed, had a massively good time and would unhesitatingly recommend it as a day out to anybody looking for something different to do.

However, if you want to be environmentally responsible you have to plant 80 trees the next day to absorb all the greenhouse emissions you've encouraged with your attendance.

I went for eucalypts.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.

 

66 comments so far

  • I went to some rugby games with my dad (aussie rules and union?) when we were both in Oz at the same time some years ago and loved it. He met up with school friends who were supporting their sides and I loved the atmosphere of the park, the banter between supporters of different teams, the sausage rolls and the excitment of BEING THERE. En plus, my dad's friends were so happy to have someone to explain things to that I ended up learning a lot.

    I have never understood sport on TV, except cricket I guess, but the real thing is fun...I'd go again any time...

    Commenter
    far away
    Date and time
    December 08, 2011, 6:07PM
    • I quite like watching rally cars on TV. The Paris-Dakar is quite exciting too.

      Not much else to say except my Barina wouldn't last in either of them.

      Commenter
      M
      Location
      The Sanctuary
      Date and time
      December 08, 2011, 7:18PM
      • I went to the historic cars at Eastern Creek a few years ago after returning from the country.
        I walked around the pits and saw some of my favourite cars when I was a child. A genuine Ford GT 40 and watched it raced by one of the aces that drove them in the 60's.
        There were F1 Lotus and Ferrari, cars that I saw on TV, just sitting there and being prpepared to do their short races.
        The later was the A1GP at Eastern Creek and that was good, but the limitations of the circuit was fairly obvious.
        Earlier this year I drove my own old car around the short course of Eastern Creek with others in an all too brief parade lap for an insurance co. I only wish that I had been able to do it faster and in a quicker car, but that is unlikely.
        As for the V8's at Homebush, I confess that for me there is only one street circuit, Monte Carlo, the rest should all be shifted to proper race tracks. As for chicanes, they are really terrible. They ruined Silverstone.
        I wish we had in Sydney an event similar to the Goodwood Revival, where people can bring their cars and also visitors can dress up in the clothes of the era. there is also the Goodwood Festival of Speed. They even race my old car in the St Mary's trophy race at Goodwood for sport racers of the 50's and 60's.

        Commenter
        The Old Guy
        Location
        Marrickville
        Date and time
        December 08, 2011, 8:29PM
        • Now you 'get it' you must go to the Bathurst 1000 - to the top of The Mountain, to The Camps, to Thunderdome. A writer with your passions will cry. In another blog topic, maybe yours - about where you would take someone to see the real Australia - I nominated Mount Panorama, The Bathurst 1000. If Homebush moved you, Bathurst will bring you to you knees - with humility. Please ask DJR to invite you, and then please go. Then please write about it, someone should. (PS: The skill and the bravery have never been higher, and of themselves are very moving.)

          Commenter
          Geoff
          Location
          Reid Park
          Date and time
          December 08, 2011, 9:29PM
          • Did Adelaide in 88' by memory, found it boring and hot. Enjoyed Bathurst on TV as a kid but can't get into any motor racing on TV these days.

            A few years ago I bought a 66 mustang as I've always liked the look of them. I only drive it a few times a year and feel a bit of a wanker when I do for some reason.

            Commenter
            kermit the log
            Location
            sydney
            Date and time
            December 08, 2011, 9:47PM
            • I grew up watching Bathurst and having parties on that long weekend, but i got into Formula 1 when I was a newly divorced Mum back before we had pay TV and there wasnt much on late at night. It was in the Ayrton Senna days when Michael Shumacher was just coming up, getting involved in the strategies and the details was great.

              My husband is right into V8 Supercars, big Ford fan went out an bought himself an FPV Typhoon its the closest thing we will get to being in a race car!

              I can see why people love going, the noise and the smell and the excitement makes you feel like you are not just watching it but you are part of it.

              Commenter
              two-minds
              Date and time
              December 08, 2011, 10:12PM
              • Sam:
                1)the "Midget cars" are called Aussie Cars - motorbike engines in a frame - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aussie_Racing_Cars

                2)Don't worry too much about the environmental aspects, they are using E85 ethanol http://ethanolfacts.com.au/v8-supercars-1

                Commenter
                conio
                Date and time
                December 09, 2011, 12:05AM
                • Good on you Sam...I wasn't expecting a snide commentary and didn't get it (although the article did have a touch of the infomercial about it - naturally I guess). V8's are a simple, raw pleasure, and while I'm not a car guy, anything that gets families together, heroes and lots of loud noise and technology can't be half bad. Next: your experience at a classical music concert - another entertainment event with its own pleasures, people and pomp!

                  Commenter
                  Pete
                  Location
                  Melbourne
                  Date and time
                  December 09, 2011, 12:08AM
                  • ...my Barina wouldn't last in either of them. M | The Sanctuary - December 08, 2011, 8:18PM

                    Ha! my Peugeot 406 (10years plus) would feel a little underdressed in Paris, make it to the end of Spain and then retire in the sand somewhere within sight of the ferry...it'd speak the language, though, which would be nice for it.

                    Commenter
                    far away
                    Date and time
                    December 09, 2011, 2:53AM
                    • As a motor racing fan of many years, I thank you for putting it so eloquently. An "incredible interplay of physics" is an excellent description. It's easy to write it off as cars doing the same thing over and over. But to anyone with a keen eye, the execution of a perfect racing line, the subtle differences between drivers, and the strategy and tactics on the track are all engrossing and beautiful. And then there's the visceral effect of seeing and hearing it up close.

                      Commenter
                      orr
                      Date and time
                      December 09, 2011, 3:11AM

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