If there’s one thing that Michael and I like to do, it’s watch motorsport. In fact, you could say we are avid petrol-heads! We have been fortunate enough to have seen the Formula1 Grand Prix racing in Albert Park, Melbourne on a couple of occasions, which was where we were first introduced to V8 Supercar racing.
V8 Supercars is a touring car racing category based in Australia, with events taking place in most Australian states and territories, though some overseas rounds are now also being held in New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. V8 Supercar events are very popular and have drawn crowds of over 250,000 spectators. The season takes place over 15 race weekends at purpose-built racetracks and street circuits. Race formats vary from venue to venue, but the Sydney Telstra 500 which is the one we went to, includes two 250km sprint races over the weekend, along with many other exciting support races and entertainment.
The V8 Supercars themselves until now have taken as their basis either the Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon. The reason these two cars were used is their historical significance; the Commodore and the Falcon are two of the most popular passenger-cars in the Australian car-market. However, from 2013, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz will provide two further manufacturers to the mix.
It’s fair to say that although the V8 cars bear some resemblance to the production models outwardly, they are built from the ground up to suit the motorsport application. They are strictly governed in most aspects of performance in an effort to keep all the drivers on an even footing to create closer, more exciting racing.
So, the stage was set for what was billed The Final Showdown between Ford and Holden to be held at the Olympic Park, Sydney, which is just across the Paramatta River from where we are staying. I’m sure many of you will remember this venue as it was where the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final was won by England, who defeated Australia in the dying seconds of the match when Jonny Wilkinson kicked a dropped goal to seal England’s win. Remember?
Anyway, back to the V8s! The event was held over a three-day weekend, but we had elected to only attend on the final day. This gave us the opportunity to watch the previous days racing on TV so we could not only get a feel for which drivers we might support, but also where to stand to get the best views of the action. We normally buy General Admission tickets to motorsport events, which are not only the cheapest way to watch as you don’t get a seat, but more importantly give you the freedom to roam within the venue – meaning you can watch the racing from different vantage points.
We chose to watch from what was loosely described as Turns 2, 3 and 4 which was in fact a chicane, from where we had a good long view of the cars heading both in and out of the chicane. We were also right at the front, with only the two metre security gap and the fence separating us from the track!
First came the various support races to get everyone in the mood. We saw many different types of cars – Porsche, Mercedes, Lamborghini and Ferrari – all driving flat-out to try to win their respective races. Later on came a Walk-About when fans could see the cars close up and had the chance to have their photos taken with their favoutire driver. Fortunately for us, this part of the entertainment happened right in front of where we had set up camp, ensuring we had a great view of both the cars and drivers. But of course, it was the Main Event that everyone was waiting for.
Motor-racing is always a real feast for the senses. We could SEE the V8 Supercars flying through the air as they bounced over the kerbs, precariously travelling on two wheels for longer than they should, before thumping back down onto all four again. As the cars came speeding past us, it was also plain to see the cars’ brake discs glowing bright red because of the fierce braking involved to get around the turns. We could HEAR the engines growl as they approached, the thump as they hit the kerbs on each side of the chicane and the roar as they accelerated away, backfiring as they left the corners behind. (Yes, we were wearing earplugs!) And we could SMELL the fuel as a group of them flashed past, leaving behind the odour of burning rubber as they wrenched their tyres trying to maintain grip on the track surface.
Around and around the track they went for 75 laps (250 kms), bumping and shunting one another until the victor finally emerged – Ford Falcon driver, Will Davison.
Our final thrill of the race was when four-time V8 Champion, Jamie Whincup chose to do his doughnuts after the race – you’ve guessed it – right in front of us!
What a great day out we had!