Just a few weeks ago I watching a re-run of a race from Calder Park about 21 years ago where the forerunner of the V8 Supercars, now just plain Supercars, the Australian Touring Car Championship put on a bit of show under lights.
It may have been the old school vision from 1997, but it was a little hard to figure out what was happening and things were all a bit dark. Not surprising really with the technology back then. So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I headed out to Sydney Motorsport Park (SMP) last night to have a gander at the first race Supercars has put on under lights. I thought it might have been a bit of a gimmick to get folks to turn up to SMP, which is notorious for not getting many fans to make the journey.
I began to get a sense this might actually be something a bit special when the the stands starting filling up, the top of the pit garages became packed with people and the merchandising area was hard work to walk through.
As the sun dipped over the horizon, the support classes were going about their business on track and the lights began to come on — both track and headlights. The Porsches were pretty cool, but it was the GTs racing in the twilight that really got the crowd going. You could have been anywhere in Europe watching an endurance race with the bellowing Mercedes, Austin Martins, Lamborghinis, Porsches and a few other makes thundering down the front straight headlights ablaze, numbers lit up and glowing bits of festooned LEDS sprinkled over the cars.
As it got fully dark the Supercars rolled out of their respective garages to circulate and line up either side of a stage befitting an East End stage production. Come the hour the stage and back drop lit with dazzling coloured lights, LEDS and spot lights that would have put a call out for Batman to shame.
Then the music started. And as each driver was announced they bounded out from "back stage" with huge flames shooting up into the sky above the stage in time with the music. By this stage I thought I had been transports into a parallel universe, and as for punishment of earlier sins, was about to sit through some sort of bizarre cross between a game show and a slightly cheesy singing/talent show. The fans loved it though.
It wasn't long after the last driver was introduced (retiring Craig Lowndes got the biggest cheer of the night followed by Scott McLaughlin) the front straight was cleared and the cars lined up on the grid. Quite a spectacle it had to be said, as there were plenty of different headlight colours and range, even to the extent that one team had those neon undercar duf-duf lights that lit the track up as it fizzed around.
As the race got under way it was as spectacular as promised. Glowing brake discs, flames launching out of exhausts, track lights reflecting off shinny car parts and all sorts of other glowing gizmos. One suggestion for the category for next year; why not have a camera in the engine bay to see the exhaust system glow bright red as well.
The vision on screen was probably a little better than what you saw on-track as you only got to see the cars for a second or two as they disappeared. Oh, and the racing was pretty entertaining as well — you can read the race report on the NZ Herald's website.
The piece de resistant though, was at the end of the podium ceremony when a firework display shook the venue lighting up the sky in a way that put the Auckland Harbour bridge New Year fireworks gig to shame. The event as a whole was as entertaining as promised by the category, so hats off to them.
My advice to motorsport fans both in New Zealand and Australia, if the category decide to put on another show like this, put it on your bucket list up there with Bathurst and the season opener in Adelaide. Nearly 34,000 fans can't be wrong!