VESCA call this event something different every year, so as far as I’m concerned, it’ll remain ‘Surfers Paradise’.
Channel Seven were broadcasting from the street course venue from 11:00am today, but unless you were fascinated by an open-wheeler category that we see once a year, and which changes annually in format, then you’d have done what I did and accomplished a few things around the house & yard. Frankly, as far as entertainment goes, the Indy cars are right there with watching paint dry.
The Supercars were entirely different, for a whole range of predictable reasons. Not the least of which being the intense competition at this time of year, and on the street course between the Gold Coast high-rises. Qualifying was eminently predictable, leaving the three championship contenders – Jamie Whincup, Garth Tander and Mark Winterbottom – at the front of a 29 car pack. Once the flag fell, these three drivers left the pack behind them to tangle on corners and try oh-so hard to avoid Paul Morris. Seriously, how Neil Crompton can call that man, in any way shape or form, professional simply escapes me.
After the CPS was completed, and smartly by the three contender teams, the race settled down. From lap 20 onwards the top positions remained unchanged, despite some of the closest, most challenging racing to be seen on any track in this country today. The Surfers Paradise street track is terribly hard to pass on, and to the venue’s detriment, often provides nothing more than a freight-train of cars unable to pass the slowest of their number on the tight, twisting track. To some degree, that happened again today, with the top three championship contenders leaving the pack behind them, racing nose to tail for the last seven laps at extraordinary pace. It was plain that Garth Tander, were he able to pass Jamie Whincup, would have pulled away. But where to pass, is the question, and at what risk? With a championship based on points for consistency, even a racer’s racer will hold back when the risk of trying is too high.
I’ve written before in this tome of the quandry which Surfers Paradise presents. Street tracks are always compromises, and sadly Surfers Paradise is at the poorer end of the scale. Certainly, it does engender close, exciting racing, and more than the odd bingle, but for a purist like myself, motor racing isn’t about who crashes where. It’s about who races best on a track which allows free reign for expression of the driver’s art. We see that art at very few tracks. Sandown, Bathurst, Barbagallo, Adelaide, Hidden Valley and Phillip Island are probably the only real racing circuits where the drivers can show their wares. Out of 15 rounds, that’s less than half. Interestingly though, two of that six are street tracks, although naming the Mount Panorama circuit as a ‘street track’ is quite a stretch, despite it’s common use as a public road.
Still, the result over the final seven laps today was something to behold. Right up to turn 12 on lap 27, I felt Tander might just make a lunge, but commonsense held the reins and he settled into second place, with Winterbottom close behind. Tomorrow’s two 27-lappers will prove very interesting given those three cars at least are within hundredths of each other. Just so the rest of the field isn’t forgotten, here’s the final standings after race one.
The Supercars race tomorrow before and after the so-called ‘main event’, the Indy cars. I was pleased to read Tony Cochrane openly stating that VESCA doesn’t need a foreign category to play support for, and would continue to return to Surfers Paradise for the next five years of the current contract. Despite the track being less than attractive in terms of a viewers circuit, I think it’s a good thing that the Surfers Paradise event will continue on, regardless of IRL prevarication.