Doc, who hates mornings, opened his eyes, looked at me and smiled, before going back to sleep.
Yes, I’m in Melbourne at the Grand Prix. The car didn’t quite drive past my bedroom window, but given how loud they are it sounded like it.
Doc’s a bit of a rev head, and while I really couldn’t think of anything I’d enjoy less than watching cars drive round and round a race track while sending me deaf, in a moment of weakness (fuelled by lots of champagne) I bought him 2 tickets to the Grand Prix for Christmas. I figured that when we weren’t at the track I could spend time in Melbourne with my best friend from school. She lives just around the corner from the Albert Park track (hence the volume of the car this morning) so it was ideal.
So here we are. We arrived yesterday, day 1 of the Grand Prix carnival. The actual race isn’t until Sunday night, but for the four days leading up to that there is a whole festival celebrating rev head culture. In addition to the F1, there’s V8 supercars, the Porsche Carrera Cup, and sports cars racing, and they all have multiple practice sessions and qualifying rounds. There’s also a celebrity challenge, parades and demonstrations of fast cars old and new. Oh, and air shows and fly overs.
Rev head heaven!
Around 2pm, after having a chat and a cup of tea and piece of home made cake with my friend (she’s a great cook – the coconut and chocolate cake was still warm) off we went to the track. I thought we’d probably just wander down there, have a bit of a look around, get the lie of the land, watch some cars drive around and come back. I mean, really, how long can anybody sit there and watch practice sessions? What’s the point if it’s not the real thing.
Our first experience was disappointing. Our tickets gave us all day access to the “exclusive Paddock Club viewing deck”. I’m not sure what it was viewing, but it certainly wasn’t the track. So we decided to go and get our “free merchandise item”. That could only be redeemed from the opposite side of the track to the viewing (and I use that term loosely) deck. Doc was looking forward to a coldie holder and I was betting on a cap. We were both wrong. We handed over our tickets and were given … (drum roll please)… plastic cushions.
The Pit Lane walk was back on the other side of the track and was a shambles. Lucky for us we decided not to do it, instead we were sitting in the GP Advantage bar having a drink. That’s where we watched the practice session for the “Ultimate speed comparison”. A race between a hotted up Mercedes street car, a V8 super car and an F1 car. Let me tell you, even the street car goes very fast.
The F1 car was loud. Very loud. Very, very loud. The type of loud you feel through your whole body – like a great sub-woofer. Did you know that a restrictive exhaust reduces your horsepower? I must admit, that’s something I only learned today.
And to my utter surprise, I loved it.
Our grandstand for day 1 overlooked first and second bends, and that’s where I found out exactly how long you can watch cars practicing driving round and round a track – three hours. We watched the V8 practice session, the Porsche Carrera practice session, the Ultimate Speed comparison demonstration and finally the V8 qualifying session.
It was very exciting.
I won’t go into all the details, but lots of cars got the wobbles on the second bend, and a few skidded off the track – or “went gardening in the kitty litter” as it’s called in racing circles. I even closed my eyes and hid behind my hands a few times not wanting to see a crash (which didn’t happen fortunately).
Even though the promised ‘benefits’ of our tickets didn’t live up to expectations, the rest of the Grand Prix is very well organized. As well as what’s happening on the track there’s lots of other things to keep everybody entertained – admittedly all of it rev head stuff like Nitro Circus, Wheel of Steel and a Jimmy Barnes concert. Even the kids’ corner has a Porsche Kids Driving School. Yes, that’s right – Porsche. The kids at the Grand Prix get to drive Porches. How many adults can say that!
I can’t wait to go back for more.