This past Saturday, I attended one of the best races that I have ever seen.
The venue was Lakeside Park, - formerly Lakeside International Raceway - a 2.4 kilometre long, eight turn racetrack 30km's north of Brisbane. The event was The Lakeside Classic Festival of Touring Cars, the fourth of four events to celebrate 50 years of this historic racetrack. Holding it's first race meeting in March of 1961, Lakeside was a favourite among drivers and fans alike for many years, being a regular stop for the Australian Touring Car Championship from 1964 up until 1998. Club level motorsport continued at the track for a short time until the gates were eventually closed for 7 years. But unlike many lost racetracks, the glorious roar of motor racing was to return, as Lakeside was reopened in April 2008.
Many classic battles were fought on this track and from August 12-14, 2011, Lakeside once again became the home of touring car racing in Queensland. Throughout the course of the event, we were treated to races showcasing machines from many different eras of racing - the ever popular Escort's and Datsun 1600's put in giant killing efforts against the Falcon's, Mustangs, Torana's and Monaro's in Group N, with BMW 2002's and Mazda RX2's some of the other, more unique metal in the same class. The Regularity trials provided a sea of diversity, as all manner of vehicles from a 1958 Morris Major to a beautifully prepared Corvette Stingray and everything in between fought the clock for honours of consistency, while the one make Holden HQ series put on some great racing. The brutal Trans-Am cars put on a spectacular show, which was only a precursor for the big hitting Group A and Group C cars. The forerunner to today's V8 Supercar series, the cars taking part were the very cars that had engaged in battles on the same track years ago.
The main event and perhaps the most significant, was a session of display laps from some of Australia's most famous race cars. Allan Moffat's Coca Cola Mustang, Norm Beechy's Shell Monaro and Dick Johnson's Tru-Blue Falcon, all on track together once more. It was a special moment that I won't soon forget, living history prowling the bends of Lakeside once again.
But the highlight of the meet? That came in the form a Gemini race. A one make series for the Holden Gemini, these 1.8 litre 4-cylinder cars are not what comes to mind when one thinks "race car". But over the course of the 8-lap race, the lead changed hands 5 times and on the final lap, the leading cars went three wide into Hungry corner and by the time they had made it around to the home straight, a mere tenth of a second was all that separated first from second, with the winning pass being completed at the start finish line itself. The race wasn't filmed, the series will probably never be shown on TV and no one has ever heard of the drivers behind the wheel, but that didn't stop them from putting on one of the most exciting races I will ever see.
So make a trip to your local track one weekend. It doesn't matter if the series racing doesn't share the glitz and glamour of top level motorsport, or if you've never heard of any of the drivers. You should go anyway, because who knows? You just might witness the greatest race you'll ever see.
Also: A fellow member of the BMW Car Club of Queensland was competing in the regularity trials, which gave the event that little bit more of a personal touch. Here is a video showcasing some of the highlights of his weekend:
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