CRAILL: Final fling at the Olympic Rings

IT STARTED with a debate about frogs and will end with the crowning of the first overseas-born Supercars champion in more than 20 years – there’s no doubt Sydney’s Olympic Park round of the Supercars championship has seen it’s share of drama over the years.

As a venue to go car racing, I think it’s been great. The circuit is tough – bordering on brutal – but offers the unpredictability and variables that all good street circuits should. There’s walls, kerbs, narrow sections and good places for passing.

And then there was 2010, that famous championship decider when the weather and the walls played as big a role in the outcome as the men behind the wheel.

The facilities are great too – quite literally to an Olympic standard. Housing the entire Supercars paddock in a giant showground pavilion was inspired and offered something unique, not seen elsewhere in the sport.

And yet, as a spectator track it’s unquestionably poor and I’ll not argue that with anyone.. I agree completely. Viewing is limited. It’s hot. Going from one corner to another – limited as the viewing options are – means a long walk through a whole lot of nothing.

It never nailed the great party vibe that a condensed area like the Clipsal 500 or Gold Coast has to offer and for that it suffered and, after a few successful years, the people stayed away.

And yet I’ll miss coming to Sydney Olympic Park for the final round of the year. Because I’m fortunate to not have to spectate, my access was great. The facilities I had access to were great and experience has always been high quality and enjoyable – And I love sports stadiums and this place has plenty of them to keep me entertained and exploring.

And then there was 2010, that famous championship decider when the weather and the walls played as big a role in the outcome as the men behind the wheel.

The electricity in the air – both in a literal and metaphorical sense – on that incredible Saturday will stay with me for ever: it was more atmospheric than the most trippy of Pink Floyd albums.

I still remember the crushing humidity, the torrential downpour and only the sound of yells and hammers echoing around the precinct while the field was under Safety Car and crews thrashed to fix the championship contenders. It’s one of the seminal championship deciding moments in Supercars history.

Yesterday’s race, that saw Shane van Gisbergen blaze his way through the field to seal his first title, was another great moment. Then there was the rain-out of two years ago – where it precipitated so hard that the media centre sprung a leak and we called the race for Melbourne radio partly hidden under a conveniently-placed rubbish bin that caught the excess water.

So, thanks Sydney Olympic Park. It’s been fun. Newcastle, I’m sure, will be great and will draw the fans like, for instance, Townsville does. I’m looking forward to being part of that event’s growth and development as it creates a new group of memories and title-defining moments we can all enjoy.

Here’s to the Final Fling at the Olympic Rings.

WORDS: Richard Craill
Dirk Klynsmith