I’m no scientician, I merely type words (or from time to time, make them up), so I can’t back my premise up with a peer reviewed paper: if a car is loud, it sounds like it working hard, if it has a unique note or a certain rumble, in my eyes at least, the car will appear to be going fast.
For mine, a race car should excite multiple senses. Anyone trackside on the Surfers Paradise street circuit in the 1990s will tell you that the smell of burnt methanol and Goodyear rubber from the Indycars was just as addictive as the scream of the turbocharged V8s. The cars looked sexy, and I’m sure they would have been satisfying to touch. However, I can’t vouch if they tasted any good. Almost a clean sweep, well played Indycar.
Sure, the cars of the 1.4 litre V6 Formula 1 era that kicked off in 2014 were actually quite slow, but the muffled sound of a wet fart left behind after the intake and exhaust noise went missing, made the cars look even slower than they were going. The cars weren’t pretty, I’m sure you would cut yourself if you touched one of their pointy bits. They leave behind no discernible odour (unless they are on fire), and I’m sure licking one would result in an electric shock.
Another downside of the modern version of F1, is that you must sit through hours of pre-race chat with nearby race fans, which in turn is followed up by another two hours of mid-race banter to create a bit of atmosphere. Without the additional talk, standing still in relative silence for that long can become an incredibly socially awkward experience.
A lab coat wearing boffin will tell you that a noisy car is an inefficient one. Big woop. The 2013 spec V8 F1 engines were fast and loud. The previous V10s and V12s were louder and faster again.
The best possible ad for the Australian Grand Prix is the two seater Minardi ripping around the track at 7am, waking up most of bayside Melbourne. The V10 wail sounds fast, even though the cars would barely beat a Supercar. By feature race time, the V6 drone is drowned out by the sound of the helicopters circling above the venue.
Yes, in some modern instances, the muting of race car noise is a necessary evil. Look at places like Lakeside Raceway, which now runs under a very strict noise ordinance. Throwing a muffler on your car is a small price to pay for being able to run on a mega old school track, and sadly, there will be more trade-offs like this as suburbia encroaches on motorsport facilities into future.
But a lot of race tracks, and certainly all major league F1 styled circuits, aren’t crippled by similar restrictions.
Outside of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, these are a few of my favourite things/motorised noises:
Bernie Gillon – Trans Am Ford Mustang
While the internet has neglected to upload any video of this beast, it sounded like the beginnings of the apocalypse. One day in a Sports Sedan practice session at Queensland Raceway, it was the lone machine on track. Going down the back straight, it shook the windows in the control tower, even from several hundred metres away. An honourable mention must go to John Gourlay’s Audi Sports Sedan. Its bark is so deep that it makes Barry White sound like a chipmunk. Hell, most Sports Sedans should be on this list.
Britek Ford Fiesta Super 2000 Rally Cars
I think these particular cars were outlawed because they inadvertently clear fell large swathes of Australian forest. Driven by Michael Guest and Darren Windus, the team didn’t require data logging to know when the driver lifted off the throttle. Simply stand anywhere in the forest, and you could hear every single gear change. They would cause a certain amount of excitement in the spectator parks, as you eagerly awaited their arrival from several minutes out. Special mention to the Suzuki Ingnis Super 1600 rally cars, as driven by punters like Christ Atkinson. They revved oh so very hard, and sounded like an angry swarm of wasps. The drivers refused to lift off the gas for corners, and drop the engine below many ten thousands of revolutions per minute. Magic.
Not a lot needs to be said for this one. The most alive/closest to death I’ve ever been was walking across the bridge on Conrod Straight during one of the NASCAR races supporting the 1998 Super Touring Bathurst 1000. As the pack roared towards Murray’s Corner, the steel and asbestos sheeting bridge was having a hard time keeping its nuclear bonds together. My brain is still rattling 19 years later. The fact that there has been recent chat about dulling down the exhaust note is a tremendous disappointment for this luddite.
That is by no ways an exhaustive list of cool sounding race cars – to compile that would require me to take a 12-month hiatus from society while I assemble a 30-volume encyclopedia.
If the future of motorsport is silent electric cars, then I opt out. You will only see me trackside at historic events, featuring big hairy chested beasts that don’t mind their Ps and Qs.
WORDS: MARK WALKER