Insight Richard Craill August 9, 2022 (Comments off) (194)

COMMENT: Time to give the Paperclip a second chance

PERHAPS I’m going soft with age, or perhaps the post-Covid excitement of just being back racing is still having a role to play, but I think it’s time we gave Queensland Raceway a second chance.

Ever since the venue opened to enormous traffic jams and hours of delays in 1999, the ‘paperclip’ has copped it left, right and centre.

There was the uninspiring layout, the pretty average facilities, the terrible access and, let’s be honest, a management that was at times far from conducive to making it easy to go racing.

Especially if you only raced at CAMS events.

However following a return visit – the first in three years – last weekend with the Shannons /  Speed Series extravaganza, I reckon it’s time we treat QR almost as a new circuit once again.

This time, we can look at it with a really solid pit complex that – while still evolving – now has a great corporate facility and garages that are at least as good as those at Sydney and better than Phillip Island’s.

It’s well presented, clean and tidy with fresh paint and fixtures everywhere. It looks and feels fresh.

The new canteen is not only reasonably priced but also makes very good fare.

And yes, with the possible exception of those within The Bend’s Welcome Centre, the loo’s are first class.

On the weekend there were hundreds of cars parked up around the circuit, with families sitting on the grassed hills enjoying a circuit at which they could see everything. It’s a rare thing in our game and it should be cherished.

Okay, access is still going to be a challenge for anything over the scale of event that occurred on the weekend, because there’s only so much you can do with the patched-up two-lane country road that feeds it and all the other venues in the motorsport precinct.

(Seriously, the Ipswich Council needs to invest in tidying up that road: It’s a disgrace and could be so much better – Ed).

And for an event with 150 cars there’s still not enough in the way of garaging, though that’s hardly a circuit-specific problem.

Even Ipswich, not famous for being a tourism destination of high regard (or any at all), has grown up, with big boy places like an excellent craft brewery and one of the best Indian restaurants on the tour that make it worth the visit if you know where to stay and go.

And even then, because Queenslanders aren’t from Adelaide and therefore don’t believe everything in the world exists with a 20-minute sphere of where they live, the local fans are generally happy to drive the hour or so from Town to get out there anyway. Novel.

However the main thing that I think that requires reassessment is the circuit itself.

Sure, it’s not Phillip Island. Hell, it’s not even Eastern Creek. Could they have done more when they first laid it out all those years ago? Sure.

But then again, the people that put the Mount Panorama circuit on the Bald Hills just outside of Bathurst in the 1930s stopped at only 6.2km, when those industrious Germans who built the Nürburgring kept going when they got to 20. It’s all relative.

If you have the ability to park your cynicism for a moment and look at things objectively – and please, dear racing fans, I urge you to do so – you’ll see that what QR offers is the Australian version of a Bristol or a Brands Hatch Indy.

What it is, is a bloody good racing track. You know, for racing. Which is what we’re here for.

Many races across the Speed Series weekend produced cracking motorsport, with wheel-to-wheel combat, lots of over-under passes, switchbacks and side by side stuff for days which is all down to the layout and the character it has developed, like corner exits in the dust and the awesome bumps into turn one.

Who cares if there are only six turns if it consistently produces good car racing? I do not.

Honestly, while I am absolutely thrilled that my mates in racing driver world are getting their rocks off every time they tip into Lukey Heights at 200km/hr, it really has little bearing on the actual product we’re all paying good money to watch.

I appreciate the skill and the drama of an epic corner, both in watching it and driving it, as much as anyone but ultimately we’re in the business of putting on great racing so for every balls to the wall corner like Lukey, there needs to be a ‘boring’ hairpin where someone can lob it up the inside of someone else and make a pass.

Ultimately and I’ll be honest here: I don’t really care what they think about the layout – if the product they produce on it is good, that’s what matters and with only a few exceptions the racing across all classes was that. It was good.

Not every track can be Phillip Island and not every track can have a Siberia or a Hayshed.

Instead I’d argue that, where Cricket and Footy play on basically the same size and shape of ground week in, week out, one of the great strengths of our sport is the diversity in circuits we race on.

For every Daytona there’s a Bristol and for every Mount Panorama there needs to be a Queensland Raceway.

Rather than rubbishing the circuit layout for being ‘boring’ – which objectively it is not – I think we need to position it as our bullring – the hard ‘n fast short track where the elbows are out and the action comes thick and fast which objectively, it does.

Let’s sell the fact it’s simple and that it’s quick and that it’s fantastic for producing racing.

I’m not asking you to love it, or be inspired by it or feel that buzz in the pit of your stomach when you see it for the first time in a while. It’s not the kind of track that will do that.

But I am asking for everyone to pause for a moment and try to embrace it for what it is, which is a place that can be good for our sport.

Tony Quinn’s ongoing investment in the facility has given it a renewed lease on life and finally delivered the state of Queensland with the makings of a racing facility they deserve, rather than one they had to accept they had.

He reassessed what the facility needed. I think it’s time we did the same for the track itself, because as long as it delivers entertaining racing like it did at the weekend, I’ll be more than happy to keep going back to the Paperclip time and time again.

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