HOT TAKE: the right type of cars for the right type of track
LATE in the second S5000 practice session at the Boost Mobile Gold Coast 500, cameras picked up Cooper Webster’s Versa Motorsport entry running down the pit straight.
The camera then cut to the traditional, classic low-down shot on the exit of turn three, picking up the car as it came through the right-hand kink just prior to the braking zone for turn one.
At ground level, the 560hp S5000 that was moving at 200km/hr looked like it was going a whole heap quicker;
The change of direction and the unloading of the right-hand side of the car saw the inside front tyre stopped microsecond, a puff of white smoke telegraphing a typical turn one Gold Coast lockup.
Then, with a flick of rotation exposed by a gloved hand emerging from the cockpit, the car sat hard on the right rear as it turned into one.
S5000s are not the most pointy open wheel car ever made but the speed and low camera angle, plus Webster’s outright hustle, gave it that memorable open wheel dart across to the apex of one.
The scrabble of wheel work quickly shifted the rotation of the car to the right, inside front hiked in the air as it clipped the apex kerb in the midst of the quick left-right-left sequence that is the Gold Coast’s first corner complex.
Then, on exit, the camera raced to pan with the car as it narrowly brushed the inside wall, throttle clearly pinned, steering counter to the direction of the corner as power oversteer fired it out, down and in the approximate direction of turn four.
Squint a little bit, pretend the Halo wasn’t there, and it could very well have been Will Power in a Team Australia Panoz Champ Car doing exactly the same thing almost fifteen years ago now.
It was stunning how instantly familiar it felt to someone who experienced ‘Indy’ at its peak and the constrained brutality of a Champ Car on a knife’s edge.
You may like or dislike S5000. You might believe in the category or not. But anyone with a shred of love for ‘wings and slicks’ racing should have been immediately nostalgic about seeing a big, hefty, grunty open wheeler being hustled hard on a track that was quite literally designed for them, all those years ago.
The Surfers Paradise Street Circuit may be known as a Touring Car venue now, but this was a track made by open wheelers in the glorious days of the Gold Coast Indy.
Take away the balcony views, the epic parties, the nightlife, the restaurants and the F-111 dump ‘n burns: this place is a badass race track, one of the wildest street circuits in the world, with every bit the heritage and nostalgia as most of Australia’s permanent venues and more than some of them.
If S5000 has proven anything this weekend it is that this place remains an awesome place to watch big and powerful open wheel cars at work.
And for many people, that’s about peak motorsport right there.
Supercars are incredible to watch at Surfers. They are visceral, loud, exciting and dramatic.
But ultimately this place was built on the efforts of Andretti, Zanardi, Mansell, Bourdais, Power and Briscoe.
Today was a reminder that it’s proper open wheel territory.
Ideally it should be IndyCar. It could be something else and I – clearly, admittedly and happily biased towards the class – for one truly hope S5000 can grow to the point where it can keep coming back.
Whatever it is and wherever it comes from, this was a reminder that we simply have to find some way, some how, to bring back that big open wheel feeling to this big open wheel track.
LEAD IMGAE: S5000 / Daniel Kalisz