Pukekohe: Photographer’s Dream
There isn’t a photographer who has ever shot at Pukekohe Park Raceway who isn’t crushed by this week’s news of the venue’s imminent closure.
We have some great circuits in our neck of the woods, each with quirks and charms that snappers can sink their telephoto lenses into.
Bathurst is Bathurst, and by virtue of being over 6km long with 23 different corners, the possibilities are endless.
Then there is the close-quarters combat at street circuits, where catch fencing is always a necessary evil.
Elsewhere at Phillip Island, the vistas are incredible.
But they are missing something.
This week, I’ve seen Pukekohe described as “old school”, which absolutely hits the nail on the head.
I can best describe it as a cross between two of Australia’s remaining old-school classics: Sandown and Lakeside.
Sandown for the obvious horse track, but also for the general sketchiness over The Rise at the end of the back straight into Dandenong Road Corner, but moreso Lakeside for the undulations, lumps, bumps and good old “character”.
You could probably throw into the mix the beachside chicane from the Gold Coast, which has been replicated by Pukekohe’s turn two kerb.
The thing is though, at Phillip Island and even Bathurst, 99 per cent of the time, cars simply look in control.
Of course, there is the very rare exception being when things have gone absolutely horrendously wrong, but at Pukekohe, any stock standard lap has the car dancing on the edge of control, working hard against the wishes of the driver, who is pushed to the limit in trying not to have a massive shunt.
At a quick count, there are at least 10 occasions on a typical lap where a Supercar will normally cock a wheel in the air over the aforementioned bumps or ripple strips.
And that’s a lot.
Breaking that down by maths, every 291 metres, cars have daylight appear underneath them.
Turn one is relatively straightforward, but as we have seen over the years, a small issue there has very significant consequences.
One of my favourite shots from the venue is above – from the inside of turn one, it’s of Shane van Gisbergen fighting the Stix Commodore through the quick curve with an armful of opposite lock.
The ever-tightening next sequence of corners that brings the machines onto the back straight is a classic – it sucks the drivers into having a massive go – it’s the sort of place you stake out in qualifying, because you just know that things are going to go down.
The chicane in the back straight is probably the least pucker-inducing section, but since its installation, it has witnessed plenty of drama.
The hairpin is a major opportunity, but the stretch of road after that, leading up onto the main straight is probably the most terror-inducing on the whole tour.
The cars go from full compression one way, to the exact opposite the other. And it’s bloody quick, the sort of sequence that TV doesn’t do justice.
When cars rip through there side by side, you wonder which car will wind up fenced, and there are plenty of solid objects there that regularly cop a battering.
How more cars aren’t wadded up there will forever remain a mystery.
Breathe in, breathe out, load up, go again.
It’s great stuff, and everyone will miss it.
The below gallery was collated in 2015.