How often is it that you’re mooching about the place on a Thursday night, not quite sure of just what to do? It’s summer, so it’s nice and bright outside and there’s a cracker sunset forming. You feel like the evening should be used for something better, but for what? Or worse, you’re out at one of those midweek dinners with some friends. Your mind wanders to all the other things you could be doing with the time and what else you could be putting that money toward. And to rub salt in the wound, you can’t even get to the track on Sunday because of a 47th birthday lunch for an extended family member or some other banal gathering that you’re obligated to attend. Oh won’t somebody come to the aid of the people!
Enter stage left Jon Thomson and his small band of friends and helpers. When most Sydneysiders visit Adelaide they bring with them nothing but tales of insane peak hour traffic; when Jon visits he brings a new format of motorsport event that we haven’t seen before – the Summer Tarmac Twilight Rallysprint Series, held for the first time in November at Adelaide International Raceway.
The basic concept, which has been running very successfully in Sydney and Perth for some years, is a short course tarmac rallysprint event held monthly on a Thursday night during daylight savings. A tarmac rally course of around 2.5km in length is comprised using parts of the circuit, banked oval, drag strip, pit lane, access roads and paddock. It’s not too dissimilar to a WRC-style super-special stage, and the event is comprised of a minimum five official runs – the first couple in daylight, the last few in the dark.
The event kicks off with scruitineering running from 3pm until drivers briefing at 515pm, but pre-event scrutiny is available on request. Crews consist of a driver and co-driver but the two can either swap during the event or double enter to get full competition distance each, and a single driver can have multiple co-driver’s throughout the event (ie, passenger runs if the passenger has a CAMS license). Recce runs from 530-6pm and pacenotes are allowed, and competition begins at 6pm. Roll cages are not required.
The course for Event 1 started with a short loop and hairpin through the paddock, before popping through an opening in the wall and making an off-camber right onto the bowl and following it around for two-thirds of a lap.
… before entering the pit lane in the reverse of its usual direction. And for what it’s worth, standing at the end of the pit wall is open to the public and makes for an excellent spectator spot. With concrete walls on both sides the noise is funneled right back at you, especially antilag pops and cracks.
At the end of pit lane there is a sharp hairpin to turn around and head back the other direction. It’s a gentle first-gear hairpin for most, but a spectacular handbrake and powerslide in front of the crowd for the more adventurous.
From here it’s a fast blast through the last stretches of the circuit and across the finish line on the back edge of the property. The circuit has fallen into disrepair such that it is more akin with a hills road than a smooth racing track which only enhances its appeal for this type of event. The grass growing up on each side is a nice touch, providing a defined and high speed narrow track through the prairie but with nothing more damaging than grass seeds if you came off.
Dan Day, fresh from his Legend of the Lakes victory and with Kate Catford sitting alongside calling the notes, took the outright victory in the SJ1000 WRX STi. Built by S&J Automotive, the SJ1000 is one of the first cars to run the new Willall WREJBB Billett Block, a completely clean-sheet billet block designed and manufactured here in Adelaide, solving the achilles heel of block failures when getting serious power from Subaru flat four engines. It will be capable of 1000hp at the wheels on a drag/circuit tune, but for response it was running a ‘mere’ 424kw at the wheels at the rallysprint.
Photographically this is probably the most enjoyable event I’ve ever shot. AIR is bordering on an urban wasteland in some of the lesser used parts, and there’s just so much stuff to attempt that we ran out of time before we could try even half of it.
There are thousands of potential photos dotted all around this place and every photographer would come back with something completely different. You’re only limited by your creativity and fear of snakes.
The fear of snakes was legit, though. I was pursuing a kind of safari rally vibe by wandering off into the grass at last light. My dreams of slow pans through the grass were cut short when I heard a rustling close by, so I evacuated post haste. Not a place to be in shorts.
The competitors seemed to enjoy it too. The focus was firmly on competitor enjoyment and making it as convenient as possible to compete. Once everyone had had their five runs and the results were decided, the course was opened for any competitors who wanted more. Some ended up doing over 12 runs of the course!
It was good fun to explore AIR, a place I haven’t spent much time. There’s a foot tunnel under the track to a spectator area on the infield – how cool is that! I bet the standing water and cool air would attract the odd snake or two though.
The Summer Twilight Rallysprint Series continues with the next round on Thursday December 8 2016. It’s still possible to sneak an entry in too – head across to the event website at tarmacrallysprints.com.au
Words and photos by Andrew Coles
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