Craillsy’s Column: The Golden Hour

There are a few precious moments each day at Queensland Raceway that can — without falling into easy cliché —be described as the ‘golden hour’.

As the sun sets behind the trees that line the back straight between turns two and three and the warmth of a Queensland Winters’ day begins to slip from the sky, the light changes to a remarkable golden hue that is to photographers what a chicken parmigiana is to me.

It’s easily the most photographed time of the day at the Ipswich circuit — and understandably so.

This weekend the Shannons Nationals returns to Queensland Raceway and the golden hour will be put to good effect when the Australian Production Car Series stages it’s annual ‘Fight in the Night’ enduro on Saturday evening.

Truly, it’s one of the more spectacular races of the year. The field starting in the early dusk and racing through twilight and into the night under pockets of artificial light that illuminate each flag point and some of the corner apexes.

Ironically, perhaps the best thing about the Fight in the Night is the fact that it is actually in the night—not contested in artificial light that turns the darkness in the day like it does in Singapore or Abu Dhabi for their respective Grands Prix.

For starters, the speed seems enhanced, as cars blast between these pockets of light quicker than it seems they move during the day.

Then there’s the brake discs that glow vividly, the heavier cars even creating sparks as they tackle the big braking zone into Turn 3—it’s a spectacular sight.

The first Fight in the Night was held in 2012 and it was a cracker. Garry Holt and Ryan McLeod pairing up to beat out Dylan and Dave Thomas in a tense finish between the pair of Mitsubishi Lancers.

The following year, Glenn Seton and McLeod battled ferociously in the final laps swapping positions several times before the double Australian Touring Car champion slipped by and grabbed the win.

McLeod fought back the next year, dispatching Glenn’s son Aaron in the closing stages to win, although the race wasn’t without controversy when a lengthy Safety Car resulted in a race suspension to sort a confused, jumbled order. It was a late night that one, but the payoff with a racing finish was worth it.

Since then the BMWs have had the advantage and this year’s race could yet be the best yet, given the varied depth and intricacies of this year’s production car field.

It’s only ever had a smallish audience but it is a race that has developed quite an affection amongst those of us who have seen them all.

So, if you’re reading this in Queensland and the opportunity presents to get out to Queensland Raceway this weekend, do so. Enjoy the golden hour and some proper night-time racing that will surely be entirely entertaining!

Beyond the night fight, there’s the return of both the Australian Prototype Series and the Australian GT Trophy Series, while Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge will conclude their Jim Richards Endurance Trophy.

Also, in the same way the Alfa Romeo Veloce Challenge provided such a delightful addition to our Sydney program a month ago, we find ourselves welcoming another local category to the program.

The best and brightest of Queensland’s Hyundai Excel brigade will join the Shannons Nationals for the first time, and it will be well worth the watch. It’s likely to be remarkably close, hard and competitive.

I’ll see you in the golden hour.