2013 has been a challenging, but immensely rewarding year for me. There have been incredible highs, and terrible lows. Experiences I will never forget and those I wish I could. Looking back, I learned so many things this year, so I thought I’d share a few of them.
Lesson 1: Dirt events are dangerous. Obvious, I know. I started the year attending two off-road meets – the Dalyston Mud Drags and the Tooradin Tractor Pull. Both involved serious accidents. I won’t show the crash shots from the Mud Drags, but as became infamous, several people were injured when poor safety precautions meant a competition four-wheel drive ploughed into the crowd towards the end of the day. Thankfully no one was killed, but several were injured. At the Tooradin Tractor Pull just a week later, this rider came off his nitrous V8-powered dirt drag bike, knocking himself unconscious. With the nitrous bottle spinning around in the middle of the track afterwards, it could have been a lot worse, too.
Lesson 2: Tarmac events are even more dangerous. 2013 saw several major crashes, the worst of which killed competitors. We lost Peter Hall, Allen Simonsen, Sean Edwards and several more. Some were unavoidable, given current regulations. Some might have been. Either way, each loss was a tragedy. Some were luckier. Wayne Lee, seen here only about an hour before a spectacular barrel roll at Sandown, lost his car, but came away with only a grazed hand. Tim Rowse similarly came out of his Sandown crash with recoverable injuries. Let’s hope we see fewer major incidents next year.
Lesson 3: Classic cars are amazing. I kind of knew this already, but this year’s Phillip Island Classic really drove it home. From Can-Am monsters to cute-as-a-button roadsters, both the Phillip Island Classic and Historic Sandown showed just why older cars are so popular. The shapes, the sounds, the rawness … There’s little better.
Lesson 4: Club track days are awesome. Shooting top-level events is great, but I also adore the friendliness and camaraderie of grass-roots racing. Nothing epitomised this more for me in 2013 than the club events I shot. If you love your car, and want to enjoy a great social scene, and get better at driving, these meets are unmissable.
Lesson 5: Phillip Island truly is the prettiest track around. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. After all, I haven’t shot the Isle of Man TT since I lived there as a teenager, and US tracks like Road America and Watkins Glen, let alone Thunderhill, have all evaded me, but as far as Australian tracks go, it’s the prettiest. And one I will never stop learning about.
Lesson 6: Achilles Radials really do smell better. Bizarrely, Achilles Radial actually markets one of their products as having won a ‘Best Smelling Tyre’ award. I thought this was complete rubbish until I attended both Formula Drift Asia and World Time Attack Challenge. And you know what? They do smell better.
Lesson 7: V8 Supercars remains the best motor racing series on the planet. If you want bumper-to-bumper, door-banging entertainment, there is nothing better. Possibly BTCC, but then they don’t sound as good. As long as they keep it open to the people, and focus on parity, I will never stop loving this great series.
Lesson 8: V8 Utes remain the most destructive series outside of a demolition derby. I have never seen so much panel damage in so little time as I did during the Sandown 500s V8 Ute support races. They just don’t care. I love it.
Lesson 9: Winton will always be a pain to get to, but is worth the slog. Living three-and-a-bit hours away from Winton as I do, you can hardly blame me for not relishing the drive. Especially for a day trip. But whenever I get there I have a whale of a time and enjoy what is undoubtedly a brilliant track.
Lesson 10: Motorcyclists are insane. Just look at that lean angle. Seriously.
Lesson 11: Sandown on a freezing winter’s day is hell on earth. Especially if you’re skinny and susceptible to the cold, like me. (Many thanks to Mic Cullen from Juice Imaging for this pic).
Lesson 12: Japan and Malaysia are amazing. Where else but Japan could you see three four-door Kenmeris all in a row as you rock up to a classic car racing meet? Or, Malaysia’s case, several city blocks dedicated just to tuning cars?
Lesson 13: Tsukuba is tiny, and a bitch to shoot. You see that paddock? There’s a little bit off to the left, about 20 metres behind and that’s it. It makes sense, when you think the track can be lapped in around a minute in a fast street car, but as an Australian, used to much larger tracks, that didn’t stop me from looking around to see where the rest of the paddock was. Oh, and as mentioned in my previous post, the fencing makes it very tricky to shoot.
Lesson 14: Nissan Engine Museum curator Maeda-san is the nicest man you’ll ever meet. Kind, open and incredibly knowledgeable, he’s also completely devoid of ego. Which is remarkable, given the team he led designed the SR20 and he himself designed the turbo system on the RB26.
Lesson 15: Sevens Day is insane. I mean that. Nothing on earth comes close to the passion these guys and gals have for the rotary engine. And, like I said in my previous post, every single car there, Mazda or no, was amazing.
Lesson 16: WTAC is awesome. But then you knew that.
Alright. That’s my 2013 in images. I look forward to a safer, even more amazing 2014 for everyone in the motorsports community. Look out for my top shots of the year tomorrow.