Motorsports - now I get it

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of sitting in the Jim Beam Racing box above the pits at the Sydney Telstra 500, a very loud race involving lots of very fast cars, driven by very skilful men, backed by very earnest teams of engineers, mechanics and marketers.

I say "privilege" because it would have cost me and the other journos who populated the corporate box many, many hundreds of dollars to buy these seats, and there were literally thousands of die-hard fans besieging the track who would have swapped positions with us in a heartbeat.

I don't take stuff like that for granted, and I certainly don't bring a sneering let's-condescend-to-the-fans attitude to a sporting event I'm attending for the first time because I like to keep an open mind.

I'd never seen V8s race before Saturday. I've done formula one - at the very first (of the the new-look) Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide in 1985 - and lasted 10 minutes, mainly because I was so ripped on South Australian buds I couldn't see straight.

Anyway, last weekend, sitting on the train out to Homebush Bay, I did make a few "switch weapons from stun to kill" jokes about the Holden fans wearing flags as capes. However, the truth of it was I was almost as excited as those blokes were to see some action.

My mate Luke and I arrived Telstra Stadium, took the elevator up to the ground floor of the train station and that's when a wash of obscenely fierce noise hit us as V8 Supercars whipped past on the nearby track.

It was soooo loud and aggressive; if you'd heard the same engine noise on a public street, you'd have jumped back from the road, thinking: "Holy shit! Someone's about to crash!!"

That's when I looked across at Luke and said: "Now I get it."

V8 Supercars are all about the ridiculous: the ridiculous noise, speed, money, skill, safety measures, technology.

When you watch a V8 Supercar braking from 200+ km/h into a chicane, bumping off the apron, pitching up on to two wheels, then speeding off like an eel into a crevice, you can't help but be impressed by the incredible interplay of physics.

It's ridiculous.

Then you see 14 more cars follow it around the corner and they all do the same, all taking the same risk to maximise their speed and you realise how little separates the good from the great drivers.

Millimetres. Hundredths of a second. And millions of dollars.

Anyway, those of you who are motorsports fans are thinking "derr" and those of you who are not - or have never experienced it in person - are probably thinking, "Who cares"?

Well - as I was told by the very helpful Jim Beam PR fella, Dan Silburn, V8 Supercars is the fastest-growing professional sport in Australia, so obviously a lot of people do care.

Why? Well, it seemed to me there were a looooot of families out at Homebush Bay on the day I was there, and tons of kids.

There are few other sports where you can go out to the event and, an hour before the start, the absolute heroes of the game are signing autographs for fans: all the drivers were doing this - from Jamie Whincup and Saturday's eventual winner Craig Lowndes to the good ole boys from Jim Beam Racing, Steven Johnson and James Moffat.

There was also an incredible amount to see, from hot rods, to classic cars, the Supercars themselves (which would be racing only hours later), to the support crews, racing boats, a motorcross jump team and stunt drivers.

I was all over it - so I can't imagine how stoked a 10-year-old kid would have been by all the sights and sounds.

And then there was the racing - which, as I've said, was ridiculously loud and fast and also varied: V8s, Porches, utes, classic cars, midget cars (dunno what their real name is).

In short, I was impressed, had a massively good time and would unhesitatingly recommend it as a day out to anybody looking for something different to do.

However, if you want to be environmentally responsible you have to plant 80 trees the next day to absorb all the greenhouse emissions you've encouraged with your attendance.

I went for eucalypts.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.