For the final race of the 2004 season for the American Le Mans series, history was made at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Secs - the first night race at the road course. And we (Motorsport.com) were there to document it and to view the spectacular day into night event.
The first indication the excitement is growing comes when you notice the photographers scrambling to find that perfect spot on the course and the fans getting as close to the track fences as they can before the darkness descends. The Media shuttle was packed this afternoon and everyone was headed in the same direction. For all of us it had to be the Corkscrew! Before leaving the paddock we could almost feel the intensity increasing, even in the drivers not in the cars, as they paced up and down the pit area.
As we got settled at the top of the corkscrew the sun had not quite gone down. A lot of times if you are really concentrating on the race you don't even notice exactly when it gets dark.
But all of a sudden you notice the colored lights on the cars start glowing, all different colors, bright blues, reds and greens along with the halogen headlights of some prototypes and amber glow from the Porsches. The decals on the #38 always light up like a Christmas tree ornaments, faintly reminiscent of a blacklite poster.
Then the most startling phenomenon starts taking place. The long awaited "glowing of the rotors" begins. This is one of the main reasons the corkscrew is such a good spot for the night session. As the cars break into the top of the corkscrew the rotors light up as if they are just short of bursting into flames. What a sight!
Because of your lowered ability to see, your other senses seem to increase in compensation of the loss. The cars actually seem to be going faster than during the daylight hours. The sound of the motors and gears changing intensifies. The smell of the fuel and oil becomes more pungent. The vibrations and rumbles from the Corvettes that you feel as the cars go by during the day can be felt deeper in your gut at night.
Ahhh...there just isn't a view much better than the first time of racing at night, under the lights, in the foothills of the Monterey Peninsula. And we were lucky enough to be there...