It’s a special race, a special place. The Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama. Where we anticipate the unexpected, keep fingers crossed for a safe day, wallow in the tension and excitement, and always go away talking about memorable moments.
Maybe it’s not the best racing circuit on the planet – the old Nurburgring must take that honour – but Bathurst surely vies with Macau and Spa for second place. Mount Panorama has changed in some ways – the Chase was introduced in 1987, there are concrete and Armco barriers instead of strands of fencing wire, and the pit building is a tribute to the ability to extract money from governments.
But it remains a freaky challenge for drivers and teams.
Bathurst drivers in the series production and Group C big-bangers eras probably did not place the same priority on fitness as today’s gym- and diet-toned V8 Supercar regulars. Peter Brock’s idea of exercise back then may have been to chase a female or light up a Marlboro. Pete Geoghegan might have lunged energetically at a hamburger.
Laughable in the mid-1990s and still laughable now is the much-repeated quote from outgoing V8 Supercars boss Tony Cochrane, when referring to Mount Panorama and its place as the epicentre of Australian motor sport. ”There are no sacred sites,” he blustered naively. Wrong. Mount Panorama is our temple.
Today is also the end of an era in local motor racing. And a massive day for V8 Supercars, once known as touring cars before someone decided that this tag (so serviceable from 1960 to 1998) wasn’t anywhere as over-the-top as it needed to be.
Today’s Bathurst 1000 is destined to be the last of the traditional two-tribes-at-war epic for the foreseeable future. Early next year, if all moves forward according to plan, Nissan and AMG will join the Holdens and Fords in the brave new order known as the V8 Supercar Car of the Future.
The Bathurst 1000 has been an unswerving red-versus-blue offering since 1995. It has been a long and at times impatient wait for those Australians who hankered for a return to a varietal grids of the earlier days. The huge 60-plus entries and battles within a race (the class structure) have gone, too.
The fading relevance of Holden and Ford in the marketplace, noted by astute commentators in the late 1990s, should have hastened the decision to open the category to more brands. Instead, Holden and Ford fought hard to maintain their 50 per cent possibility of winning every race. The teams were also happily taking handouts from these two US-owned companies. And the V8 hierarchy didn’t check out the new-vehicle sales charts. But, hey, it’s now happening and we hope the injection of Japanese and European badges next year lifts audiences at the track and at home.
Over the years, Larry Perkins has been a vocal defender of the two-make philosophy. Now the Castrol legend and six-time Bathurst winner for Holden concedes it’s a positive move to bring in other brands. ”[Nissan and AMG] have an equal chance of winning, depending on how good their teams and drivers will be,” he said.
Helped along by the celebration of 50 Bathurst 500s/1000s (or 52 for pedants who include the Super Touring enduros of 1997 and ’98), the swansong of the Holden-versus-Ford duopoly is ironically shaping to attract a crowd larger than the acknowledged (real) record attendance in 1987, the year the Bathurst 1000 was also a round of the World Touring Car Championship.
The Bathurst 1000 era from 1995-2012 has seen consistency and change in varying measures. The parity philosophy introduced to give Ford and Holden equal chances of winning has been honed to nigh perfection, helped by stable technical regulations. Four Bathurst wins to Falcons compared to 13 triumphs by Commodores in 17 contests hints strongly at a performance advantage to Holden. But that hasn’t really been the case as Holden has tended to have the grid numbers.
Old driving partners Perkins and Russell Ingall reflected during the week on their amazing last-to-first victory in 1995. It is unlikely to happen again in this era of such tight competition, when the speed difference between fastest and slowest has contracted spectacularly.
Once, and for many years, the Bathurst 500/1000 was a stand-alone race not attracting, nor needing, championship status. V8 Supercars then chose to make it part of the championship series.
The ages of drivers have dropped significantly, too. Oldest afield is Ingall, a mere 48. Not so long back experience really counted, and it wasn’t uncommon for drivers to race into their 50s. Today, with data-logging, rev limiters and sequential gearboxes, youth prevails. Twelve months ago, Cameron Waters, then 17 years and two months, became the youngest driver to race in the Bathurst 1000. I probably shouldn’t mention what happened …
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.