Around the world, for motorsport fans, are places that are held in awe, in reverence, Germany’s Nurburgring, the Monaco Grand Prix circuit and in Australia, it’s Mount Panorama. Just a couple of kilometres from the centre of Bathurst, Australia’s first inland town and home to one of the gold rushes in the 1800s, the mountain has entrenched itself as the spiritual home of motorsport in Australia. Since 1963 it’s also been host to “The Great Race”, starting with a production car base, covering marques from Australia and internationally. Since 1992 the category known as V8 Supercars has been the predominant call to the mountain.
This weekend, a weekend that sees the 50th anniversary of the first race; the fortieth anniversary of the debut win for one of Australia’s motorsport heroes, Peter Geoffrey Brock; the final running of the two make system the mountain has played host to for twenty years, the track sees thousands of people pay homage to motorsport in their annual pilgrimage to Mount Panorama.
Over the last fifty years, names and brands such as Mini, Chrysler, Ford Falcon GTHO, Holden Monaro, Jaguar, Geoghegan, Moffat, Goss, Bond, Johnson, Brock, Richards, Skaife and Lowndes, have left their indelible imprint on hearts, minds and the mountain itself. There’s been battles, incidents that echo through the history of the place (Dick Johnson and The Rock, possibly one of the more famous) and sadly, deaths. There’s also been heartbreak and moments of disbelief: Peter Brock, for example, winning a race by six laps and creating a new lap record on the last of 161 laps or 1000 kilometres.
In 1992, perhaps one of the darkest moments and definitely a controversial one; Jim Richards and a young Mark Skaife, racing in a car known as Godzilla (Nissan’s all conquering GT-R), were called the race winners after torrential rain caused multiple crashes at the top of the famed Conrod Straight and the race was red flagged. The crowd, at the podium presentation, hoping for a “hometown” win, vented their displeasure and Richards, furious, called the crowd “a pack of arseholes”.
For 2013, a new era in V8 Supercars; the much vaunted yet still questionable “Car of the Future” format makes its debut with Australia’s Holden and Ford being joined by Nissan and Mercedes-Benz. The concept is intended to reduce build costs, have a standardised chassis whilst reinvigorating the category with the injection of new marques. After denials from Mercedes and the expectation of Dodge or Chrysler being the fourth manufacturer, the 2013 Bathurst 1000 immediately looms as a new and exciting chapter in the history of “The Great Race”.