V8 Supercars: Man v mountain in the ultimate test of machinery on a track in Australasia

By Eric Thompson

Circuit one of the best in the world for racing tin-top cars.

A view of the start of the Bathurst 1000, in 2011. Photo / Getty Images
A view of the start of the Bathurst 1000, in 2011. Photo / Getty Images

Every V8 driver you talk to on either side of the Tasman, and more recently from around the world, will tell you he, or she, grew up watching a Bathurst race in one guise or another and dreamed of racing there.

That single race has produced more joy, despair and great feats of driving than any other race meeting in Australasia. Over the past 50 years, this battle of man versus mountain has mentally broken many an emerging race car driver, even killed a few, but also forged some of Australasia's best.

These include the iconic Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, Jim Richards and Larry Perkins and more recently Mark Skaife, Greg Murphy, Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and others.

The race in its time has attracted Formula One drivers such as Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Jacky Ickx and New Zealand's world champion Denny Hulme who have all graced the circuit.

Championship winning motorcycle racers have turned their hand to tin-top racing also including Greg Hansford, who won with Jack Perkins in 1993, Wayne Gardner who set pole in 2000, Troy Bayliss and Kiwi Graeme Crosby.

The circuit itself is regarded as one of the greats, up there with the likes of the old Nurburgring, Spa Francorchamps, Brands Hatch and Laguna Seca. These courses evoke memories of great races and master drivers at their best, and Mt Panorama has produced more than its fair share.

For the closest finish, you won't beat the 1977 Ford one-two where Moffat and Collin Bond crossed the line mere centimetres apart. For a drubbing of the rest of the field, Brock's six-lap demolition of all comers in 1979 rates as the best, considering he broke the lap record on the last lap just for the hell of it.

Recently the race has been owned Holden. Since 1999 the Lion has feasted on the Blue Oval 10 out of 13 times and this year's pairing of reigning champions Garth Tander and Nick Percat are the only pairing where both are winners of the race.

The track is used as a public road for 51 weeks of the year until it puts on its race face for one week in October. Cars fizz around its six-plus kilometres encountering 23 corners on each of the 161 laps.

Despite drivers flinging themselves across the top of the mountain and flying down Conrod Straight, the circuit has claimed only four lives.

The first was in 1986 when Mike Burgmann's car fired into the Bridgestone Bridge at over 260km/h and the next year The Chase was installed. Kiwi F1 world champion Hulme succumbed to a heart attack in 1992 and died after parking his BMW up on Conrod Straight.

Don Wilson died during practice in 1994 when his Holden speared into a barrier on Conrod Straight. While not strictly part of the race itself, in 2006 Kiwi driver Mark Porter, in the support race on Friday, died in a big crash.

Nine-time winner Brock, whose trophy the drivers are competing for this weekend, owned the place and some say we'll never see the likes of him again. He just had the place nailed and finessed the track into giving him what he wanted.

- NZ Herald

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