Mountain circuit major challenge for drivers - and their machines.

For the past 53 years the Mt Panorama circuit, just up the road from the rural New South Wales town of Bathurst, has challenged man/women and machine as they vied to hold the winner's trophy on Sunday afternoon.

That track, which began life as a tourist loop up the mountain, has now cemented itself as one of the all-time great race circuits in the world -- up there with the likes of the old Nurburgring, Spa Francorchamps, Brands Hatch and Laguna Seca.

A 1000 kilometres over 161 laps around that place is enough to do anyone's head in. You have to be a special kind of gifted driver to stand atop the podium come the end of race day.


I raced the mountain in the early 1980s, but only over half the distance. Mind you that was on a motorcycle and it really did do my head in.

I didn't get anywhere near the podium, but it wasn't through lack of trying. Mt Panorama is one of the scariest places to race at, and also the most exhilarating.

In the modern era of racing at Bathurst, unless you have Lady Luck riding shotgun you can kiss goodbye to any chance of winning. The race is too long, gnarly, complicated, congested and too damn hard strategy-wise for drivers to just go around and around hoping to stay out of trouble and waltz to a win.

At the first race in 1963, cars and drivers did around 30 laps less, took over an hour and half longer and the average lap was, well, heaps slower shall we say. One thing remains common though: it has produced more joy, despair and great feats of driving than any other race meeting in Australasia.

Over the years at Bathurst, hot favourites have been losers and dark horses triumphant. The Great Race, as it's affectionately called, has mentally broken many an emerging race car driver, even killed a few unfortunately, and broken the hearts of many established racers. However, it has also forged some of Australasia's best. Some of those to have made their names on the beast include Peter Brock, Allan Moffat, Jim Richards and Larry Perkins. And more lately Mark Skaife, Greg Murphy, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup.

Brock will be remembered as the best, not only for his nine wins, but for his drubbing of the rest of the field.

Brock's six-lap demolition of all-comers in 1979 rates as the best, considering he set the lap record on the last lap just for the hell of it.

As if the track and the aura of the place aren't daunting enough, the main game drivers now have to rely on someone else to get the car across the line. Sure, the co-drivers have all had a hit-out at Sandown, but Bathurst is a different kettle of fish.

All co-drivers have had race experience and most of them at Bathurst at some stage in the past. However, the kicker is that it's probably not in someone else's car and in the middle of a someone else's series championship.

That factor alone makes it difficult to win the race, then you throw in the pit crew. How many times have we seen the pressure get to refuellers, tyre changes and other problems causing time to be lost in the pits? More than you can poke a stick at. And then we have the drivers who forget to pump the brakes heading up Mountain Straight and that right-hander.

The cars don't have too many mechanical failures these days although it's not unheard of. Just ask Shane van Gisbergen about his 2014 starter motor story.

And finally there is the track itself. Mt Panorama sure as hell isn't some bland Hermann Tilke-designed Formula One circuit with runoffs and gravel traps you could establish a small farm holding on. From about the first kink up Mountain Straight until you get on to Conrod Straight, it's a concrete chute with the most unforgiving walls and vicious choke points. An incident across the top has ended races for not only those involved, but the unsuspecting as they come hurtling through.

Get it right and you can call yourself a Bathurst 1000 champion.

Get it any one small part wrong and you'll be making plans for the 2018 race.

Supercars points

1. Scott McLaughlin 2334
2. Jamie Whincup 2250
3. Fabian Coulthard 2173
4. Chaz Mostert 2052
5. Shane van Gisbergen 1920
6. Mark Winterbottom 1671
7. Garth Tander 1608
8. Craig Lowndes 1590