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28 Sep 2012

Bathurst 1000 -Reflections

It's the first weekend in October -a long weekend in Australia . Traditionally this was the weekend of the Bathurst 1000 -Australia's great race .A 1000 km touring car race round the very challenging Bathurst mountain circuit in inland NSW-Australia's answer to the Nurburgring and that's not a spurious comparison.It is still one of the great race tracks of the world.
Now the race has moved to the following weekend because the local football and rugby seasons have lengthened -to make more money-and now this is Grand Finals weekend and they take priority for the TV gods .
Anyway the Bathurst 1000 is no longer the great race .Now it is the great circus -a staged for television event between almost identical cars .It's called V8 Supercars but it's a long way from being super.It's Aussie NASCAR.When it gets boring--which is every few laps-- they send out a safety car for any dubious reason -to bunch up the field .And you can put money on the safety car coming out 30 mins before the end so that they can take a final long ad break and then the last 10 laps are a sprint to the finish with the TV commentator screaming his head off as if his underpants are on fire. What a sad joke.
At Le Mans they deploy three safety cars on the very long circuit to ensure that no one is advantaged by the bunching up which occurs with just one safety car .The long circuit of Bathurst could use two safety cars but of course that would reduce the bunching up which would not do would it?
I used to love the Bathurst 1000 and went to the race every year from 1978 to 1998 -most years with son,Toby.We would always get up very early,drive over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst --mindful of all the Highway Patrol cars lurking in the shadows-watch the race from as many viewpoints as possible including the spectacular top of the mountain section-then jump in the car the minute the race finished and drive back home having enjoyed some of the best motor racing in the world -live.It was wonderful and we always had a great time.Particularly when the TWR Jaguars won in 1985.
The track still had all its rough edges then .It was a tough,very dangerous endurance race with strategy,cunning and luck playing key roles .There was a wide variety of cars -- from Toyota Corollas to Holden Commodores,Ford Falcons and Nissan Skylines.The pits had no backs so that the spectators in the paddock could watch the pits stops up close.There were no safety cars so when a car broke down on the track a low loader went out to pick it up and the race went on around them ! Oh happy days -they are gone forever.No point in wishing they will come back .The hard money men are in control now.V8 Supercars is not just a race series --it is a company owned by private equity .Enough said.The caravan moves on.
Some pictures from the files of that glorious day in October 1985 when a Jag was king of the mountain.

As soon as I posted the above,Toby posted a comment on it which really is worth adding to the above.

I have so many great memories of my time visiting 'the mountain' with my dad…

After a quick dash over the mountains to get there in time for the start it was always that we would start the race finding the best spot at ‘hell corner’ to see the field through for the first few times. After the mad dash into the first corner the packed crowd would wait silently for the field to come through again. In later years it would become popular to drag a TV and generator along, but before that a snippet of the race commentary could be heard from the course loudspeakers. “Brock nips inside, Moffat at Skyline” a cheer would go up! My hair still stands on end just typing…

One side (either blue or red) would erupt, bellowing as their favourite came through in the lead for the first time followed by the already strung out field of motley cars. From deep primal baritone V8’s, to screaming four cylinders (always sounding like the driver was trying twice as hard to keep up).
After seeing them come around for about an hour it was onto the Bathurst school bus to chug up the hill and find another vantage spot. Often we would work out that it wasn't worth the 30-minute exposure to men who had been living without shower or even a hand wash for a week, and we would walk up the hill.
Along the steep dirt road up we would cut through dusty paddocks and sometimes see kangaroos, the constant hum of the track in the background reminding us that we weren’t on a bushwalk
At a point in the climb you could peer down someone's driveway, they were usually having a few mates around and a barbie, and see the cars thunder up the hill and into ‘the cutting’. This was usually the first proper place you could catch the cars again. The crowds here were never usually that busy, a single strand of wire held us back as we peered down into the canyon through which the cars stormed up. Most of the corners from here till ‘Conrod Straight’ are blind and the speed at which the drivers attacked them stands a testament to the glory that winning Bathurst brings. The rest of the day we would follow the track to ‘Forest Elbow’ to see them disappear down that long straight towards the finish. If you got a good bunch together you could hear them change from third all the way to fifth as the sound faded into the distance.

One of my earliest childhood memories is sleeping in a caravan in the paddock of the Hardie Ferodo 500 (it was still miles then), which must have been 1978 – I would have been four. I had the sticker for that race on my bedroom drawers for half of my childhood, oblivious that I was advertising asbestos products.

We were there for the heartbreak of the John Goss start-line pile up in 1984, and again in 1985 for the Jag victory. I held aloft a gold spray painted sign I had made, “Jags Rule OK” for nearly every lap of that race. It was true that year!
I was upset that I missed the Eggenberger ‘super-fuel’ disqualification of 1987 (I remember dad coming home from the race and hanging on every word as he described being there). We were there for the “pack of arseholes” Jim Richards Skyline GTR win, and then finally, and without memories, a few times in the 2000’s to see a Falcon or a Commodore win.

I can’t say if I will ever take my kids to Bathurst, who knows if they will have any interest in motorsport like my dad and I did. I do know that without our trips to Bathurst my dad and I would have missed out on so many great memories together.

I’ll maybe flick the TV over to see who is leading next weekend, but for me the interest has gone. What remains is the memory of spending precious time with my dad on a mountain.

Toby







26 Sep 2012

Yes the English are mad- Part 2

Seen in the car park at this year's Le Mans Classic this "senior" English couple - wearing shorts for goodness sake although it was on the cold side of cool -who had driven from England in this tiny, fibreglass Fairthorpe sports car .Not sure about the model -Fairthorpes have never featured highly- make that at all-in my motoring interests-but suspect that it is an Electron.Probably a kit car and powered by some very feeble 60's British engine -probably a Triumph Herald 1200cc unit.
More than slightly mad- in the nicest possible sense.Each to their own.



23 Sep 2012

Yes,the English are mad.


These guys had driven from England to Le Mans in this very basic vintage car.As they had no weather protection they sought shelter in an underpass during one of the many storms at this year's Classic.Leica X1 photo.

20 Sep 2012

Goodbye New York






Last Saturday morning in New York-from the hotel window ,on the subway,at the Union Square Farmer's Market,and at Big Nick's pizza shop on Broadway.
New York is always the most amazing city.The then newly formed UN put its HQ there in 1946 because they considered it the capital of the world and despite everything that has happened since it still is .It certainly retains its position as my favourite city- just ahead of Paris .
It's good to be back home and at the iMac where I can edit RAW files in Lightroom 4.The Blogger iPad app has been very useful for the past 5 weeks on the road but it is limited to basic processing of JPEG  files and it limits the image size you can put onto the blog .
I am particularly pleased with these last pictures I took on the trip .Travelling and using just one camera with one fixed lens, the X1,has been so much easier than switching lenses and using different cameras.No decisions to take and juggling lenses .And the X1 is a class act .It is so straightforward to use--very simple menus-no video nonsense- and the image quality is superb .It may be the whipping boy for all the web camera forum"experts" and techno geeks but it takes superb photos when you master it and that's all that I expect a camera to do.

17 Sep 2012

A small sports car


Back home this morning.Lots to catch up on so some motor racing stuff whilst I get sorted.

 He told her that he had a small sports car ...but did not tell her that it was really small.But she still seems impressed anyway....Le Mans Classic 2012.

13 Sep 2012

Jean Talon Market

Montreal has a superb produce market in the Jean Talon district.It is a foodie magnet and one of the must see tourist destinations.It is much bigger than anything I have seen in Paris.
Summer was making a late run again today.Leica X1 photos

On crossing borders

Just contemplating the long flight home which entails flying down to New York to pick up the Qantas flight.Another meeting with US Border Protection.What a contrast between driving into the US from Canada and being aggressively interrogated and almost intimidated by the surly US Border Protection officer and then coming back into Canada two weeks later and being greeted by a friendly,cheery Canadian official at the border .It is not difficult to envisage a scenario where a tourist with a short fuse could tell the US officer to stick his country and do a U- turn and go and drive through the Rockies instead of visiting the US .And talking to Canadians confirms that our experience was far from being unusual .Which is a great pity because the majority of Americans are friendly,welcoming and very helpful to tourists and it is a wonderful country - despite the overzealous security.

12 Sep 2012

Toronto

After 4 weeks of really hot weather a big cold front came through on Friday night so I drove up to Toronto on Saturday from Erie (rhymes with dreary-not a coincidence) in appalling conditions - high winds and driving rain.The Avis renter Impala moved around in the wind and was very twitchy on standing water and particularly coming through the curves on and off the freeway ramps.Maybe I've been spoilt driving too many good cars over the years but it was not an enjoyable drive and it was nearly 300 kms.
Drove around Buffalo which looked a bleak and rundown city-no different to so many de-industrialised cities in the US.Oh,unhappy days.
Toronto is not an elegant city but it is a lively place .On Sunday morning we went to a large antique market ,well more like a flea market ,and there was this early Polaroid Land camera outfit -complete in the original case and in excellent condition for sale .The vendor wanted $175 for it .I'm not sure if this is a fair price but you'd have to be a specialist collector to be interested.
I went onto the roof of our hotel to get the shot of Toronto at dawn on Monday .I reckon that this may be as picturesque as Toronto gets .Leica X1 photos

8 Sep 2012

Fallingwater

Visited Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic house,Fallingwater,in the Pennsylvania countryside today .I need to do some work on the photos I took to try and do it justice.It is quite beautiful .We took an early morning small group detailed tour .It was a gorgeous morning and the house was quiet .Words fail me .
One shot of the house straight from the camera and a view into the surrounding woodland .
Just down the road it is picture book American back roads .More photos from today later .The X1 got a good workout today.

7 Sep 2012

Hallo officer....

Big drive today .Washington DC to Uniontown via Gettysburg.Along with many others kept my right foot to the metal on the Interstate.Pity that a three car contingent from the Maryland State Troopers were hiding in a cutting on a long down hill stretch.They were nailing speeders three at a time.....including me .So the trip cost me $80 more than expected.But he was friendly and he was wearing a Boy Scouts hat and unlike Australia where they just photograph your number plate and send you the infringement notice in the mail they chased after me with all their lights flashing .Almost worth $80 for the show...

6 Sep 2012

V8 Curtis Motorcycle

Saw this 1906 Curtis motorcycle fitted with an experimental 40 hp V8 aero engine in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum today.Displacement not stated.Curtis went on to be a major aircraft constructor.Neat engine for the era.

5 Sep 2012

DC

Two very different views of Washington DC taken today -the Capitol Building and the Ohio and Chesepeake Canal in Georgetown.The canal scene is just a couple of kms from the White House .And talking of the White House we were on a boat trip on the Potomac this afternoon when the President flew into the White House from Andrews Air Force Base .Three very distinctive helicopters ,accompanied by an armed US Coast Guard Zodiac on the river (just in case they had to ditch).Two helicopters landed at the White House and one hovered overhead.The stream of airliners flying into Ronald Regan Airport was stopped whilst he flew in .

3 Sep 2012

An early morning walk in Annapolis

Took an early morning walk in charming Annapolis today,Sunday .Had a quick chat with a friendly local cop putting up the flags on the State offices and a security guard taking a quick break .Leica X1 photos.