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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







3 comments:

  1. 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

    ReplyDelete
  2. After being an avid touring car fan my interest gradually waned when the "Supercar" or as you say "Nascar" format was introduced - I still watch virtually every F1 race but now rarely watch a supercar race (not one this year) though I will probably watch bits of Bathurst purely because I love the track.

    I am interested to see how the proposed changes go.

    Ross

    ReplyDelete
  3. You have some great memories obviously - and some great pictures to help. And apparently a serious telephoto lens too - or maybe you were just that close. At any rate, these are some fantastic photos.

    ReplyDelete