Big Week Begins For Bathurst 1000 Drivers and Race Fans

Ahead of this weekend's Bathurst 1000, Scott Hornell takes a look at the grid ahead of one of Motorsport's biggest events.

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October 9 is written down in the calendars of many Motorsport fans worldwide. Not for any motor race, but from Australia, it is known as the ‘Great Race!’. The Bathurst 1000 will hold plenty of attention in the production/touring car category, from New South Wales to New York this Sunday.

Known worldwide today as the pinnacle of the V8 Supercar series, this has developed over a strong history so now Bathurst has built a cult following. Like the Isle of Man TT motorbike race, Dakar Rally or even Le Mans, it has a proud and iconic history. 2016 will add another chapter, as the best drivers aim for the podium.

This week, the build-up is almost as big as the 1000 kilometre road race itself. Held on Sunday in the small town of Bathurst, New South Wales, the influx of crowds is due to the importance of this race on the calendar. A major portion of competition points go towards the Championship here too. So the importance of Bathurst is not lost on either spectators or competitors.

Big Week For Bathurst 1000 Drivers

The annual October ‘celebration of speed’ is part of Aussie folklore. Raced at the Mount Panorama street circuit since 1963, when originators Bob Jane and Harry Firth raced production cars over 500 kilometers. Today, the length is 1000 kilometers, over 161 laps of the track. It has become known as the ‘Great race’.

Drivers who have carved their names into history are endless. Moffat, Grice, Richards, Setton and Skaife. One name stands out, and it is his trophy that all drivers now hope to hold up on Sunday–Peter Brock. The nine-time winner was a natural in the car, and his style and stamina are legendary. Footage (below) of his laconic, relaxed style contrast to the usual intensity of race day.

Every driver aims to win, no matter if they are sitting in 23rd place on the grid. In an endurance race it is all about ‘crossing the line’. Last longest, have the fastest car by lap 161, and you have a chance of holding up the Peter Brock Trophy for 2016.

Drivers to watch in 2016

While the Championship is full of talented drivers, the more favored are both experienced, and supported by a strong team. This short list may not encompass every driver combination (co-driver in brackets) but several of the more fancied.

Last year’s winner, Craig Lowndes cannot be discounted. Along with his regular co-driver; and multiple Bathurst winner, Steven Richards, this combination is top-class. All they need is a good start, be near the leaders and Lowndes on a set a good rubber at race’s end. ‘Simple enough’.

Chaz Mostert had a horror run last year, crashing out in ferocious style. The 2014 champion, under the Prodrive Racing banner will need to have more luck than others, if he is to rejoin the top echelon of V8 Supercars. (Co-Driver Steve Owen)

TEKNO Racings’ Will Davidson has shifted from Erebus Motorsport, to develop further on his one podium. After 14 years, some say the timing must be now, and with Triple-Eight Racing technology, this could be an outside chance. (Co-Driver Jonathon Webb)

If any name at Bathurst should be familiar with success, it is James Moffat. Now with Wilson Security Volvo Racing, he is destined to step-up at some time–will that be now? Away from Nissan, Moffat could write his name; and Volvo’s down in Bathurst history. (Co-Driver James Golding)

Familar name in US Racing

For American race fans, a new team will be well known. DJR Team Penske has drawn Roger Penske into V8 Supercars. With Ford backing, the racing icon has joined Dick Johnson (multiple Bathurst winner) to raise the Blue oval flag.

Driver Fabian Coulthard is a very talented, fast and ambitious driver. After stints with Brad Jones Racing, the Kiwi has always impressed with his consistency. In 2015, he was at the head of the field, challenging for the lead when a driver error cost him badly. With the full team backing of Penske Racing, Coultard’s experience will be sure he is ‘ready to rumble’ come Sunday. (Co-Driver Luke Youlden)

Categories and marques

Today’s event forms part of the V8 Supercar series, the formula has evolved from production saloon cars, to now be a stand-alone design. Built around the power-plant, engine manufacturers like General Motors and the Ford Motor Comapny were once the sole entries. Now, International marques like Volvo and Nissan compete beside the Ford and Holden (Australia) manufacturers.

The prize has always been bragging rights. ‘Win it on Sunday, sell it on Monday’ was the saying, and the big dealers would all be there at Bathurst–year after year. The Holden dealer team vs Ford Credit rivalry ran for years. The incarnation today is the Holden Racing Team [Red lion] and Ford Performance Racing [Blue oval] who now represent the national dealers.

Colour and spectacle of Motorsport

In as much as the race promotes technology, endurance and high-performance, the colour and spectacle is aided through fan engagement. The race has evolved from a 4 day race-meet, to become a week long event. It transforms the sleepy town, into a bubbling hive of activity. In the same way Monaco comes alive for it’s Formula 1 race.

The energy slowly builds, with the arrival of the track marshal’s and construction of the race track. Then the big rigs arrive–some as impressive in design and livery, as the competing cars. The Bathurst 1000 organisation as a whole provides a huge boost to the local economy, as the population grows by a factor of 1000!

Fans arrive early, to gain the best position to camp. The area surrounding the tract is transformed from rolling hills to thumping party-central. And this is where the merchandise, driver signings and sponsor activities really take hold. As in any large event, the additional entertainment is as enjoyable as the 1000 kilometre race.

Qualifying and the Top Ten Shootout

By Thursday, qualifying takes centre-stage. Every team begins set-up, pre-race tuning and many teams enter years of data to gain that all important millisecond advantage.

Qualifying is all made in an attempt to be inside the top ten. That is constantly changing over the first days, as the track is bedded-in, tyre grit increases and a race-line develops. By Saturday, every team will have either peaked their performance…or crashed, bashed or smashed their chances. Late on Sunday morning, teams maybe repairing damage, all just to enter their car in the ‘great race’.

The Top Ten Shootout is the most exciting part of the weekend, as some drivers can gain that important psychological edge over opponents. Think Senna and Prost, Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace, the competition can hinge on your placing for the race. The shootout is where cars are on-the-edge, drivers push hardest on prepared tires, with low fuel weight to gain every second available.

The race lap record was broken in 2015, as the conditions enabled Jamie Whincup to eke-out every inch of the track. His mark of 2:07.1226 during the race was sensational–but not the fastest. That honour sat with New Zealand driver Greg Murphy, who drove the an astonishing time of 2:06.8594*, a lap which became known as the ‘Lap of the Gods’.

* Jamie Whincup ran a 2:04.9097 lap in qualification, but his Shootout time was delayed by rain, so Murphy holds the ‘peoples honour’.

By Sunday, the atmosphere is white hot

And then, Sunday brings the pomp and ceremony pre-race. A circuit of past winners and all race entrants are paraded before the clocks countdown to a race start. Cars perform one warm-up lap before the drivers are readied. It raises the blood pressure of all competitors, team managers and race control.

Drivers, start your engines!

The flag drops, lights go out, and tyre smoke fills the air.

On Sunday October 9, all eyes will be on the Great Race. It takes over eight hours to complete, but the intrigue, pit lane changes and match incidents are what keeps your attention. Broadcasters have elevated the production level to the highest standards. A seemingly endless number of in-car cameras gives the viewer a true experience. All brought together to capture the excitement, strategy and bumper-to-bumper action.

For over half a century, fans across the world turn their attention to the Bathurst 1000 race. Who will win? The million dollar question, you might say. For those in attendance, the tradition is all important and they cheer for their favourites, and applaud the winner.

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