It is Iconic. A race known worldwide. It’s the Great Race. The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship feature race of 2017 many will say. It is the Bathurst 1000…and, it is just a matter of days away.
While it stops race fans in Australia and New Zealand, the attraction offshore is symbolic. Those interested in V8 muscle, rear-wheel drive saloon racing, or road racing, all will agree that the Australian Bathurst 1000 race is still breathtaking.
So in October, once the footy season is over, motor sport fans can stake a claim as having the most popular event in Australasia. It becomes the topic du jour, with media clambering over themselves to be at the small New South Wales town for the five day event.
Bathurst 1000 Just Days Away
The 6.2 kilometer road track is transformed in September, to become the widely recognizable and famous Bathurst circuit. Used over many events each year; from production cars, to GT Tourers, Motorbikes and 12 hour enduro races, the weekend in October is most widely known.
By October 3, the current public road will be sealed-off and become a high-speed track. Known for the rise and fall, changes in camber and the infamous Conrod Straight, are all looked forward to by both drivers and spectators.
Some groups of fans have pitched their tents already. many will return to the same camp ground, or stay locally–which is a huge boost to the economy. Visits to the Bathurst Motorsport Museum are compulsory, as is wearing your teams branded merchandise.
— V8X (@V8X_Magazine) October 1, 2017
With the lead-up to to race day, it includes preparations that may have well begun for teams and race fans in August. The last race of the Virgin Australia Supercars series was the Sandown 500, on Sunday September 19. Since that race–won by Cameron Waters and Richie Stanaway–teams have put all their focus on the Great Race.
A huge logistical endeavour, some might see the largest teams seemingly having an advantage. Their set-ups are able to provide all the machinery, parts and labour to manage up to a four-car team. But history will tell you that it is not as favourable as you might assume.
In 2016, the single car team of Tekno Autosports stunned all the larger operations. Principal Jonathon Webb, and lead driver Will Davidson were able to withstand the threats of Scott Mclaughlin and Jamie Whincup, who tangled late with Garth Tander. Eventual Championship winner Shane van Gisbergen was unable to halt the VIP Foods Holden driver from winning the great race. With only one car and a small outfit.
That is the beauty, and unforeseeable nature of motor sport, and especially endurance racing.
Sadly, the days of that happening are less and less likely though, as is a non-factory backed team winning; or even competing, in the great race.
Less Privateer Teams, but Closer Finishes
If a fan were to tell you, that after 161 laps, the winning margin of the Bathurst 1000 was as close as a car length, would you believe them? Well, in 2016 it was less than a second, with van Gisbergen looking to overtake Davidson after the final corner. It was that close.
And these close results have been more consistent in recent years, as the professionally run teams and larger organizations become more prolific. Limiting and now eliminating the ‘once prolific privateer ranks’.
Once the place of fathers and son teams, of weekend racers and once-in-a-lifetime ambitions. Individuals like Bob Holden, who won in a Mini Cooper S. The unique place held by men like Kevin Bartlett; the first man to run 100 miles per hour in 1967. Teams like Bob Jane and Harry Firth. Car dealers during the week; race car drivers on the weekend.
— scott hornell (@scotthornell73) October 2, 2017
And for all those originators, the biggest weekend of their year was, the Bathurst 500 (as it was back then).
That original race was extended from 500 miles to 1000 kilometres in 1973. And the once-a-year focus for private entries became more aligned to single manufacturers and team entries. Think the Holden Dealer team, Mobil 1 Racing and of the last three decades, some of the biggest teams in world motor sport.
But since the turn of the century, a parity has entered the race that has both made for tighter racing, and as the category changed from a number of classes to a single class, less room for private teams.
Race Technology Now World-Leading
Along with the changes to the participation, race day coverage has come along in leaps and bounds. From the early days of fixed cameras numbering less than half a dozen, to numerous camera points around the circuit today.
More are in place now, including remote cameras on extended jib-booms bringing the view over and nearer to the raceline. From in-track cameras, that capture the footage at ground level, demonstrating the speed and proximity to the concrete barriers.
This has also seen the evolution of in-car footage. An innovation that was leading edge, the in-car cameras today now number up to a dozen teams, that provides fans with every angle possible. And that includes the obligatory helicopter shot.
This can show both the wider-angle, plus follow beside the cars as they hurtle down Conrod Straight at 300 kmph!
And the coverage of the great race has also been magnified. This week, up to 24 hours per day will be committed.
Fox Sports has confirmed details for the return of its dedicated Bathurst channel. #VASC
— Supercars (@supercars) August 31, 2017
That includes SkySport New Zealand who will invest heavily, with a dedicated channel coverage from Fox Sports Australia over four days, on SkySport4.
That will include replays of classic Bathurst 100 races from Thursday, before all the qualifying action is broadcast Friday. And ultimately, the famous Top Ten Shootout on Saturday afternoon. That amazing one lap sprint, where names like Peter Brock and Greg Murphy have brought the crowds on the top of hill, to their feet.
Enjoy the Build-Up Sunday
If you pick-up on the race-fever, then Bathurst will hold your attention. In the same way that an Grand Final, Super Bowl or World Championship might, the build-up to Sunday is pure anticipation.
Some take the time to watch replays on SkySport 4, or view YouTube video. Others have family and friends who they can challenge–who is your marquee? Holden or Ford? The General or the Blue Oval?
And for those race fans, sometimes the facts and figures are just as riveting.
If anything is true this week, it is that it will all come to a head Sunday morning. That begins at 8:05am local time, with the warm-up session. There are support races and then the Kenworth Drivers Parade. A chance for fans to watch their heroes pass by at a more pedestrian speed.
And then, 11:00am local time, the Race Director will call for all Marshalls to be ready. All the teams will ready their cars and after a single warm-up lap, the Virgin Australia Supercars will all be positioned on the grid line. Ready to set off on a 1000 kilometer odyssey.
Be sure to tell your friends ‘Do Not Disturb’ as race fans across the world set themselves for approximately eight hours of racing. It’s full on, it’s the Great Race.
It is the Bathurst 1000.
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