Who will master the mountain this time around?
With Scott McLaughlin sewing up the championship at The Bend Motorsport Park in the previous round, making it a three in a row for the Kiwi and becoming one of only four drivers in the championship’s history to do so. Therefore, with it all said and done, this year’s Bathurst 1000 will really be no holds barred.
Scott McLaughlin and new driver pairing Tim Slade will arguably go into this weekend’s event as the favourite to take out the greatest prize in Australian motoring, which would make it back-to-back for McLaughlin amidst last year’s controversy. DJR Team Penske won the 2019 Bathurst 1000, but were accused of foul play as teammate Fabian Coulthard was unusually slow/cautious on a restart which netted McLaughlin a significant advantage (although the racing stewards gave no penalty). That’s the thing with Mount Panorama, it always brings out something to spice things up.
Speaking of spicing things up, that is certainly what the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R did in the earlier 90’s (see above and cover photo). Winning both the ‘91 and ‘92 Tooheys 1000 – as it was named back then – before being banned (for being too good, in my mind!), “Godzilla” was aptly the giant killer of the sport. Piloted by Jim Richards and Mark Skaife, the win in 1992 was particularly controversial as their car had crashed before the race was red flag due to horrendous conditions. The race was wound back to the last completed lap in which they were still leading. The Ford and Holden fans booed boisterously as Richards and Skaife were awarded the trophy before Richards unleashed his now infamous “you’re a pack of arseholes” comment. What people didn’t know at the time was that Richards was only just informed that his friend and fellow driver, Denny Hulme, who was also racing, had died from heart failure after a crash that he suffered on lap 33 of the race.
Thankfully, when we visited in 2010 the weather was infinitely better than on that fateful day in 1992. As the Mount Panorama circuit is technically a public road, you can drive on it all year round (barring race weekends of course!). Luckily, we had the road to ourselves and the fastest car in the world…a rental car! However, the economy tyres were in great pain even at the 60km/h speed limit, but it was an amazing experience just to cruise around. The road is heavily policed and there is only one way in and out, so I suggest harnessing your inner Peter Brock. The National Motor Racing Museum located adjacent to the track is worth your visit too, with a statue of the great man on top of the equally legendary “05” Commodore, you can’t miss it!
The Mountain brings out the courage, the cars and the carnage. And it wouldn’t be a complete Bathurst 1000 without some interruption from Mother Nature herself. I also look forward to our yearly ritual of a bacon sandwich while watching the start of the race.
So, who is going to win? Well, it is one of those races where if anything can happen it usually does – plastic bag, anyone? – so you really don’t know until they cross the line. Either way, I’ll always be rooting for Craig Lowndes!