There are some truly spectacular mountains in the world. Everest, Kilimanjaro, and Rushmore to name a few. But you can't go racing on them, which is what makes Mount Panorama, in New South Wales, Australia, special. More importantly, it is home to the legendary endurance event, the Bathurst 1000 — a 1,000km touring race held on the second Sunday of every October at the 6km circuit.
Drivers are in awe of the torturous stretch of tarmac. It excites and intimidates them. It's a great road with some breathtaking scenery. But don't be lulled into a false sense of security. It snakes its way across the ridge and can bite so hard, that all hopes of glory can be over in a second.
The track is actually a public road with homes, shops and small businesses, but on race day, it transforms into a rip-roaring frenzy with V8 Supercars tearing up famous sections of the circuit.
The gruelling race starts and finishes in front of the pits. The first turn is Hell's Corner followed by a climb up Mountain Straight and around Griffins Bend, a hairpin turn. You can't see the road in front of you but at around 200kph you zigzag through the Esses and navigate one of the most famous corners in Australian motorsport, the Dipper, before hitting Forrest Elbow. Then with your foot floored, you blast your way down Conrod Straight into a long sweeping chicane at The Chase. If you haven't crashed as you enter Murrays Corner, the 23rd and final turn, you're in with a chance of winning. That's lap one over with. Just another 160 to go...
The track commands respect. But, well before the Ford and Holden rivalry began on it, it was used for motorbike racing. Back in the Thirties, Mayor Martin Griffin wanted to convert the dirt track into a proper circuit. So, with the support of the New South Wales Light Car Club, his vision came true and he officially opened the Mount Panorama Scenic Drive in 1938. The first race, the Australian Grand Prix, attracted over 200,000 spectators.
The Bathurst 1000 was originally known as the Armstrong 500. Three races, featuring unmodified saloons, had been held in Victoria. The winner of the first race in Phillip Island was Frank Coad behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Cresta in 1960. The race was moved to Mount Panorama three years later and re-named the Hardie Ferodo 500 and then the Bathurst 1000. It became the ideal platform for carmakers to showcase their products and it's where the famous ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday' concept started.
Dominating proceedings back then was Ford. Holden wanted a share of the spoils and built ‘Bathurst Specials' such as the Monaro and Torana to compete against Ford's Falcon GT and Super Falcon. It was the birth of the muscle car era Down Under and the mount became synonymous with V8 power. The two brands have been involved in some fascinating battles over the years, but Holden has the edge with 27 Bathurst victories to the 18 recorded by Ford.
Some of the greatest drivers in Australian motorsport made their debut at Bathurst but the greatest of them all was Peter Brock. He made his first appearance in 1969 with Holden and secured his first victory in 1972 driving the XU1. He soon became known as ‘The King of the Mountain' thanks to a record nine Bathurst victories in his career. Following his death in 2006, drivers have been competing for the Peter Brock Trophy, which was named in his honour.
At the top of the mountain, your loyalties are with either the Red Lion or the Blue Oval. There is no grey area at Bathurst.
Bathurst 1000 facts
2010 winner Craig Lowndes/Mark Skaife
Winning team TeamVodafone
Winning manufacturer Holden