Why you should watch… Bathurst 1000

Why you should watch...

Start, Bathurst, 2003The Bathurst 1000, Australia’s Great Race, is on this weekend. Australian Formula Vee racer Stephen Jones (@aus_steve) urges you to check it out.

It?s a time of transition in the Australian V8 Supercar championship, with a control car, new races and two new manufacturers on the cards for 2013.

But with Bathurst this weekend and the popular Gold Coast event featuring several ex-F1 drivers event following it, now’s the perfect time to start following Australia?s favourite form of motorsport – besides Formula One of course!

V8 Supercars: The basics

The V8 Supercar Championship is one of the top touring car categories in the world and is known for producing some of the closest, most exciting racing.

V8 Supercars in its current form began in 1995, when European 2.0 litre race cars were barred from competing in the Australian Touring Car Championship (the championship name at the time). From that point forward, the championship consisted of 5.0-litre Ford and Holden race cars exclusively.

Over the past decade the championship has risen in popularity to become one of Australia?s most watched sports. The series is broadcast live around Australia on free-to-air television, and is also shown by international broadcasters.

Bathurst

Jenson Button, Holden Commodore, Mount Panorama, Bathurst, 2011The Bathurst 1000 is the championship’s marque event. Like the Indianapolis 500 in IndyCar or the Le Mans 24 Hours in endurance racing, winning this race is considered as important and brings as much recognition as winning the championship.

The race is held on the Mount Panorama course, which is undoubtedly one of the world’s great racing tracks (see satellite image below). The roads were originally built as a scenic route for tourists. The track now uses these public roads, including an adrenaline-fuelled run across the top of the mountain, as part of a daunting 6.2km track.

The 1000km endurance event is by far the longest race on the calendar. It’s contested by pairs of drivers who share cars during the race. Garth Tander and Nick Percat won last year’s running, completing a hat-trick of victories for Holden in The Great Race, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year.

Jenson Button drove a 2008 McLaren MP4-23 at Bathurst in March last year, clocking an unofficial lap record of 1’48.88, exactly 20 seconds faster than last year’s pole position time. He also took a V8 Supercar around the course (pictured).

The cars

V8 Supercars have traditionally been the ultimate in “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” cars. A move away from production stock cars has changed that motto somewhat.

The series is traditionally a blue vs red struggle between Ford and Holden (General Motors). Their current Falcon and Commodore models (respectively) are vastly different from the production cars that raced in the late 80s and early 90s.

V8 Supercar engines-are 5.0 litre, fuel injected V8 powerplants. They run on E85 fuel, which consists of 85% ethanol. Cars often reach 300kph on Conrod Straight (the fastest straight in Australia).

Dunlop supplies a control tyre for all teams to use. They have also provided a softer “sprint” tyre for certain race meetings, much like the current two-compound rule in F1.

The future

A new car is on the way – the imaginatively-dubbed “Car of the Future” will be unleashed on the championship next year.

This new control chassis has attracted interest from other car manufacturers. Nissan will enter two cars in the 2013 series using the Kelly Racing Team factory, while Mercedes AMG is being entered in the series courtesy of Stone Brothers Racing, who are collaborating with local GT Race team Erebus Racing.

The championship will also head to the Circuit of the Americas in 2013, for the first North American race in V8 Supercars history.

The drivers

The 2012 field has a good mix of old and new blood throughout the field.

Reigning champion Jamie Whincup is currently leading the championship. Crowd favourite and chronic smiler (even beating Daniel Ricciardo!) Craig Lowndes is his Triple Eight team mate.

Locked in a four-way battle for the championship with them are Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison, lead the charge for Ford Performance Racing (FPR).

The best of the rest include reigning Bathurst champion Garth Tander from Holden Racing Team (HRT) and New Zealand’s young sensation Shane Van Gisbergen from Stone Brother Racing (SBR).

Lewis Hamilton’s GP2 team mate Alexandre Premat is in his first season of V8 Supercars and is the lowest-scoring driver to have started every round.

Jacques Villeneuve was called in as a guest driver at Townsville this year, but with no opportunity to test the car before the round could do no better than a lapped 24th in the second race. He returned at Queensville where he repeated the same result in both races.

Other races

Mark Winterbottom, Hamilton, 2008Australian circuits dominate the calendar, with a solid mix of permanent and street tracks.

Tracks like Hidden Valley, Eastern Creek and Phillip Island (home of the Australian Moto GP) represent the permanent courses. Street race courses include Hamilton (New Zealand), Townsville, Homebush (The Sydney 2000 Olympic Park) and a non-championship exhibition race at Albert Park supporting the Australian Grand Prix.

The marque events of the V8 Supercar championship are fittingly raced on some of the finest tarmac found in this part of the world. A shortened version of the Adelaide Grand Prix track plays host to the Clipsal 500 in early March.

Sandown hosts the Dick Smith 500 (a warm-up event to Bathurst) in September. And a modified version of the old IndyCar track on the streets of Surfers Paradise hosts an interesting 600km format event dubbed the Gold Coast 600 in October.

The V8 Supercar Championship is perpetually in a state of international growth. While several earlier international races have come and gone, some have come close to success. This year V8 Supercars will be the top support race to Formula 1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The teams will use the support category pits on the second back straight at Yas Marina for the Yas 400.

What?s next?

The 2012 season has been dominated by Ford Performance Racing and Triple Eight. There are five rounds to go in the championship.

The Bathurst race is followed by the Gold Coast 600, where high-profile international racers team up with the regular pilots. This year Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Bourdais, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Mika Salo, Lucas di Grassi, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Briscoe and Marco Andretti will be among those taking their shot at manhandling 650bhp V8 Supercars around the narrow streets of the Surfers’ Paradise.

Bathurst 1000 and V8 Supercar videos

The Bathurst 1000 begins and Fabian Coulthard suffers an enormous crash at the end of the Conrod Straight on lap one.

The introduction to last year?s Bathurst 1000.

Van Gisbergen shows how to celebrate a race win

A close finish to the 2010 Gold Coast 600.

Jenson Button?s unofficial Bathurst lap record.

Bathurst 1000 pictures

Mount Panorama circuit

The track outline can be seen in this satellite image. The circuit runs anti-clockwise beginning from the short straight at the north end of the track, before turning into a 90-degree left-hander. A longer straight takes them into the mountain section.

On their return to the pits the highest speeds are attained on the Conrod Straight. It leads into the Chase, a sequence of three corners that were installed on safety grounds 25 years ago.

Australian V8 Supercars group

Are you following the Australian V8 Supercar championship? Join the group here:

What motorsport would you recommend other F1 fans to follow? If you want to put the case for your favourite non-F1 category write a guest article and send it in. More information here: Write a guest article for F1 Fanatic

Why you should watch…

Images ?? Ford, Holden, VUE Images

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71 comments on Why you should watch… Bathurst 1000

  1. Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 3rd October 2012, 9:21

    Since I have now moved to Australia..this will be on list this weekend!

  2. Metal Mr. L (@metalluigi) said on 3rd October 2012, 9:28

    Was there at the 12-hour enduro event earlier this year in March and Jenson Button’s unofficial record lap last year. Got soaked at the 12-hour but it was an awesome race.

    Got up at the crack of dawn for the start, had an hour’s sleep and then walked the length of the track about three times. Hell of a racetrack.

  3. FormulaLes said on 3rd October 2012, 9:30

    Awesome article, about an awesome race. I usually struggle to get into V8 Supercars, with Bathurst being the exception. Wake up early on the Sunday morning, turn the TV on, anxiously waiting for the race to start, then after lunch pull the TV out of the bedroom ready have Bathurst and the Japanese Grand Prix playing simultaneously on two TVs.

    • Stephen Jones (@aus_steve) said on 3rd October 2012, 12:28

      Shotgun not paying your electricity bill! Enjoy the race!

    • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 3rd October 2012, 15:29

      Me too, I can’t be bothered by V8 Supercars, but I adore the great race! It’s the track that does it for me, imho the greatest track (of reasonable length) in the world since they mangled the Busstop and put tarmac on the outside of Raidillon, Pouhon and Blanchimont.

      The top of the mountain in an F1 car in rFactor is the most fun I ever had in a computer game. Flat out from The Cutting all the way to Skyline; McPhillamy is nuts!

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 4th October 2012, 2:15

      I also have a problem with V8 Supercars, and that is that actually they are far too much like the original road cars of the 70′s , solid rear axles. older V8 pushrod engines unlike the road cars they resemble that for years now have had really excellent independent rear suspensions and newer engine designs. However.

      Any race at Mt. Panorama is thrilling.

  4. spankythewondermonkey (@spankythewondermonkey) said on 3rd October 2012, 9:49

    do the fans still bury their beer in the hills / woods a few days / weeks before the event to get around the ‘no booze’ rule?

  5. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 3rd October 2012, 9:51

    It’s worth mentioning that this year’s race is the 50th Anniversary of an endurance race at Bathurst (though for the first few years, it was run over 500 miles, not 1000 kilometres), and to celebrate, some of the teams have produced liveries based on historical cars:

    - James Moffat and Alex Davison will drive a replica of the TRU-BLU Falcon XD, which was raced by team owner Dick Johnson in 1980, and is notorious for the incident with the rock; Johnson broke free of the pack early in the race, but crashed on lap 17 and claimed he hit a rock that had not been there the previous lap, implying that someone had thrown it onto the circuit to sabotage his race.
    - Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards (#5) and Will Davison and John McIntyre (#6) will race a “Moffstang” tribute, styled on the liveris used by Allan Moffat and Jacky Ickx, and Colin Bond and Allan Hamilton when the Ford dealer team took a one-two finish in the 1977 race, which they won by a lap.
    - David Reynolds and Dean Canto will drive a car styled on Harry Firth and Fred Gibson’s race-winning 1967 Falcon XR, from back when the race was run over 500 miles. Ford also claimed a one-two finish in 1967, with the Geoghegan brothers finishing second.
    - And last but not least, Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff will driver the “Vodabrock”, modelled on Lowndes’ mentor and nine-time winner Peter Brock’s Holden LX Torana (with a few modifications to account for tobacco sponsorship laws and the retirement of the famous 05 number).

  6. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 3rd October 2012, 9:53

    And a modified version of the old IndyCar track on the streets of Surfers Paradise hosts an interesting 600km format event dubbed the Gold Coast 600 in October.

    “Interesting” is not the word I would use to describe it. The Gold Coast 600 is largely considered to be a joke, a gimmick to attract attention. Since the international drivers have very little experience with the cars, and because the race counts for championship position, the guests tend to drive very conservatively until they have completed the minimum number of laps, then swap over. But this point, there is a clear running order, and it can get very processional. And last year’s episode with the bollards and sensors was an embarrassment.

    That said, this year will see the folloing ex-Formula 1 drivers taking part:
    - Sebastien Bourdais (partnering Jamie Whincup)
    - Tonio Liuzzi (Tony d’Alberto)
    - David Brabham (Tim Slade)
    - Mika Salo (Will Davison)
    - Nick Heidfeld (David Reynolds)
    - Franck Montagny (Karl Reindler)
    - Justin Wilson (Greg Murphy)
    - Stéphane Sarrazin (Jason Bright)
    - Max Papis (Steven Johnson)
    - Gianni Morbidelli (Dean Fiore)
    - Lucas di Grassi (Michael Patrizi)

    And I think that’s it. Though I might have miseed one or two obscure drivers

    • Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 3rd October 2012, 23:06

      Don’t think you have missing any, Sarrazin qualifies as obscure an F1 driver as you can get. Looking at the list of drivers, Briscoe (Honda or Toyota), Will Power (Minardi) and Marco Andretti (Honda or Toyota) have tested F1 cars at some point, but none actually raced.

      The GC race is under threat, although that’s a biannual occurrence for nearly all race circuits I think. The race is always good for a few crashes, but unfortunately they’re often the team finance-crippling type, and as you said it can get quite processional.

      • duncanmonza (@duncanmonza) said on 4th October 2012, 2:43

        The Townsville race is under threat too because the Queensland economy is in a bit of strife. It would be a shame to loose Townsville, but I would be more than happy to get rid of the Gold Coast gimmick.

  7. spankythewondermonkey (@spankythewondermonkey) said on 3rd October 2012, 9:55

    great article keith!
    i’ve not really watched it since the mid 80′s / early 90′s when the sierra rs500′s etc were racing, but will try and get a look in this weekend.

  8. Asca (@ascavilya) said on 3rd October 2012, 9:56

    Great article Steve. Bathurst is without doubt the pinnacle of Australian local motorsport.

    I’ll be honest, I’ve tuned out of the V8′s over the past few years as having a family meant that spending an afternoon on the couch wasn’t something that I could do, but come Bathurst weekend the TV goes on. My son will get a well deserved education this weekend as it’ll be the first time that he will be old enough to really understand what’s going on – and add to that the Japanese F1 right after it and all of us will be perched on the lounge to watch – nothing new for my wife and I as we do that every second Sunday (almost) throughout the F1 season.

    One last thing – if you’ve never been to Bathurst, get there when the race isn’t on and drive a lap or 2. It is one of the most amazing experiences you can have, even at 60kph (which is the enforced speed limit – and they do enforce it). Across the top of he mountain it really shows just how big the guys b@lls are, as there really is no room to make a mistake.

  9. Maff (@maff) said on 3rd October 2012, 10:03

    It should be noted that Motors TV isn’t showing it live this year, just crappy highlights. Maybe the article should be “Why you should watch… (But wont be able to in the UK at least).”

    On the plus side, v8 Supercars now do have an official Youtube channel with all the races posted in full a couple of days after the event, so this is probably the best bet for most of us in Europe, just have to avoid seeing the results.

  10. dennis (@dennis) said on 3rd October 2012, 10:14

    I think that video of Button at Bathurst really shows the violence and speed of an F1 car in a way that the television coverage isn’t able to deliver. I almost crapped my pants when he took that right hander after the downhill straight flat out in 7th gear and I’m sitting hear nipping on my coffee.

    Great compilation of videos!
    V8 Supercar races are definitely worth watching. Always interesting, proper driving with rev-matching etc.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 3rd October 2012, 10:31

      @dennis

      I almost crapped my pants when he took that right hander after the downhill straight flat out in 7th gear and I’m sitting hear nipping on my coffee.

      That’s the Chase for you. Now imagine doing it in a one-and-a-half-tonne V8-powered touring car with a gaggle of twenty-eight other like-minded souls all aiming for the same bit of road as you are.

  11. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 3rd October 2012, 10:43

    For anyone who is interested in the history of the Great Race, there’s this: 50 Awesome Bathurst Moments, which coveres everything from Greg Murphy’s infamous five-minute penalty, to Glenn Seton’s 1995 heartbreak, the schism between V8 Supercars and Super Tourers of the late 1990s that saw the Barthurst 1000 was actually run twice a year, the Lap of the Gods, Larry Perkins going from last to first, and the Ambrose vs. Murphy punch-up.

  12. Ben (@biv070) said on 3rd October 2012, 10:48

    Possibly the greatest onboard ever.

    If a guy who used to drive 220 m.p.h. for a living was scared going around the track, you know it’s got to be fun!

  13. thatscienceguy said on 3rd October 2012, 11:35

    I thought Kelly Racing were going to run 4 Nissans next year, not just two (ie all of the Kelly prep’ed cars going Nissan, so both of the Kelly’s Jack Daniels, Murphy’s Pepsi Max and Reindler’s Fair Dinkum Sheds)?

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 3rd October 2012, 12:09

      They are running four Nissans next year. However, it is believed that Murphy and Pepsi Max are off to Walkinshaw Performance in a second car alongside Russell Ingall, while Karl Reindler will likely be dropped now that the team has funding for four works cars. James Moffat and Norton are believed to be in line for a drive with the team next year, but there is no word on who will fill the fourth car.

  14. the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 3rd October 2012, 11:42

    Great article @aus_steve!
    V8 Supercars are the best! Come on Jamie Whincup!

  15. Thomas Baer (@yogibaer) said on 3rd October 2012, 12:05

    I always forget how great they make those intro’s. Every year they’re great, they one up there is awesome. This years should be too.

    Who is everyone tipping to win?? Tander and Percat for me

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 3rd October 2012, 12:10

      Every year they’re great, they one up there is awesome.

      Really? I find them to be overly-dramatic and wildly over-produced, myself.

      • Thomas Baer (@yogibaer) said on 3rd October 2012, 14:10

        Really? I find them to be overly-dramatic and wildly over-produced, myself.

        Each to their own. I like how they set the mood for the race, but i can see they are are as you say they are, overly-dramatic and wildly over-produced, but you can say that about some of the BBC f1 intros that ive seen too

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