The Supercars Championship reaches its peak this upcoming weekend with the Bathurst 1000 kicking off on Thursday morning.
As Australian motorsport’s biggest race, Bathurst has always taken centre stage, not only for the die-hard fans of the sport but casual supporters, whether they tune in for the whole seven hour epic or just for the dying laps.
Murray Walker summed up Formula One by simply saying, “anything can happen and it usually does”. Neil Crompton once said an equally powerful statement about Bathurst, calling it a “low joint” after the engine of the AU Falcon he was sharing with Craig Lowndes cooked itself in 2002, taking them out of race contention.
A track of triumph and tragedy, Bathurst never fails to make you smile or tear your heart out; what else can you expect when a race goes for the best part of seven hours?
It’s a testament to the parity of the series that the biggest winning margin in the Car of the Future era is just four seconds when Chaz Mostert won in 2014 after taking the lead from a fuel-deprived Jamie Whincup on the last lap of 161 tours.
While the Ford young gun felt the greatest emotion at Bathurst, a year later he found out the Mountain can just as easily take away as easily as it give. On a great run of qualifying success throughout the season, a mistake coming down the Mountain in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session saw his Falcon torn to shreds, breaking his leg which took him out of the season.
Mostert is one of many drivers who has not only won Bathurst in the 1000 form but also in either the 12 hour GT race or the more recent 6 hour production car race (2016). Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes enter this year’s 1000 as not only two of the active drivers with the most amount of wins (four and six respectively) but also as the current 12 hour champions after winning this year’s half-day epic in a Ferrari 488.
The Triple Eight duo may not be driving together but their “three-peat” from winning in 2006, 2007 and 2008 are among the best in modern Bathurst history. In fact, since their first win in 2006, Triple Eight cars have won seven 1000’s which is not to be sniffed at.
There are plenty of drivers who are in contention to get their first wins on the hallowed tarmac of Mount Panorama. Scott McLaughlin comes in to the race leading the title standings though has not yet stepped on the Bathurst podium. The loveable Kiwi is yet to find the good spot of lady luck.
Shane van Gisbergen missed out on his first win last year, settling for second behind the Tekno Commodore of Will Davison. SVG could have arguably won in 2014 had it not been for a buggered starter motor when he stalled leaving his last pit stop.
Bathurst is a crucial race to get right as it plays a major part in the championship make up; a bad result or DNF here means sacrificing a swag-full of points. Teams and drivers need to work out what means more, either championship battles or victory in the biggest race of the year.
The top ten shootout is like watching the NBA’s slam dunk contest, having the best of the best on track to show who has the muscle and wits to take pole position. Even though pole position means almost nothing at Bathurst, the claim to have the fastest single-lap car is a big feather for drivers to put in their caps.
All of these elements add to the theatre of the four-day event, truly earning its title as the Great Race.
Image via Supercars Championship