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The races, the cars, the drivers, the mountain
Looking at the history of endurance races at Bathurst, and the 2000 FAI 1000
Mark Alan Jones

It is now just 12 days until the beginning of a race. A race which traces it's lineage back to 1960 where around the picturesque seaside circuit of Phillip Island first hosted the Armstrong 500 mile race. A race for Production cars based on 5 class price based system. The cars were started in their classes at 30 second intervals and driven off into history. While the surface of this, the second race track at Phillip Island may have broken up beyond redemption after the 1962 race, there was no stopping it now and the race was smoothly transplanted in 1963 to Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Today Mount Panorama is Australia's oldest surviving active circuit and has played host to some of the greatest names in the sport.

The circuit called Mount Panorama was designed and built in the 1930's as a tourist road up to the spectacular views from the top of the hill of the surrounding area, the corners were however a fair bit wider than a normal road. The designer had a twinkle in his eye. Funding for what was obvious to those in the know as a motor racing circuit was 'conned' by the Bathurst City Council out of the New South Wales state government. The road was finished in 1938, and on Easter a first race meeting was run. That year the Australian Grand Prix has held at the new circuit. 35,000 spectators turned up. It was a hit. The success of that mountain allowed the dirt road to be sealed.

Just after World War II major upgrade were carried out. In 1962 the fledgling Armstrong 500 Production Car field destroyed the circuit at Philip Island, which was simply unable to cope with the numbers of cars and the length of the race. So the race moved from the cradle of Australian motor racing, to it's heartland. For 1963 a field of 57 entries was received and after well over 7 hours of battle the Ford Cortina of Harry Firth and Bob Jane greeted the chequered flag, a moment in history.

Over 30 different manufacturers have tried their hand at the Great Race. The race has been won by Vauxhall, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Morris, Holden, Jaguar, Nissan, BMW and Volvo. Classes have been won by Vuaxhall, Peugeot, Simca, Ford, NSU, Mercedes-Benz, Studebaker, Renault, Volkswagon, Morris, Chrysler, Dastun, Alfa Romeo, Holden, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Rover, Jaguar, BMW, and Volvo. While Standard, Austin, Truimph, Hillman, Humber, Lloyd, Singer, Citreon, Fiat, Isuzu, Prince, Audi, Dodge, Honda, Subaru, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, Maserati, Hyundai, Suzuki and Porsche have tried and failed.

A race that has been won by some of the greats, Frank Coad, John Roxburgh, Bob Jane, Harry Firth, George Reynolds, Barry Seton, Midge Bosworth, Bob Holden, Rauno Aaltonen, Fred Gibson, Bruce McPhee, Barry Mulholland, Colin Bond, Tony Roberts, Allan Moffat, Peter Brock, Ian Geoghegan, John Goss, Kevin Bartlett, Brian Sampson, Bob Morris, John Fitzpatrick, Jacky Ickx, Jim Richards, Dick Johnson, John French, Larry Perkins, John Harvey, Armin Hahne, Allan Grice, Graeme Bailey, David Parsons, Peter McLeod, Tony Longhurst, Tomas Mezera, John Bowe, Win Percy, Mark Skaife, Gregg Hansford, Russell Ingall, Craig Lowndes, Greg Murphy, David Brabham, Geoff Brabham, Rickard Rydell, Jason Bright and Steven Richards.

The Greats of world motorsport have come to the race - Formula 1 drivers Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Paul England, Jacky Ickx, Frank Gardner, Paul Hawkins, Tim Schenken, Warwick Brown, Graham McRae, Alan Jones, Larry Perkins, Vern Schuppan, Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Henri Pescarolo, Derek Warwick, Johnny Cecotto, Satoru Nakajima, Julian Bailey, Gary Brabham, David Brabham, Joachim Winkelhock, Olivier Grouillard, Emanuelle Pirro and Roland Ratzenberger.

Touring Car stars Jeff Allam, Norm Beechey, Frank Biela, Gianfranco Brancatelli, John Cleland, Rudi Dahlhauser, Michel Delcourt, Pierre Dieudonne, Alain Ferte, Brian Foley, Robbie Francevic, George Fury, Leo Geoghegan, Robb Gravett, Tim Harvey, Altfrid Heger, Jean-Francois Hemroulle, Yoshimi Katayama, Klaus Ludwig, Gerry Marshall, Alain Menu, Brian Muir, Yvan Muller, Akihiko Nakaya, Matt Neal, Klaus Niedzwiedz, Markus Oestrich, Jason Plato, Paul Radisich, Roberto Ravaglia, Andy Rouse, Rickard Rydell, Steve Soper, Thierry Tassin, Winni Vogt, Prince Leopold von Bayern and Patrick Watts.

Others like John Andretti, Dick Barbour, Neal Bates, Derek Bell, Juan Manuel Fangio II, Wayne Gardner, Janet Guthrie, David Hobbs, Paddy Hopkirk, Tommy Kendall, Timo Makinen, Spencer Martin, Frank Matich, Rod Millen, Ed Ordynski, Dieter Quester, Garry Rush, Johnny Rutherford and Tom Walkinshaw.

For those who race there, those who officiate, those who spectate, those who observe on behalf of the rests and those who watch it year in year out, Bathurst is a special place. One that transcends mere words and can only be expressed emotionally. The plunges and sweeps across the top, the picturesque tree line circuit, so at odds with modern circuits of today, the glorious rush down the hill called Con-Rod Straight. A series of names imbedded in Australian sporting culture, Hell Corner, Murray's Corner, Forrests Elbow, Griffin's Corner and of course, McPhillamy.

Each year thousands arrive at the place once called Bald Hills, drivers, mechanics, data loggers, press liaisons, journalists, photographers, administrators, flag marshalls, fire marshalls, doctors, and spectators by the hordes just to witness the conquering of the Mountain, or to be conquered by the Mountain.

The track starts from the bottom of the hill, then flicks 90 degrees left in Hell Corner before the steep 1 kilometer climb up Mountain Straight. A brave and fast right hander at Griffins then the climb up to the double apex left at The Cutting, then the steepest part of the track as the cars climb away from the Cutting up towards Reid Park, a right, a crest, two very fast lefts plunging and climbing before the dangerously fast and blind corner that has destroyed so many called McPhillamy Park Corner. Then over the Skyline the circuit plunges downwards sharply. A left right Esses before the left hand Dipper plunges sharply down from the run of the circuit. A couple more wiggles before the shelf then the right hander down, down into the seeming never ending Forrests Elbow hairpin before Con-Rod Straight opens out in front. A small kink then 1.5 kilometers of rollercoaster straight reaching 300kph then a fast right into the Challenge Chase then 90 degrees hard braking left then right again for the run down to Murray's Corner. Back onto Pit Straight, uphill and back up to the start finish line.

Over the years the Mountain has seen many a great battle, the enthralling 1994 Bathurst 1000, where six cars lined up behind the pace car with less than an hour remaining. The 1972 ATCC round where Allan Moffat drove to the very limits of human ability, even beyond but couldn't beat Ian Geoghegan in one of the all time great duels. The 1998 Bathurst 1000 where the difference between the Volvo and the Nissan was in the end measured by the performance of a back marker. 1967 Bathurst 500 when the wrong Ford Falcon was given the chequered flag and then found out afterwards the the winner in fact lost by a mere 11 seconds. The 1993 Bathurst 12 hour when factory Porsches and Mazdas fought for supremacy around the clock. The all day long duel of 1993 Bathurst 1000 between Gibson Motor Sport and Perkins Engineering, Bob Morris vs Dick Johnson in the 1981 Bathurst 1000. 1990 Bathurst 1000 when two Commodores and a lone surviving Sierra slugged out the final stages. 1997 Bathurst 1000 where the BMW's and the Audis wore down the Europeans one by one, leaving four cars, within sight of each other, to go for the win in the dying laps.

And there have been many wars of attrition, the 1997 Bathurst Classic, where of the favourites only Larry Perkins and Russell Ingall were left standing. The 1989 Bathurst 1000 where barely enough cars finished to fill the prizemoney. The 1985 Bathurst 1000 where car after car dropped by the wayside, leaving a Jaguar with a broken seat to lead them home. 1969 Bathurst 500 where some 15 cars were or would be eliminated at Skyline on the first lap - a full quarter of the field.

Or days of domination where one car, one team, one man could not be touched. 1991 Bathurst 1000 where nobody ever headed the winning Nissan GT-R. 1989 Bathurst 1000 and Johnson & Bowe lead all bar the first lap. 1977 Bathurst 1000 and the arrogance of the Ford 1-2 matched some 7 years later by a Holden 1-2. The 1966 Bathurst 500 where Morris Cooper S filled 1st to 9th. The 1979 Bathurst 1000 and Peter Brock and Jim Richards won the race by 6 laps, and just to prove it all on the last lap Brock set out to and smashed the lap record.

Here now is the 2000 FAI 1000 Classic, the best racing drivers in the country go head to head in Holdens and Fords as the crowd bays for blood. Where the grid is a who's who of Australian Championships, on the grid are 1 Formula One World Drivers Championship, 1 500cc World Motorcycle Championship, 2 Touring Car World Cups, 1 Le Mans 24 Hour win, 12 Australian Touring Car Championships (and 3 Privateers Cups), 11 Australian Drivers Championships, 7 Australian Super Touring Car Championship (and 2 Privateer Cups), 13 Australian Formula Ford Championships, 2 Australian Sports Sedan Championship, 4 Australian GT-Production Car Championships (and 1 Class Championships), 1 Australian Production Car Championship, 1 Australian V8 Lites Championship, 1 AMSCAR Championship, 3 Australian Rally Championships, 2 Australian NASCAR Championships, 7 Australian AUSCAR Championships, 1 Australian Sports Car Championship, 4 Australian Truck Racing Championships, 3 Commodore Cups, 2 Australian Club Car Nationals, 6 New Zealand Touring Car Championships, 8 Targa Tasmania wins, 1 Tasman Cup, 1 European Formula 3 Championship, 4 British Touring Car Championships, 4 IMSA GT-P Championships, 2 Can-Am Championships, 1 US Formula Ford 2000 Championship, 1 British Formula Ford Championship, 2 British Thundersaloon Championships, 4 New Zealand Formula Pacific Championships, 2 British Formula 3 Class B Championships, 1 Australian Grand Prix, 1 Argentinian Grand Prix, 2 Austrian Grands Prix, 1 British Grand Prix, 2 Canadian Grands Prix, 1 French Grand Prix, 1 German Grand Prix, 1 Indonesian Grand Prix, 1 Malaysian Grand Prix, 1 Netherlands Grand Prix, 4 New Zealand Grands Prix, 2 United States East Grands Prix, 1 United States West Grand Prix, 3 Suzuka 8 Hours, 1 Eastern Creek 12 Hour, 15 Sandown 500s, 1 Bathurst 300, 1 Bathurst 500, 1 Bathurst 12 Hour and 29 Bathurst 1000 (and Classic) outright wins and 20 class wins.

The trackside action begins on Thursday, November 16 with prequalifying to eliminate the two slowest teams from the entry list to get from 57 cars down to a 55 car grid. The practice on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Qualifying will be on Friday afternoon, with the top ten run-off following on Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon will see the final shakedown practice session. There will be a warm-up on Sunday with the race starting at 10:00am.

The main support act is of course the Bathurst 3 Hour GT-Production car race, which is also oversubscribed. Also on the bill are GT-P Nations Cup & Formula Ford.

Telecast will be on Channel 10 in Australia - check your local guides, times will vary because of daylight saving.

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