Bathurst: A Virtual Tour
By Scott Russell
It is quite simply, the finest circuit in the Souther Hemisphere. Six kilometres of undulating curves, fast sweepers and long straights, Bathurst is a real drivers course and the premier track in Australia. This collection of photographs takes us around Bathurst on a virtual tour. (This feature first appeared on Chequered Flag in September 2002. All photos are reproduced in ultra-low-resolution in the spirit of ‘fair use’.)
Welcome to Mt. Panorama, Bathurst, Australia, home of Australia’s premier touring car race, the Bathurst 1000. A lap around the track starts at the start/ finish line on the main straight. Here the 2005 field pull away at the start. Note the six foot high pitwall, built in time for the ‘99 race.
The main straight is ended with a 90 degree left hander that marks the start of the ascent up the mountain. V8 Supercars can take this corner at approximatly 100km/h. This is always a very hectic turn on race day as the large field funnels into the first turn, often two or three abreast.
Hell Corner Exit
After negotiating Hell Corner, drivers proceed to begin the ascent to the top of Mt. Panorama. This photo shows lap one of the 1996 Bathurst 1000, Craig Lowndes heading he field in an HRT Commodore VS. Lowndes and teammate Murphy won the race. They remain the youngest winning pair to date.
A lap at Bathurst begins for real with the big climb up Mountain Straight. This photo was taken during the 2003 Bathurst 24 Hour Sports Car race.
The first part of Mountain Straight is flat, but the second half is punctured by a large hump, an uphill/downhill section before Griffins. The Australian gum trees provide the perfect foreground as two New Zealand Schedule S cars drive during the 1998 Super Touring event. Shadows over the track change the dynamics of this part of the track as the race winds on.
After the relatively mundane drive up Mountrain Straight, the cars enter the fast, sweeping, uphill, right hander known as ‘Griffins Bend’. Griffens leads into the Cutting.
So called because the part of road is ‘cut’ into the mountain, the Cutting complex actually entails two corners. The steepest part of the track, its uphill all the way as the drivers stick to the racing line and battle. This is Larry Perkins leading a train of cars during the 1992 Bathurst 1000. Perkins is driving a VL Holden Commodore. The BP Cutting was the site of the 1980 ‘rock’ incident. A rock thrown onto the track by a spectator ended the race of privateer Dick Johnson, who was leading at the time in a Falcon.
With the town as a backdrop, this part of the circuit is the location of one of the most memorable moments in Bathurst history. Reid Park encompasses a few twists, but is notable for the left handed crest depicted to the left. It was here in 1982 that a tyre failure pitched Kevin Bartlett into an enormous roll at the wheel of the Channel 9 sponsored Chevrolet Camaro. It was a spectacular accident, but he was unharmed.
Reid Park leads into Sulman Park, the second of three ‘Parks’ at the top of the mountain, the third being McPhillamy Park, which the Pack Leader Falcon EL can be seen driving towards in the photo on the left, taken at the 1996 classic.
A blind crest infront of McPhillamy makes this a tough corner and one for the brave drivers. Runoff here has been extended in recent years, easing safety concerns at a point in the track that has caused many accidents, most memorably the track blocking accident in 1981 on lap 120 that forced a premature stop to the event. This is the 1998 Super Touring race.
Brock Skyline as it is known these days provides photographers with a spectaculor oppurtunity as the cars crest the hump that marks the beginning of the descent down the mountain. This is Paul Morris in 2001. Several drivers have crashed here in the past, most notably Tony Roberts, who went over the wall and off the edge in 1970 in a Falcon. When Peter Brock died in September 2006, fans left flowers, cards and posters for “Brocky” on the concrete walls at this part of the track.
The esses lead into the dipper and form a very important part of a Bathurst lap. Stuff up this part and you’ve lost your momentum for the next few corners. The descent through this section is very steep, and many drivers have lost it through here in years gone by.
The ground falls away as the cars hit this part of the track on the way down the mountain. The rate of decline here is very fast as the drivers keep to the inside and hope for the best. This is an HRT Commodore flying through the dipper in the 1991 event..
Towards Forrest Elbow
The scenic NSW country-side provides a stunning backdrop for this V8 Ute during the 2001 support race. Not that the drivers have a chance to admire the view on the run down the mountain towards Forrest Elbow.
The last corner of the mountrain and the one that leads onto Conrod Straight, Forrest Elbow is a tricky left hander that has claimed many drivers in the past, including raceleader, Jim Richards, in 1992. The race was red flagged immediatly due to the torrential rain, and Richards/Skaife were declared winners despite crashing out (the results were taken from 1 lap prior). This photo shows the 1985 race, a Volvo, Jaguar, Ford train.
Although it is interupted by the Chase, the V8 Supercars still reach their top speed of 300km/h along Conrod, and it is the fastest part of the circuit. The Chase was installed in the interests of safety after Mike Burgman died there in 1987.
End of Conrod Straight
A hump in the track under the Bridge, with the pit lane entry to the left, marks the end of the 1.5 kilometre run down Conrod. The pitlane itself peels off the left side of the track, and is a zig-zagged section of road designed to slow the drivers before they enter the pits. Larry Perkins was a casualty of the pit entrance in 2001 after he crashed his VX Commodore in this section while pitting late in the race. Despite this embarrassing gaffe, Perkins is second only to Brock in Bathurst folklore.
The last corner of the track is simply the opposite of the first - left, slightly downhill and 90 degrees its a simple corner marking the end of the lap. Despite it’s simplicity, many drivers have been beached in the gravel on the corners outisde. This photo shows four Commdore V8 Supercars battling in 1996.
After Murrays Corner, it’s a short run to the finish line. And there you have it, a virtual tour of Mt Panorama.