Magic Moments on the Mountain – Bathurst 2018 by Peter Newlinds

Peter Newlinds on the magic that is the Bathurst 1000

I’m not really a motor sport man (in fact in more than 25 years in the media I’ve never actually covered it) but there’s something timeless and very special about the Bathurst 1000 race.

My memoir Around the Grounds deals with many themes, but central to the content of the book is a feeling of nostalgia – a sentiment for a time and a place with happy associations.

In this regard the annual Bathurst 1000 race  – with its unchanging geography, essentially Australian feel and immediately identifiable features of Conrod Straight, Skyline and Mt Panorama –  is in a class of its own.

With 174 metres from the lowest point of the mountain course to the highest, the Bathurst represents the Everest of touring car racing. While it’s not the final race of the season it’s definitely the pinnacle event and the best known. To add to its charm, in the 50 weeks of the year that it isn’t being used as the nation’s most-loved racing circuit, the course is a regular road for Mr and Mrs Average.

The drivers spend the race concealed behind safety helmets, yet many of the faces and the names are unforgettable. And so are the images. It’s more than 40 years since Alan Moffatt, in a crippled Ford XC Falcon, and Colin Bond, driving to team orders, finished first and second in a display of what the commentators of the time called ‘crushing Ford dominance’. I looked at the TV footage yesterday and the images and memories were wonderful. Apart from the differences in car design and the presence of more trees around the racetrack, it all looked and even sounded the same.

You might debate whether car racing is really a proper sport but when an event like this conjures such images and associations I think it’s an open and shut case.

Many of the fans who chanted Craig Lowndes name after his emotional and historic seventh win yesterday ( ‘Lowndsey, Lownsdsey!’) were on an annual pilgrimage. With their colours and identities attached to Ford or Holden (or perhaps Nissan) they’d been living on the mountain for a week or so, camped out near the better vantage points of the course. Brandishing the flags and banners of their favourite team they descended to the main straight for the spectacle of the final presentation, which with its simple first, second and third place podium, maintains an old-school feel.

It’s a funny game where you drive a car 1000 kilometres around the same track all day to determine a winner, but it works. This bridging weekend of early spring wouldn’t look or sound the same with the roar of those engines, those fanatical crowds and the essential unpredictably of competition that the best in motor sport can bring….

** Fans at Bathurst - images courtesy of ABC.net

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