The biggest prize in Australian motorsport is on the line Saturday. 27 pairings will compete for 1,000 kilometers on the southern hemisphere’s greatest race circuit. Who will conquer Bathurst?
It is not just The Peter Brock Trophy up for grabs – but 300 championship points, as well. It is hands down, the biggest, most critical race of the Virgin Australia Supercars season.
The Bathurst 1000 is Australia’s equivalent of the Indy 500. There is simply nothing bigger. Much like the ‘500,’ the last decade at Mount Panorama has seen some of the all-time great races in the event’s history. Only twice since 2006 has the margin of victory been greater than a second (this was one of them).
The rivalry between Prodrive and Triple Eight Racing (Red Bull) has had fans biting their finger nails for years. Cars from the respective teams have finished 1-2 in the past four races and they are once again the two heavyweight teams heading into the race.
Aside from the head-to-head duels, the track produces some of the most visually stunning images in motorsport. 6.2-kilometers of narrow, fast, undulating roads at Mount Panorama push the drivers to their very limits. Even the smallest mistake can result in the biggest of impacts.
It is during the top ten shootout – where the first five rows of the grid are determined – that the nature of the track truly shines. The nation’s best racers get the circuit all to themselves and it is apparent they push for every meter.
A round’s worth of points covers the top four; the race can make, break, or save a season.
The Great Race began its life as 500-mile endurance event in 1963. The Ford Cortina dominated the early runnings, but it was in the late 60’s and early 70’s where the legend of Bathurst was truly born. The fostering of the Ford and Holden rivalry mixed with classics between Peter Brock and Allan Moffat helped the race develop into one of the top in the world.
From there, stars like Johnson, Richards, and Perkins added to the lore. Thousands came to see Falcons, Commodores, GT-Rs, Sierras, and the Jaguar XJ-S fight it out at the Mountain. 1993 saw the dawn of a new era, perhaps the most important in Australian Touring Car History.
Under 5.0L V8 regulations (what would later become the V8 Supercars), the race soared in popularity. Now, the Aussie Falcons and Commodores are joined by Nissan Altimas in Volvo S60s. Names like Lowndes, Whincup, McLaughlin, and Winterbottom thrill the fans much like the drivers of old.
One thing has not changed: Bathurst is the peak. To reach the top of the mountain, is the pinnacle in one’s career.
Triple Eight Racing (Red Bull Racing Australia, Team Vortex) comes into the weekend as the favorites, once again. Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell are the fastest duo in the race, but tend to shoot themselves in the foot. Shane Van Gisbergen and Alex Premat, in the other Red Bull racer, finished second at Sandown. Van Gisbergen leads Whincup by seven points in the series.
Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards, in car no. 888, enter the defending race winners but will have to start from 21st following a dismal qualifying. It will be tough, but not impossible for this pair who has 10 Bathurst victories combined.
Garth Tander and Warren Luff come off a Sandown 500 victory and in Walkinshaw’s final Bathurst as the factory Holden team, will be highly motivated. They will be flanked by Commodores from Brad Jones Racing, who have shown speed so far this weekend.
On the Ford side of the equation, all entries will want to commemorate the Falcon model with a victory on Sunday.
Scott Pye and Fabian Coulthard have their Shell Falcons in the shootout after a promising start to the weekend. There would be no better way to earn Roger Penske’s first Supercars victory than to do it on the greatest stage of them all.
For Prodrive’s Chaz Mostert, Bathurst has been an up and down experience. His win two years ago was followed by a horrific crash in last year’s qualifying. He returns to the site of his season ending injury with Steve Owen co-driving. Teammate Mark Winterbottom is on the last legs of his title defense. Luckily, he has one of the best co-drivers in the game in Dean Canto.
As Garry Rogers battles Volvo in court, Scott McLaughlin looks to farewell his time in the S60 with a mountain triumph. A McLaughlin victory might be the most popular of any this weekend.
Nissan has improved overall in 2016, notching up a victory with Michael Caruso at Darwin. Caruso placed his Altima in the shootout after qualifying and could contend for a podium in the race. The Japanese manufacturer is home to the Harvey Norman Supergirls in 2016. Simona de Silvestro and Renee Gracie roll of 26th following an off in qualifying.
When and How to Watch
The only legal way to watch The Great Race live in the U.S. is through the Superview service provided by the Supercars website.
The Great Race kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 8.