Bathurst Begins

And so it begins, the countdown to the other race that stops a nation – the big one, the mountain, the Bathurst 1000.

Yep, wipe the sleep from those bleary long-weekend eyes because it’s just five more sleeps until Christmas for motorsport lovers across the world. In fact, it’s only two more sleeps until the cars are rolled out into pitlane for practice.

You can almost hear the cars roaring to life now. Well, at least the Red Bull Racing Australia transporter is as our fourth favourite semi-nudist truckie Wazza guides our precious cargo south towards Mt Panorama, NSW.

Wazza won’t be breaking any road rules but J-Dub and Lowndesy have their hearts set on breaking Bathurst records as their all-new Cars of the Future descend on Mt Panorama for the first time.

There’s talk of extended diff ratios that could see the lads reach speeds in excess of 310km/h, while it’s commonly understood the new 18-inch, low-profile tyre will make for quicker cornering over the curbs. In ideal conditions, Car No.888 engineer says these few facts alone could account to an advantage as much as a second or more. And that means Greg Murphy’s famous 2003 “Lap of the Gods” is in serious danger of falling.

There’s a feeling along pitlane that the Mercedes cars of Erebus Racing may have a little something up their sleeves, many believing their impressive power plant will finally get a chance to shine on the 6km track, extended-straight track. Let’s not forget Lee Holdsworth almost snared a podium in Sandown.

And the Nissans aren’t out of the picture. The manufacturer returns to the mountain for the first time since its controversial 1992 triumph, which effectively put the final nail in the coffin for the all-dominant turbos and gave birth to V8 Supercars. As such, this will be Nissan’s first attempt at the mountain with a V8 motor.

Their superior aerodynamics and down force are sure to win them advantage on the mountain’s accent, and with seven compulsory pit stops introduced on account of their excessive fuel consumption to level the field, both Nissan and Mercedes are in with a shot.

But hey, at Bathurst, they say the first secret to winning the race is simply by finishing. Should drivers be able to survive eight gruelling hours and their cars’ 994km to remain on the lead lap, than anything is possible.

And therein lies the question – the answer unknown.

“How do we make it to the end of this race in one piece?”

No one’s fate rests solely in their own hands. Every car is at the mercy of the weather, the Gods, their rivals and their all-important pit crews that have spend the past 12 months preparing for this moment. For it’s not just the drivers who up the ante come the second weekend in October – everyone from the office staff to the engineers encounter sleepless nights and anxiety.

More often than not, their entire year’s work comes down to these eight hours. And just ask FPR’s Mark Winterbottom, something as simple as a sticky wheel nut can easily rob a team of victory and a chance to hold the coveted Peter Brock trophy aloft.

But that’s racing, that’s Bathurst and that’s why we love it.

There will be rookies on the mountain, foreigners, too, and history has made it abundantly clear that all have as good a chance at victory as hardened veterans like Lowndes and Whincup. And if teenagers Chaz Mostert and Scott McLaughlin are representing the youth, then 50-year-old Russell Ingall is representing authority figures and role models everywhere. It’s a relative father-son battle.

And it all starts this week. So forget the NRL GF, Buddy Franklin, the Fleet Review and anything else that might have happened in days past because this week is all about V8 Supercars, Red Bull Racing Australia and the Bathurst 1000.

First practice gets under way at 10.20am Thursday, with qualifying Friday at 3pm and the all-important top-10 shoot-out on Saturday at 5pm. The big race comes to life at 10.30pm AEDT Sunday.