In collaboration with Pulsar.
The Bathurst 1000 has come a long way since a Vauxhall Cresta was the first vehicle across the line in the race’s 1960 debut. What’s now widely regarded as the pinnacle of Australian Motorsport, the great race was actually originally held at Phillip Island and went by the name, The Armstrong 500, referring to its 500-mile distance. Further, the cars were not created equal so the race was divided into five classes based on engine capacity. All teams were required to be a jack of all trades. There were no pit crews, and any mechanical problems had to be attended to by the driver with no assistance, using only the tools that came with the car. The kicker? The first 100 miles had to be completed without stopping for fuel, oil or a driver change.
The race was held at Phillip Island for three consecutive years before finding a new and permanent home at Mount Panorama. The 6.2 kilometre circuit made Bathurst a tourist destination and the immense popularity of the race led to most car manufacturers entering their vehicles in an attempt to tame the mountain. Success at Mount Panorama almost guaranteed image and credibility in the Australian marketplace. The early years were dominated by swift and agile cars, such as the unlikely entrants, the Mini Cooper and Ford Cortina.
Fast forward to 1967 where Ford’s 289 cubic inch V8 Ford Falcon GT signalled the end of small cars dominating the race. The Falcon GT pushed the limits with its V8 power, particularly on the long straights. The team of Harry Firth and Fred Gibson broke from the pack that year and established the Falcon GT as the new standard in Australian Motor Racing. Holden didn’t take this lying down. The following year Holden introduced its new weapon, the Monaro. This new coupe had a 327 cubic inch V8 and provided the necessary power required for Holden to claim its first Bathurst win. And so began one of Australia’s fiercest rivalries.
This rivalry spawned Australia’s most reverent muscle cars. Ford’s Falcon GT and GTHO, Holden’s Monaro and Torana, and Chrysler’s Pacer and Charger models became known as the ‘Bathurst Specials’. These cars performed so well that the 500-mile distance was being achieved earlier each year so in 1973 the race was extended to 1000km. The beauty of these muscle cars was that they were all available for purchase by ordinary Aussies and completely street legal. They boasted power, performance and looked exactly like those earning respect on the track.
In 1969, a 24-year-old Peter Brock took to the mountain for the first time, a circuit that would make him a legend. In 1972 Brock claimed his first victory driving his Torana GTR XU-1, holding off Allan Moffat in his Phase-3 GT-HO Super Falcon. Brock won again in 75, before scoring TWO hat-tricks of wins in 78-80, again in 82-84, plus one more win in 87. To this day, no driver has come close to reaching Brock’s level of success.
1985 was the first time in 19 years that the win had gone to a vehicle that didn’t possess a Ford or Holden badge. Tom Walkinshaw’s V12-powered XJ-S claimed Jaguars first and only victory. There were several more upsets for Ford and Holden going into the 1990s. 91 and 92 were both won by the team of Mark Scaife and Jim Richards in their Nissan Skyline GT-R 32, which was the first Japanese car to win Bathurst. Brothers Geoff and David Brabham took out the race in 97 with their BMW 320i and in 98 the team of Jim Richards and Swede Rickard Rydell earned a victory in their Volvo S40. Since 1999, the Bathurst 1000 has been a two-horse race between Ford and Holden.
The ‘car of the future’ rulebook created a new challenge in 2013, setting technical specifications to make each Supercar lighter, faster and perform equal to every other vehicle. This opened the door to a new generation of competitors and for the first time since 98, Ford and Holden had more competition. Nissan returned with four Nissan Altimas run by Kelly Racing. Mercedes-Benz returned through Australian GT Championship team Erebus Motorsport with its three Mercedes-Benz E63 AMGs. Drivers now compete for the Peter Brock Trophy that was created in his honour, although since 2006, the trophy has only been held by Ford and Holden teams.
In 2016, the Bathurst 1000 is more popular than ever. Crowd numbers have never been higher with total numbers during race week rapidly approaching 200,000. The Bathurst 1000 and V8 Supercars Championship are only situated behind F1 and NASCAR in global racing popularity. The sport is now broadcast into 137 countries around the world reaching a potential 500 million households.
Mount Panorama is set to erupt this weekend for the 2016 Bathurst 1000, the other race that stops a nation. 1000km, 161 laps, 32 drivers, 16 cars, 1 team to be immortalised among the greats. For the racing fanatics out there head over to the official Supercars website where Pulsar is counting down to the big race. Pulsar has also released a PU2083X Chronograph timepiece to celebrate their partnership with the V8 Supercars Championship. This limited edition watch has the Supercar logo embedded on the face making it the perfect complement for any racing enthusiast wishing to track lap times, because at Bathurst, every second is a new challenge.