Bathurst 1000: The Making of ‘The Great Race’

It’s widely stated that if you haven’t been to the Bathurst 1000, then you haven’t been to an Australian motor race! But what has actually made this annual event in Australia’s sporting calendar mesmerize the masses year in year out? As with most iconic events, history plays a large part. And like the making of all legends there is always a story of vision, passion, chance and emotion that drives them into the sporting stratosphere. With this mind, let’s take a look at some of the key milestones and periods that has made the Bathurst 1000 to become known as the iconic ‘Great Race’.

1900 – Australia begins to build our first home-grown car, the Thomson. During this time the Bathurst region holds regular car events showcasing our country’s motoring and engineering achievements.

1910 to 1937 – The Vale Circuit and the surrounding region outside Bathurst commenced staging Australia’s first motor racing events.

1938 to 1959 – A plan is hatched to move motor racing to Bathurst’s Mount Panorama street circuit.

1960 –  Shock-absorber manufacturer Armstrong organized the Armstrong 500 at Victoria’s Phillip Island circuit. The Armstrong 500 event was restricted to production-based saloon cars that were only manufactured or assembled in Australia. This eligibility rule was the birthplace of the Holden versus Ford rivalary and spectator allegiances that has become the bloodline of the Bathurst 1000.

1963 –  The most critical year in the event’s history! Due to poor track conditions at Phillip Island coupled with lack of funding to repair the circuit, Armstrong needed a new venue to host the race. An Armstrong representative met with a local Bathurst car dealer to discuss the prospect of moving the event to Mount Panorama. Legend has it that some of Armstrong’s employees witnessed video footage of illegal street racing on Mount Panorama and decided to move the event to Bathurst. 1963 was also the first year that the event was televised which saw the race’s profile lift exponentially.

1973 –  The race length was increased from 500km to 1000km and became known, as it is still today, the Bathurst 1000.

Late 1970’s to now –  Significant increases in camera technology, in particular on-board cameras resulted in ever-increasing high quality television broadcasts. Bringing high quality images into Australian lounge rooms was very critical for the sport and cemented the Bathurst 1000 race to legendary status.

70’s, 80’s, 90’s to now –  Ford versus Holden factory stoushes and spectator allegiances to each carmaker become synonymous with the Bathurst 1000. Multiple title-winning drivers become household names. Names like Peter Brock, Jim Richards, Larry Perkins, Mark Skaife and Craig Lowndes have all played important roles to the success of Bathurst 1000. The Bathurst 1000 becomes the yardstick for which touring car drivers are measured.

 Some other interesting Bathurst Facts

  1. The chosen distance of 1000km for the Bathurst 1000 was a pure marketing ‘fluke ‘as it immediately resonated with Australians as the distance needed to drive between Brisbane and Sydney and between Sydney and Melbourne. A very common Aussie road trip.
  2. Mount Panorama was originally a purpose built tourist drive for visitors of the city of Bathurst and was never intended to become a racetrack.
  3. Well known Australian tyre business figure Bob Jane (with Harry Firth) was the winner of the first Armstrong 500 (later to become Bathurst 1000).

Bathurst 1000 Statistics

Distance: 1000km

Laps: 161

Track: 6.213km

Corners: 23

Most Victories: Peter Brock, 9 times

Most Starts: Jim Richards, 35 times

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