Monday, October 15, 2007

The Bathurst 1000 - Day 2

Thanks to some remarkable self-moderation, Ian and I woke to a sunny Friday morning with clear heads, and attacked our complimentary breakfast with gusto, filling up on cereal, toast, juice, fruit and tea. Suitably refreshed, I donned my new Greg Murphy bucket hat and sunglasses and we headed for the track.

Expecting heavy traffic, we'd resigned ourselves to missing the qualifying session for the Fujitsu V8 series, but once again Mount Panorama proved itself to be very much on top of traffic flow, and we found ourselves at Murray's Corner at 8:30am watching the Fujitsus. The previous day we'd spectated from the entry to this corner, but this morning we discovered that the exit was the place to be. The impression of speed as the cars fly into the 90 degree left is amazing, as we'd find out the following day when we watched the Porsche Carrera Cup from the same spot.

Today's plan was to watch the V8 Supercar practice from our grandstand seats so we could see the activity in pitlane, before heading up the Mountain for the Fujitsu race and V8 qualifying. My previous day's merchandise purchases of a Holden fleece and the Murph hat felt a little light so I was on the lookout for a cool t-shirt too.

After a relaxing hour in the grandstands we took a walk over to the Chase complex to get an idea of how the spectating was there. On the way we took a look at the support paddock, a "tent city" behind the main paddock area. It was nice to get up very close to the cars, be they V8 Supercars, Porsche Carreras, historics or modern high-performance production cars.

We arrived at the Chase just in time for the Touring Car Masters race, which proved to be great fun as the legendary Jim Richards took on all-comers in his '69 Camaro. The Chase proved to be quite a good spot to watch the old muscle cars from, since it also had a big screen. I discovered later that had we walked a little further we could have seen the dramatic high-speed entry to the corner. Oh well, next time...

With some time to spare before the Fujitsu race, we strolled through the paddock campsite, before getting up close to the teams in the main paddock. I snapped some fun photos of the teams hard at work, as well as checking out everyone's pit setup.

Back across the bridge and onto the Mountain shuttle, we had a few moments to grab some lunch when we got to the top. I went for what I consider an American snack, a corn dog. In Oz, it's called a Dagwood Dog, is much bigger, and is dipped in ketchup. A tasty treat that I could feel good about because I knew a hike all the way down to Forrest's Elbow and back was in my future.

The Fujitsu race was fun, but some of the sting was removed in the first corner when top contender Tony D'Alberto came together with pole man Matthew White. With two front runners out, it came down to Luke Youlden, Michael Caruso and Jonathan Webb, all in Fords. The following day's race would prove to be a little more dramatic...

Prior to the V8 qualifying it was time for a nice beer in the sun. For this, we had to enter one of the licensed "cages", fenced off areas for non-campers to drink in. I have no problem with restrictions on how much beer could be brought in by campers, and similarly don't mind that non-campers can't bring in their own booze. But I did object to having to consume purchased alcohol in these cages, whilst campers could drink their own beer wherever they wanted. On the whole, the alcohol thing was pretty well-managed but this particular detail kind of sucked. However, we sat in the sun with a cold one in our hands, so it wasn't ALL bad!

For V8 qualifying we gradually made our way from Sulman Park down to the Dipper. I had the track commentary in one ear thanks to my pocket radio, so being near a big screen wasn't a necessity. Live timing and scoring would have been nice, something that's being addressed at ChampCar and ALMS events, but I wasn't complaining. The three-stage qualifying at Bathurst comprised two knockout stages, followed by a top 10 shootout on Saturday. For session one we found ourselves at McPhillamy Park, and following our talent the previous day of being where the action is (we saw the Chris Pither crash at the Esses), we had a first-hand view of Damien White's massive shunt coming out of Sulman. It was a weird crash, already in progress as the car came over the crest. He'd hit the left-hand wall before catching the end of the right hand wall as he came into view. The car then rolled forward before abruptly pulling right into the sandtrap. It later turned out that White had been unconscious for this whole thing, knocked out cold by the initial impact out of our sight. It took a while to extricate him and move the car, and I was a bit concerned for the poor guy (he was okay, just concussed). As they loaded the wrecked car onto the flatbed, I saw how badly damaged the a-piller chassis post was and predicted that we wouldn't see that car again this weekend. Our host Deb had seen the crash on TV and confidently predicted later that evening that "they'll fix that". I won...

Once back under way, we were soon down at the magnificent spot at the bottom of the first part of the Esses, where we stayed for the bulk of the action. Suffice to say, those that made it into the shootout were the ones we expected, but the drama of it all was good fun.

Next up was the first Carrera Cup race, and Forrest's Elbow was a perfect place to watch this from. There was also a food vendor there, so a portion of chips helped stave off the hunger pangs. All the fresh air was making Ian and I hungry and tired! The Porsche race illustrated one of the major problems with short races at Mount Panorama: generally if a car crashes, a safety car is required. The track is so tight, with little run-off room, but high speeds, there is really no safe place for a car to stop. But if a race is only 8 laps long, a safety car period can eat up half the race. Even worse, it creates a delay, and the organizers are sometimes forced to cut the races even shorter. As we climbed back up the Mountain to the shuttle bus, the first Australian Performance Cars race was similarly affected, taking some of the fun out of what was otherwise an entertaining scrap.

The approach of scheduling two races after the marquee event (the V8 qualifying) clearly staggered the traffic flow from the circuit, and we again had no problems getting out. The drive back to the house was no more than fifteen minutes. It would have been even shorter had we not stopped to get some pictures of a local field favoured by kangaroos in the evenings. There were probably ten or more of the marsupials gathered there.

For the evening we headed back into town, this time ending up at a pub nicknamed "The Family" by locals. It was a big place, with three bars, a restaurant and an outdoor area with live music. We grabbed our counter meals (lasagne for me, stew for Ian) and a schooner of VB and talked Australian politics. We opted for one more stop on the way home at The Oxford, the official pub of Holden. The place was packed, filled with very drunk people who all wanted to chat. I got great amusement by telling these people I was from San Francisco - even sober race-goers had difficulty imagining someone would come so far to see the Bathurst 1000!


Drew Smith said...

What the f--- is a schooner? Nevertheless, if you can fill it with beer, it's good with me.

Nicebloke said...

It's quite simple:

Pee Wee said...

Great read!

The caged beer sounds cagey to me too.....