There are few, if any, sporting events around the globe that simply take the name of host city. The Great Race has had a number of aliases over the years – Hardie Ferodo 500, Tooheys 1000, Super Cheap Auto 1000 – but sponsor acknowledgment aside, motorsport enthusiasts and rev-heads the world over know this 161 lap ball busting test of man and machine as Bathurst.
And it’s my favourite time of year in the sporting calendar.
My experiences with Bathurst date back as far as I can remember. My old man would always celebrate the race with a BBQ. This wasn’t just another excuse to throw a few steaks over some hot ash. For me it represented a ceremony, an offering to the Sporting God’s if you will. Invariably after six hours I’d join him in lamenting Dickie Johnson’s poor luck as Peter Perfect would win again, and again, and again.
My first trip to Bathurst was in 1987. I was a wide eyed 10 year old crashing a party of old ethnics and teen mechanics. The race back then was known as the James Hardie 1000. It was the first year of the Ford Sierra’s and marked a foreign invasion of European mercenaries brave enough to tackle the greatest challenge in motorsport.
I remember celebrating the one-two win by the Ford Eggenberger Motorsport team. Third was Peter Brock and Co. in a Holden Dealer Team Commodore. Brocky of course broke into tears at finishing third, and kicked up enough of a stink that a year later the two Ford’s were disqualified.
That year my love affair with Mount Panorama was forged stronger than the rings of Mordor in the fire of Mount Doom.
Over the next seven years I made five trips to the Mountain, and each experience was life changing. Not because of what happens on the track...which is undoubtedly some of the most exciting motor racing on the planet, but for all of experiences in and around the campsites on top of the Mountain.
Despite the Ford versus Holden rivalry that underpins the Great Race, what Bathurst is really about is the letter ‘B’ - boobs, beer and burnouts. Bathurst offers more boobs than the Bachelor Party, more beer than a Bavarian bier hall and more burnt rubber than the Mardi Gras.
I believe more beer is consumed at Bathurst than throughout the entire summer of cricket. It’s like a mini Oktoberfest wrapped into one dirty week. I remember during the Tooheys 1000 years the organisers, in all their wisdom, decreed that alcohol purchases would be limited to two cans per person, with both cans opened on the spot to ensure people wouldn’t be accumulating stockpiles of brew. Showing some real ingenuity, a group of Mexicans (Melbournites...South of the Border...get it?) hijacked a Tooheys truck in the middle of the night and confiscated the contents, which were generously shared with all of the campsites between McPhillamy Park and Skyline. Good times.
Nothing describes the Bathurst experience better than four simple words: “show us ya tits”. Whether you look like Scarlett Johansson, Oprah Winfrey or Julia Gillard, if you’re out and about without a male chaperone you’ll definitely hear that famous catch cry. As a young teen excited by the occasionally flash of nipple on SBS I was enthralled at the prospect that all you needed to do was ask the question. What is even more fascinating was sometimes the girls obliged! There were more bare boobs at Bathurst that an annual international breastfeeding convention.
Burnouts are a no-brainer. Pool together a group of rev-heads, add the smell of high octane fuel together with the sound of V8’s rumbling around each day and you’ve got every dick with a driving licence thinking he’s Larry Perkins. Anytime a car with a bit of balls would come into one of the makeshift intersections around the camping area a group of bystanders would inevitably make the doughnut sign. And for the next 45 seconds, amid a hell of a lot of whooping and hollering, a dust cloud would appear that would disguise the sight of a car spinning in circles at pace before launching itself into the distance.
There is one recollection from Bathurst that I’d dearly love to wipe from my memory banks. It doesn’t involve boobs, beer or burnouts, but rather another ‘B’ word...bestiality. Without going into too much graphic detail, let’s just say I witnessed an experience between an old man and a cattle dog that would make Joel Monaghan blush. There are things an impressionable teen should never have to witness!!!
Excited canines aside, my Bathurst experiences have been memorable. And I can’t wait to get my own BBQ going tomorrow, sacrificing a few T-bones for the God’s and enjoying six straight hours of motorsport madness.
Here’s hoping the God’s appreciate my offering and help the Blue Oval greet the chequered flag first.