Mount Panorama, Bathurst represents the pinnacle of motorsport in Australia. Petrol heads from around the country flock to the track every year, keen to see their heroes tackle the tight, twisty circuit in hulking Supercars, but local touring cars aren’t the only vehicles subjected to the Bathurst torture test.
First run between 1991 and 1995, the Bathurst 12 Hour has been revived in recent years, evolving into a globally-watched endurance showcase. CarAdvice was sitting trackside with BMW Steve Richards Motorsport this year, as the team ran an M6 GT3 and M4 GT4.
Should you follow in our footsteps and make the pilgrimage next year? Absolutely, and here’s why.
Along with Australian and New Zealand superstars like Chas Mostert, Shane Van Gisbergen, Steve Richards and Jamie Whincup, the Bathurst 12 Hour grid is chock full of experienced international names.
Timo Glock, ex-F1 and current DTM driver, was sharing the SRM BMW M6 GT3 with Steve Richards, while Le Mans-winner Romain Dumas piloted a Porsche with Frederic Makowiecki and Dirk Werner, both of whom are experienced endurance racers.
The 12 Hour is a proper international event, with the driving talent to match.
Unlike some other forms of racing (cough, Formula 1, cough), the paddock and pits aren’t off limits for punters at the Bathurst 12 Hour. Although not everyone can just wander into the garages, a general admission ticket gives you access to much of the paddock, including the area many teams use to prepare their cars.
You’re able to look right into the garages and see the teams at work, and lots of drivers were friendly enough to wander out and sign autographs. After the race, the space behind the pits becomes an automotive graveyard, full of cars that couldn’t survive the 12 Hour torture test.
The Bathurst 12 Hour is unique – rather than starting in daylight and finishing in the dark, the race starts at 5:45am.
Having watched the race start in the dark, you can head to the top of the hill and see the sun rise over the track. As you can see above, the view is absolutely stunning.
With GT3 and GT4-class cars on track at the same time, the speed differential between the fastest and slowest cars on track can be as much as 15 seconds. That isn’t a problem on the two long straights on the track, but it makes for chaotic racing across the top of the mountain.
You also get crashes, and lots of them – 18 of the 50 cars entered failed to finish this year. While no-one likes seeing expensive racers in the wall, there’s action galore for 12 hours.
I’ve been watching Bathurst on television for 22 years, but it’s an entirely different beast up close. The road is terrifyingly narrow, even from the sidelines, and the elevation change through some corners is massive. Even pit straight, which looks flat on television, runs over a crest.
Wandering around on the top of the hill, you’re surrounded by people who clearly live and breathe racing, and the pits are loaded with drivers, engineers and punters passionate about their sport. Why else would you wake up at 5:00AM to watch cars run in a circle for 12 hours?
Every petrol head needs to do it once.