Bathurst’s Mount Panorama circuit was originally devised as a tourist road, but the real vision was for it to be used for the purpose of racing. Since the inaugural 500km race
at Mount Panorama in 1963, the venue has won a place in the hearts of racing fans from across the globe. With nearly 60 years of racing history, and countless memories, iconic
moments are hard to narrow down. However, here are a handful of NZV8’s standout moments.
This was a special race for many reasons, as it marked the first race following the death of nine-time winner Peter Brock, who had passed away at Targa West the previous month. In what were incredible emotional scenes, an honorary lap around the mountain for each of Brock’s Bathurst winners was led by protégé Craig Lowndes in his 1972 Holden Dealer Team Torana GTR XU-1.
Lowndes hadn’t won the event in 10 years, but in his second outing for Triple Eight Race Engineering — having moved from Ford Performance Racing — he was returning to the front and was a real contender for the title.
Amid all the emotion, Lowndes started the race and it proved a dream result as he fought off major title contender, Rick Kelly, in the closing stages to win the first Peter Brock Trophy. In turn, his new teammate, Jamie Whincup, took his maiden win. This kick-started a period of domination for Triple Eight that led to a hat-trick of wins at the mountain.
Peter Brock’s first win
Holden moved to using the Torana GTR XU-1 in 1970 with less than successful results at the mountain as the big cubic inches of Ford’s Falcon GT-HO were no substitute at racing’s holy grail.
Valve problems troubled the Holden Dealer Team in 1970 and it was outgunned in the next year, with a V8 envisioned for 1972. The ‘supercar scare’ prior to the event haltered Ford, Holden, and Chrysler’s improved models, and also changed the touring car regulations the next year to Group C.
In the very first wet Bathurst 500 — the following year it went metric — and the last to allow single drivers to contest the duration, it fell in favour of both Holden and Chrysler with their six-cylinder contenders.
Ford star Allan Moffat led the way during the race’s infancy but he had Brock and privateer Graham Moore in Torana GTR XU-1s for company, until the Canadian spun at Sulman Park.
Penalties and brake problems also hampered Moffat’s run, and the demise of Moore’s car allowed the 27-year-old, long-haired Brock to take his first of an eventual nine victories in what was a giant-killing performance.
When Dick Johnson hit the rock
Undecided on whether he was going to move to the updated Group C regulations of 1980, Dick Johnson sat out all of the Australian Touring Car Championship as he watched fellow privateers Murray Carter and Garry Willmington race in their new XD Falcons.
In fact, Johnson attempted to purchase Willmington’s Falcon during the season, but the Sydney privateer rebuffed him, leading the Queenslander to build one of his own and debut it at a Lakeside state event.
Using the CRC 300 at Amaroo Park as a warm-up event, Johnson scared the competition in his Palmer Tube Mills XD Falcon as niggling problems were cured ahead of Bathurst. Pairing with experienced touring car racer, John French, Johnson qualified second to Kevin Bartlett in the mighty Channel 9 Chevrolet Camaro.
Things started to fall into place for Johnson during the main event, when Bartlett’s brakes were fried early, due to the necessity from CAMS to run drums at the rear, and Brock had tangled with a back marker to be a lap down on his Ford rival.
Then the unbelievable happened …. As the cards began to fall in Johnson’s favour, the unluckiest scenario played out when he hit a rock as he avoided a tow truck and ended his campaign.
A distraught Johnson did what many drivers would not do now, and spoke live on television after the disaster. Fans were moved by the Queenslander and his plight — he had put everything into the race — so many rang Channel 7 to donate money. Ford, which didn’t even want the XD homologated, pledged to match the donations dollar for dollar.
With this money, Johnson built up another XD, winning the following year’s ATCC and his first Bathurst. What a fairytale!
Chaz Mostert’s seven-hour victory
Bathurst is a long day, but this one was remarkably long. However, many label this the best mountain epic ever. It lasted for more than seven hours, with a surprising victory for Ford Performance Racing pair Chaz Mostert and Paul Morris.
A key part was qualifying, where Jamie Whincup crashed at The Cutting, which dropped the entry back as Mostert started there too after a red flag infraction. These two entries were to be entangled during key periods of the race.
It was a race full of drama that included a kangaroo; the race being stopped due to the circuit surface at Griffins Bend breaking up; teams making controversial repairs during the stoppage; and Lee Holdsworth’s Erebus Motorsport Mercedes being flipped on its side.
Morris had crashed the Ford Performance Racing Falcon at Griffins Bend, but a spirited drive put it back in contention as the race headed to a dramatic conclusion.
Whincup was asked by his team to conserve fuel, but he kept going at a rapid pace as Mostert continued to close on him.
And so it goes; on the final lap, Whincup was struggling and at Forrest’s Elbow it came to head with Mostert taking the lead. Triple Eight had no response as it also lost a podium spot, leaving Mostert and Morris to take their first Bathurst 1000 victory.
From last-to-first and the tired engine
In history, the 1995 Bathurst 1000 goes down as a heartbreaker on one side of the fence or an against-the-odds victory on the other.
After a tangle with pole-sitter Craig Lowndes at the start — which plucked a tyre stem out and forced a pit stop after lap one — Larry Perkins was not only last but entered the track nearly a lap down as the damage was rectified.
Meanwhile, the Holden Racing Team packed up early due to mechanical problems, leaving Glenn Seton the outright front runner. There was controversy when Seton tangled with fellow Ford front runner, John Bowe, approaching Reid Park, rendering the latter out of the race and putting the Blue Oval’s hopes firmly on the Peter Jackson Racing driver.
It appeared fate was on Seton’s side as he raced with number 30 — it was also the 30th anniversary of his father Bo’s victory, and Bo had built his son’s race engine.
Meanwhile, Perkins, partnered by returning expat Russell Ingall for the first time, charged through the field and got the lap back to be in contention with 20 laps to go.
With 10 laps to go, Perkins was second and harassing Seton, but all was not well in the Falcon; Seton lost the lead at Murray’s Corner before parking on approach to The Cutting. Similar to Johnson’s interview after the rock 15 years earlier, Seton provided one via Racecam, revealing a shattered and dejected man.
Perkins went on to take victory in one of his greatest performances on the mountain. He paid tribute to his former co-driver, Gregg Hansford, who had shared victory in 1993. Hansford had lost his life earlier in 1995 at Phillip Island.
Of course, there are many more moments, such as Brock’s six-lap blitz in 1979, Doug Chivas pushing the HDT Torana GTR XU-1 in 1973, Jaguar’s victory in 1985, the World Touring Car Championship event of 1987, and John Fitzpatrick nursing an ailing Ron Hodgson Torana across the line in 1976 — but these are for another time!