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Production, endurance and the Mountain

This weekend, the Bathurst 6 Hour makes its return to the traditional Easter long weekend, one where another Mountain endurance event made its debut 31 years ago.

Now a GT race where the world’s best compete, the Bathurst 12 Hour was originally devised for production cars in 1991 where 24 entries nine manufacturers competed for honours, but it was the Toyota Supra driven by Allan Grice, Peter Fitzgerald and Nigel Arkell victorious.

Three laps behind was the tenacious factory Ford Laser TX3 shared by Kent and Brett Youlden, joined by strategy whiz Ken Douglas.

The likes of Peter Brock, Neil Crompton, Colin Bond, Bryan Thomson, Garry Rogers, George Fury, Neal Bates, Warren Cullen, Peter McLeod and more raced in what was to be a rapidly growing event in 1992 when 55 entries were received.

This time Mazda entered its new RX-7 – the model grew to dominate the event – a BMW M5 took part, a factory SAAB finished on the podium and it proved Hyundai’s first dalliance as a manufacturer team in Australia.

Charlie O’Brien, Garry Waldon and Mark Gibbs took the first victory for Mazda in 1992 defeating the M5 of Tony Longhurst, Alan Jones and Kiwi Neville Crichton. The aforementioned SAAB took a shock podium after being forced to stop on the opening lap to fix a brake line with Colin Bond and Glenn Seton enjoying the luxury features including the sunroof during the 12 Hour event.

The stakes were raised in 1993 by the addition of a factory Porsche team, a powerful Lotus Espirit and a Honda NSX.

The main story of the race was the NSX in its competition debut was damaged significantly after an incident for Wayne Gardner while chasing pole.

Ian and Ross Palmer joined Gardner to finish a remarkable third to the factory two Mazda RX-7s. Jones and Waldon took victory from O’Brien and Gregg Hansford, but what for the Porsches or the Lotus or even the Nissan GT-R.

Well, the Porsches were disqualified for a wheel infringement, engine troubles hit the Lotus, while the Nissan was just too heavy and was unable to emulate its success in Group A racing.

Porsche returned in 1994, but Hansford and Crompton continued the RX-7s supremacy at the Mountain to achieve a hat-trick for the model.

Exotic models such as the Maserati Shamal, Volvo 850 T-5, a Toyota Celica Group A Rallye, BMW M3 and the new Subaru Impreza WRX all appeared for what turned out to be the final event of its kind at Bathurst until 2007.

Eastern Creek hosted the same event for 1995 where special models including the BMW M3R, Mazda RX-7 SP and Volvo 850 T5-R competed for outright victory, but the Japanese marque proved unstoppable again.

This weekend the Bathurst 6 Hour will have 70 entries representing 15 manufacturers and 34 different models for its sixth running.