Those of you who read this blog, even semi-regularly, will realise that I live for the event being held this weekend.
The annual pilgrimage which all dyed-in-the-wool Australian motorsport fans make, either physically or courtesy of the television screen. Mount Panorama, Bathurst, or as it’s known currently, the Supercheap Auto 1000, Round 10 of the V8 Supercar Championship.
The track officially closed to the public traffic today, and the cars came out to play. Wednesday of raceweek is the latest you can arrive at the Mountain and still expect to drive that 6.213 kilometres. At no faster than 60kph, mind you. The NSW police haunt Mount Panorama in great numbers like lost souls trapped between Tent City and McPhillamy Park. There must be more speed cameras and hand-held radars on the Mountain than any other single location in the country for raceweek.
Speaking of Tent City, it seems accommodation in Bathurst for raceweek has gone from a dearth, to be had only when someone who’s booked decades in advance suddenly dies, to a real business venture for a mob called…how very original…Tent City Hire. This is something new and probably acquaints to a refugee camp for the week, with up-market tents (carpeted even!), permanent 12 volt power, relocatable toilets and showers all laid on within two klicks of the circuit entry gate. A short walk, or if you’ve been at the track all day….with a bunch of twenty-something mates….imbibing in one or more corporate tents….a long wander home after dark. I’ve never camped at the Mountain, nor do I really ever want to indulge in the experience. Race fans tend to separate out into two distinct groups. The real, honest-to-goodness, hard-bitten fanatic who follows one or more drivers/cars/teams religiously, never misses a round either live or on the box, and can sprout chapter and verse the history of the series; and the once-a-year Mountain Morons who make a bee line for McPhillamy Park, pitch a tent and proceed to drink their way through as many cans of amber fluid as is humanly possible without collapsing into a coma, over a five day period. Actually, you’ll get the Mountain Moron type rolling up at any series round, prepared to miss more of the racing in exchange for more of the amber fluid, but at Mount Panorama, they seem to grow an extra bladder and lose what little grey matter they came there with. Seriously, if you ever plan to make the pilgrimage for real, plan 12 months ahead, pay a solid deposit up front and stay in a caravan park, motel, B&B or what have you in one of the towns surrounding Bathurst. You’ll enjoy it much more, see more and experience less stress. Even Bathurst locals flee the town each October, as madness descends. Never forget, that part of NSW is just brimming with what little history Australia has to offer. For mine, you could do a lot worse than bunk in Orange. A mere 30-odd klicks away over good roads and away from the Mountain Morons.
Much to my delighted surprise, with only one disappointment earlier in the year, Network Seven have really improved on their motorsport presentation in their comeback to telecasting the sport this year after a ten year hiatus. Regular readers here will remember my serious doubts expressed late last year about Seven’s willingness or ability to live up to fans expectations to match or better Network Ten’s coverage over the previous decade. I’m pleased to report that coverage has at least been as good. Personally, I miss some of the old favourite faces and voices and don’t think much of Matthew White. Grant Denyer makes a much better Supercar punter than presenter and Mark Beretta isn’t a patch on Greg Rust….and that’s saying a lot. Still, Neil Crompton manages to carry all of the inadequacies of the rest of the team remarkably well, and for that, I’m grateful.
Seven’s coverage this year will be monumentally larger than ever before. Seven will have 116 cameras and a production team of 315 for the weekend’s racing in what it says will be the biggest broadcast ever undertaken in Australian television. There will be 49 in-car cameras scattered through the field of 31 V8 supercars, plus 31 cameras on the track, four in the pits and one in a helicopter. Coverage will include upgraded 3D computer graphics and footage from two aerial “flycams”, which can track cars through difficult sections of the circuit, including the hair-raising ride down the Mountain and through the Dipper and Forrest Elbow. I can hardly wait to see how a “flycam” gets through the trees at the Dipper. Almost makes me think the action will be on the box and not on the track.
And to the track after today’s first practice session. Thursday’s first session is never to be taken seriously as any form of guide to probable pace on Sunday. As Mark Skaife apparently stated today, you’d have to be very naive to place any credence on Thursday practice times. However, here is the time sheet as at end of practice this afternoon. It’s interesting to note the number of level one teams still sporting three drivers in at least one of their two cars. This will be clarified come Saturday when all teams must nominate which two drivers will be piloting which cars.
Early days, but come the ‘morrow, You can guarantee the seriousness of what all teams and drivers are on the Mountain for will come to the surface. Today’s quick time of 2 mins 8.074 secs, surprisingly posted by Steven Johnson in the Jim Beam/DJR Falcon, won’t last long. I’d suggest that by 10:30am tomorrow, when the third practice session ends, we’ll see low seven second times, maybe even a high six. We’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?