Getting the most out of the Bathurst 1000
Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom at the 2010 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercars race. Photo: SMP IMAGES Simon Hodgson.
For many sports fans, this weekend marks their annual indulgence in the wonderful world of motor racing, as the big V8s do battle over 1000km of the cracking Mount Panorama Circuit.
If you don’t watch a lot of car racing normally, here are some things that will significantly increase your enjoyment of the big day.
This is the 50th year of Bathurst, and it is has established itself as the one weekend where the regular fans are accompanied by vast numbers of casual viewers. For these once-a-year fans, the race can become very long and tedious if you are just watching a bunch of damn cars go round and round and round.
So what is going on? Why is Neil Crompton so excited? Here are some tips for those of you who might be newbies to Mount Panorama.
1. The fastest car will probably win, but it is far less likely than normal
Motor racing is like horse riding, winning relies heavily on having the best horsepower beneath. A big part of the appeal is watching the different teams compete with each other over the quality of the car they present and their ability to service it throughout the race.
In most motor races, a driver has no chance of winning unless they are sitting in the fastest car on the gird. However, the longer the race, the better the chance of something odd happening and a slower car beating a faster one.
This could be freak weather, a freak driver error, a freak car failure. Even if everything runs to plan, it is possible for a driver in a slower car, to leapfrog the faster cars by being on softer tyres, having less fuel, going longer by nursing the brake pads etc. But only in long races, like Bathurst.
So expect to see the two top Fords and two top Holdens obsessively watching each other and copying each and every move, while a host of strong teams try bizarre things to leapfrog and get past them.
Which brings us to:
2. The cars won’t overtake very often, which is actually a good thing
Fans love to see cars overtake, and modern motor racing doesn’t have a whole lot of it, for the simple reason that it is very, very hard. Next time you are going down the aisles at Coles, try and catch another trolley and overtake them.
Notice how much faster you had to be to catch them, pass them and then turn into the cereal aisle without cutting them off? Now imagine doing it when both of you are running down the aisle as fast as you can and the other trolley is trying to stop you passing…suddenly it is not so straightforward.
There are only three ways an overtake move can come off. The car or driver behind is significantly better, the car or driver in front has a failure or the driver behind outsmarts the driver in front.
It is this third type that you hang out for, and on Sunday, with fatigue kicking in, you can hope to see it happen a few times.
Fortunately, V8 Supercars are not heavily reliant on aerodynamics to get them quickly around corners, meaning they can be very close to the car in front of them without losing too much speed, which means they can run particularly close to each other.
In my opinion, the very best part of motor racing is watching two drivers battle around a track, one trying everything to get past and the other doing everything they can to stop them.
3. The quality is world class
There is a tendency to dismiss V8 Supercars as being second rate, an insular little community which has little respect internationally and is full of drivers who aren’t good enough to make it in real competition. This is simply not true.
The teams are serious, professional organisations. The competition is regarded as one of the highest levels of enclosed cabin racing anywhere in the world. And the best V8 drivers have proven themselves with the international drivers at Surfers Paradise and Marcus Ambrose in NASCAR to be equal to the best in the world.
They are not the very elite who dominate Formula One, but they are certainly not far away.
It is a serious race being run by serious teams with excellent drivers.
4. It’s not just about watching the first and last laps, the interest is watching the strategies unfold
It is highly unlikely there is going to be a crash on the first lap of Bathurst. Unlike yesteryear where the grid was full of drivers who may have only raced once a year, the entire grid is full of professional racing car drivers who know that they get any work if they drive into each other.
So the first few laps are typically driven with a high level of caution, knowing there is a long way to go. And by the time the last lap begins, most of the fun and games of the race have been completed.
The fun and games of Bathurst this year, other then the nostalgic historical colour schemes on show, will be watching Whincup and Lowndes in the 888 Commodores, playing cat and mouse with each other and the two factory Falcons of Winterbottom and Davison.
All the while a host of fast drivers such as Tander, Courtney, Murphy, Holdsworth, Reynolds etc will be trying funky things to slip past them. Every time there is a pace car, watch them dive into the pits, working out when to refuel, when to change brake pads, drivers etc.
If all that sounds ridiculously convoluted, never fear, since unlike watching Channel Nine’s cricket or league, where listening to the commentators makes the experience much worse, the Channel Seven commentary of V8 races is superb.
The entire team do a brilliant job of explaining what is going on, why people are doing certain things, and how the race is going to pan out.
So enjoy the race this weekend, and don’t forget to check in with the live blog on The Roar. If the race leaves you wanting more, switch over after the race to watch the F1s battle in Japan on the stunning Suzuka circuit.