Bathurst 1000: Bring some spark back to the Mountain
Sunday’s Mount Panorama was the last time, hopefully forever, that the Bathurst 1000 is an insulting day-long procession of two struggling manufacturers in Australia.
For 156 of the 161 laps, it was unwatchable. I’ll freely admit the last five laps of this year’s race were truly gripping, but is it too much too ask for that type of racing for 161 laps?
Next year will see the (re)introduction of a Nissan outfit and possibly even a Mercedes lining up in the V8 Supercar series.
But will the welcome (in most corners) expansion of the series provide some extra spark to the centrepiece event of the motor racing season in Australia?
At best, there may be only four non-Ford/Holdens next year. Therefore for the most part, the V8 series and more importantly Bathurst – the race that gets the attention of enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike – will still be boring.
What solutions exist to make the race more watchable?
1. Remove Bathurst as a Championship race
A priority and necessity. Sunday’s race, the 50th anniversary of the Bathurst 500/1000 no less, had just 29 cars. 29 cars.
Nevermind that Bathurst only has Fords and Holdens, it only has V8 Championship cars. Restricting the race to just Championship participants has all but destroyed the prestige, and certainly the fun of watching the race.
Next year will see no difference, save for one car being a Merc and two being Nissans. We will still only have the Championship entrants, basically a pitiful field of 30 or so.
This must change. Mark Skaife is an eminently sensible (Nissan winning) racer-cum-administrator and must take Bathurst off the Championship calendar and make it a stand alone race once more. If the administrators worry people will not watch the race, they aren’t really trying to improve the race.
The prestige of Bathurst brings people to the gates, not just Fords or Holdens. Besides, those two manufacturers will still represent the lion’s share of cars anyway. It is presently unacceptable that the Great Race can be limited to just 30 cars.
2. Allow the development series teams to enter the race
There has been zero improvement in race pace for the past decade, these cars will easily be competitive in the mid-field, and some may even nab a top-10 finish. There is the added bonus of allowing more of the next generation of drivers to have their chance at the big stage.
With far more seats available, perhaps then the organisers could entice some of the bigger international names (if the price is right) to be lured over for a chance to race at Bathurst as co-drivers for the Championship teams.
3. Bring back the privateers
Privateers should, so long as certain pre-requisites are met, should also be given the chance to compete. Who can forget when in 1986 Allan Grice won as a privateer? Privateers always provided great interest for fans and also provided a little ‘race within a race’ scenario to see which privateer was the best.
4. Bring back multiple classes
Let’s move on, asking for this is like asking for the moon.
As a young boy, who incidentally grew up in Bathurst, I absolutely loved seeing the starting grid continuing around Murray’s corner. It is a sight long missed. The day the redundant back set of starting lights were removed was a sad sad day.
I miss seeing the top-tier cars having to navigate around lapped cars constantly in the afternoon sun.
I loved the thrill of watching two or three separate races in one race. Who would win the ‘A’ class, the ‘B’ class and so on?
Introducing new manufacturers won’t immediately fix the boredom that has beset Bathurst. In all likelihood next year will still be a 161-lap procession of four manufactures spread over just 30 cars, but hopefully the 2013 Bathurst 1000 will be remembered as the year when the seeds of great change were planted.