Blast-off!: Drivers & cars on track at last as Bathurst 24-Hr weekend begins Months of preparation will come to a climax today when 45 cars and around 175 drivers representing 11 countries take to the legendary Mount Panorama circuit in...
Blast-off!: Drivers & cars on track at last as Bathurst 24-Hr weekend begins
Months of preparation will come to a climax today when 45 cars and around 175 drivers representing 11 countries take to the legendary Mount Panorama circuit in central-western New South Wales for the start of the Bathurst 24-hour weekend.
Cars will hit the 6.2 kilometre track at 10 am for the first of three qualifying sessions to decide starting order for the race beginning at 2 pm tomorrow.
Among them will be some of the world's most exciting GT and production touring cars, representing makes such as Lamborghini, Monaro, Ferrari, Morgan, Porsche, Mosler, BMW, HSV, Ford and Alfa Romeo.
The driver ranks are equally impressive. They include Bathurst legends, international sports car champions, three ex-Formula 1 drivers and three women.
Much attention will be on "King of the Mountain" Peter Brock, 58, who is hoping for a record 10 th Bathurst endurance win to cap his first season out of a premature retirement.
Brock will be back in a Holden Monaro, the model he drove in his first Mount Panorama enduro in 1969. His co-drivers are some of Australia's hottest touring car talents, recent Bathurst 1000 winner Greg Murphy, Jason Bright and Todd Kelly.
"This is one of the great sporting events and it is now taking on international stature," Brock said.
"To come up here with a very well prepared car and with a group of dedicated people who are committed to ensuring that it runs at its full potential, plus some terrific co-drivers, I think this is going to be a weekend to remember," Brock said.
One of Brock's long-time rivals, John Bowe, will drive a V8 BMW and new Nations Cup champion Paul Stokell leads a last-minute entry for Lamborghini.
Mount Panorama's worldwide reputation as a supreme driving challenge and the success of last year's inaugural race have attracted a bigger and more powerful international contingent for the event, which is being presented by Formula Green and Eagle Boys Pizza.
Expatriate Australian David Brabham, runner-up for Team Bentley in last June's Le Mans 24 hours, will race a Ferrari 360GT with Italian Andrea Montermini and Austrians Klaus Engelhorn and Phillip Peter.
The British-to-its-bonnet-straps Morgan Aero 8 works team has national pride on the line -- its members are hoping to beat the Aussies on the Mountain while England does the same on the Rugby World Cup field.
Brabham, barracking for the Wallabies, says he'll ask one of his European co-drivers to take the evening stint behind the wheel so he can join the thousands of spectators who will watch the match on giant screens at the circuit.
The World Cup will be just one of numerous non-racing attractions for the weekend, which began last night with a street party, driver appearances and fireworks in the centre of Bathurst.
Event patrons will be able to take part in a ute muster and catch a free outdoor concert on top of Mount Panorama by award-winning country singer -- and racing driver -- Adam Brand.
Following a program of support events for GT Performance and Production cars, V8 BRutes and Porsches, Brand will sing the national anthem on the starting grid in the lead-up to the big race.
Then Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson will announce, "Drivers, start your engines" and send the field away on its warm-up laps.
They will be the first of more than 500 laps expected to pass under the winners' wheels by 2 pm on Sunday - last year's winners Steven Richards, Garth Tander, Cameron McConville and Nathan Pretty covered 532 laps and 3305 kms in their Holden Monaro.
The Channel Seven television network will devote more than seven hours' live coverage to the race, including the start and finish and an unprecedented one-hour update starting at 12.30 am on Sunday.
In addition, the official event website www.bathurst24hr.com will carry regular update stories, results, photographs and live-streamed video and commentary.
Tickets to the Bathurst 24-Hour are on sale from $30 for adults through Ticketmaster7, on ph. 1300 136 122 or www.ticketmaster7.com.au