Bathurst: The Circuit

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The Bathurst 1000 Circuit In Detail

NicolĂ  Romeo

Mount Panorama Circuit

The Circuit In Detail

Apart from the actual start, each successive crossing of the start line will see the cars rocketing past in excess of 200km/h in 4th gear, then brake hard for a 2nd gear turn into Hell Corner. Apart from being the first, Hell Corner is also one of the most critical.

Get it wrong, and you will have washed off valuable speed needed to propel the car as quickly as possible uphill along Mountain Straight. Then comes Griffin's Bend, a treacherous turn at the top of Mountain Straight that requires precise braking and 3rd gear.

Thankfully the fact that its uphill, and has a mild camber change halfway through, usually (but not always) allows most competitors to negotiate this without incident.

But there is no time to rest, drivers forced to keep the power on so they can enter and exit the slowest part of the track that lays just ahead, "The Cutting". A 4th to 2nd gear change is usually required, particularly given the steepest part of the course lays ahead.

Powering up to 3rd gear for the run along the fence at Reid Park and into 4th gear for the sweep through the left hander on towards McPhillamy Park is required, and while this sounds easy on paper, the timing of the gear changes is one of the most technically challenging on the track.

Get it right and you can set the car up nicely for McPhillamy; get it wrong and the car will be kerb hopping all the way across the top, losing time and, worse still, possible control.

McPhillamy is a blind corner, the drivers never know what is on the other side until they get there, which doesn't take long at over 200km/h. It is taken virtually flat in 4th gear, with a slight confidence lift off the accelerator as you crest the brow and the car leaves the track for a moment, just before the sweeping left hander.

The short blast to Skyline will usually see cars hit the limiter in 4th before braking hard for the run down the Mountain, which again begins blind.

Get it wrong here and you'll never recover. The key to Skyline and The Esses is to try and straighten them as much as possible. Most drivers tend to drop back to 3rd for Skyline and to 2nd for The Esses to keep as much throttle on as possible. In the middle of The Esses comes “The Dipper”, sounding more like a circus ride than a part of a race track, we can only guess what it feels like for the drivers as the sheer speed and momentum of the cars usually means the inside wheels lift clear of the track.

Most exit “The Dipper” in 2nd gear, accelerating hard for the run to Forrest Elbow. This is a tricky corner, particularly given the camber change. Again it is paramount that the drivers set it up correctly so that they can benefit from the longest straight in Australia, Conrod. Getting it right allows most drivers to reach speeds of around 300km/h in 6th gear, before a quick right hand sweep that requires hard braking for the left hander at Caltex Chase.

Usually negotiated in 3rd gear, then its the foot to floor for the right hander over the brow, onto the short straight down the hill to Murray's Corner. Murray's is arguably the best passing spot under brakes at Mt Panorama (but we do say that as armchair experts, having never had the opportunity to try). It’s back to 2nd for the corner, on the gas for the exit, and up through the gears on Pit Straight to cross the Start/Finish line. Only 160 to go!

The Main Straight:

The main straight of Mount Panorama, which is adjacent to the pit complex, has a different start line and finish line. For the standing start only, the start line is 293m closer to Hell Corner because 161 laps would otherwise be 1000.293 km, it also has the added benefit that traffic does not go too far around Murray's Corner, while the finish line is underneath the overbridge.

Hell Corner:

Aptly named because of the crashes it has seen, Hell Corner is the first bend that drivers meet on their way up the Mountain. It is a 90 degree left hand turn.

Mountain Straight:

Mountain Straight is a long straight that begins the climb up the mountain towards Griffins Bend. V8 Supercars reach speeds up to 250 km/h as drivers race over the crest immediately prior to braking for Griffins Bend whilst shitting bricks.

Griffins Bend:

Also known as GTX Bend (the corner's first sponsor), Griffins Bend was named after the Mayor of Bathurst whose vision it was to create the scenic road/race-track. Drivers heading around this right-hander have to be careful not to drift too far out of this negatively-cambered turn and hit the wall upon exit.

The Cutting:

Referred for many years as "BP Cutting", this is a pair of left hand corners, leading into a steep 1:6 grade exit. Overtaking is virtually impossible here, and it is very hard to recover from a spin here because of the narrow room and steep gradient. This corner was the location of the infamous "race rage" incident between Marcos Ambrose and Greg Murphy, after Murphy collided with Ambrose, while Ambrose was attempting to make a pass around the outside during the 2005 Bathurst 1000, his last before he moved to the United States for racing.

Reid Park:

After exitting the Cutting, drivers have a right hand turn, heading up, then into a left hand turn. This is Reid Park. The most famous incident in the history of the Bathurst 1000 was here when Dick Johnson crashed his Ford Falcon in the early laps of the 1980 Bathurst 1000 race avoiding a large rock that had fallen from the spectator area. The car was destroyed, taking with it Johnson's means of supporting his racing ambitions. An emotional public appeal followed during the race's telecast which re-launched Johnson's career and restored flagging public interest in touring car racing.

Sulman Park:

After Reid Park, drivers brave a steep drop, flowing into a climbing left hand turn, heading back towards the highest point of Mount Panorama. This is also the location of Sulman Park and its Nature Park. Jason Bright crashed here in his Ford Falcon in practice during the 1998 FAI Bathurst 1000, then saw the car rebuilt in time to scrape into qualifying in the dying minutes before Bright and Steven Richards went on to victory. This corner was also the scene of a shocking crash in a support race in 2006 that claimed the life of Mark Porter.

McPhillamy Park:

McPhillamy Park is a downhill, deceptively fast left hand turn which is guarded by a crest prior to turn-in, rendering the corner blind to approaching drivers. Drivers have to stay close to the wall while turning so as not to go out wide upon exit.

To go too close however may cause the car to clip the inside kerbing, which Allan Moffat famously did in practice for the 1986 Bathurst 1000, crashing heavily, head on to the concrete. McPhillamy Park is the home of the 'McPhillamy Mob' a group of die hard enthusiasts who return year after year to watch the 1000 km race. Other campers around the area should expect little sleep after this group have had a few beers.

Brock Skyline:

A short straight connects McPhillamy to the next corner. Now named 'Brock's Skyline' after the legendary Peter Brock, Skyline is a sharply descending right hand corner which signifies the beginning of the descent from the top of the Mountain. The corner acquired the name from the visual effect of looking upwards at the corner from below, such is the sharpness of that initial plunge. During the 1970 Bathurst 500 Tony Roberts launched over Skyline backwards after losing control of his Ford Falcon, before tumbling down the hillside.

The Esses:

The Esses are the series of corners which begin at Skyline and stretch down the Mountain towards Forrests Elbow.

The Dipper:

The most famous of the Esses, the Dipper, the fourth in the sequence, is a sharp left hand corner, so named because, before safety changes, there was quite a dip in the road surface and then a steep drop not far from the edge of the road. Many cars used to get two wheels off the ground in the pursuit of getting 11 tenths out of their car, sometimes having their left front wheel dangling off the side of the track before the concrete walls were put up.

Forrest's Elbow:

'The Elbow' – named after Jack Forrest, a motorcycle racer who scraped his elbow away after laying down his bike – is a slow, descending left-hand turn that leads on to the long Conrod Straight. The corner's line drifts towards the outside wall on exit and drivers have to be careful of getting too close. It was here, during the pole qualifying session (the top ten drivers from Friday's qualifying session participate in a final session to determine the top ten starting positions for the race) for to the 1983 James Hardie 1000, that Dick Johnson clipped a tyre barrier just after exiting the corner, which sent his Ford Falcon careening into a grove of trees, totally demolishing it.

Conrod Straight:

Formerly known as Main Straight, Conrod Straight was so named because of a con-rod failure that ended the race of Frank Kleinig in his Kleinig/Hudson race-car. Conrod Straight is the fastest section of Mount Panorama, with today's V8 Supercars just reaching 300 km/h. The straight is a roller-coaster ride featuring two distinct crests, the second of which was rebuilt in 1987. It has been on Conrod where five of the six car-racing deaths on the circuit have occurred – Bevan Gibson, Tom Sulman, Mike Burgmann, Denny Hulme and Don Watson. All except Hulme (heart attack) died in high-speed accidents.

The Chase:

Known for many years as 'Caltex Chase', this three turn sequence was added in preparation for the World Touring Car Championship round in 1987 as Con-Rod Straight exceeded the FIA's length for an un-broken straight (2,000 meters). The section was dedicated to Mike Burgmann who had died in an accident at the chicane's spot the previous year.

It interrupts Con-Rod Straight with Australia's fastest right hand bend, descending to the right away from the dangerous crest prior to the spectator bridge, before a sharp 120 km/h left hand bend then second right hand corner returns the competitors to Con-Rod Straight for the blast down to Murrays Corner. This corner was the scene of Peter Brock's only rollover in his motor racing career in a Vauxhall Vectra in practice for the 1997 Bathurst 1000.

Murray's Corner:

Murray's Corner is the final corner before Pit Straight and the lowest point of the circuit. It is a 90 degree left hand turn, and is a favourite overtaking spot as driver's hold braking duels for the corner.

Circuit Statistics:

  • Length Of Track= 6.213km
  • Length Of Conrod Straight = 1.916km
  • Length Of Mountain Straight = 1.111km
  • Height Above Sea Level = 862m
  • Steepest Grade = 1 in 6.13
  • Racing deaths (Tragically there have been 4): Mike Burgmann (1986), Denny Hulme (1992), Don Watson (1994), Mark Porter (2006)
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