Bathurst is pretty much a generic word in our sport for Australia’s best-known and most-loved motor race.
It’s a town, of course, Australia’s oldest inland town in fact, and along with the highly-regarded Charles Sturt University, you’ll find it’s full of some of the most beautiful period homes and architecture.
But the reality is that Bathurst is most famous around the country for its car race … except that, these days, there are actually two of them that capture national attention.
October’s 1000 kilometre race for Supercars is still the event casual observers think of when they hear the word “Bathurst” but to those of us inside the sport there’s a second event that we all want to participate in.
So, when we say “Bathurst” within those circles, we now have to clarify which one we mean!
That’s because the Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race for GT cars has become a firm favourite among drivers here, and an absolute ‘must do’ for the world’s top endurance racers.
Every year it attracts the cream of the crop of GT race teams and drivers from around the world, and the very best Supercar and GT drivers from Australia and New Zealand.
It’s interesting speaking to the International drivers, the likes of whom have won iconic races such as Le Mans and at tracks like the Nurburgring and Spa. There was also a couple of former Formula 1 drivers at Bathurst this year too.
They all say the same thing … that racing at Bathurst is on their ‘bucket list’.
It’s a gruelling event, not just because it’s a flat-out race for 12 hours, but because the Bathurst track – Mt Panorama to give it its actual name – is a real car breaker.
Its elevation changes, its blind corners and its narrowness, inevitably lead to incidents and accidents, as cars and drivers tire.
And throw in the enormously important role strategy plays in success there, mixing a three or four driver line-up with car performance and fuel strategy, and you begin to understand why it’s an incredibly hard race to win.
I’ve scored there twice, both times in a Ferrari, in 2014 and 2017 … but I was out of luck in February’s 2018 edition.
We raced a McLaren 650S for the first time, sharing with my Triple Eight Teammate Shane Van Gisbergen and French McLaren factory driver Come Ledogar.
But after climbing into the top three by half-distance, our British GT racer succumbed to overheating issues that put us out of the race.
It was a great shame … I can’t help thinking how good it would be to win both Bathursts in the one year!
Guess I’ll give it another go in 2019.
We say it every year, but the annual Christmas-New Year break seems to have flown by and here we are, back into it again.
There’s a lot of excitement at Triple Eight right now as we put the finishing touches on a trio of new-gen Holden Commodore racers, ahead of the 2018 Supercar season.
My teammates’ new-gen Commodores will wear fresh new Red Bull-Holden livery, while mine will carry the colours and branding of new naming rights sponsor, Autobarn.
I think the new #888 racer looks very stylish in its black-and-silver war paint, especially in the new-gen Commodore shape, which is very modern and on trend (as they say!) but also aggressive at the same time.
We’ve certainly got high hopes for the performance of the new car, we think it’ll put us back at the sharp end of the field after a difficult 2017, and that’s even more important now my name features in the team title.
It’s called “Autobarn Lowndes Racing” and it’s great that Autobarn wanted to do that, even though it’s not actually my team, in fact nothing changes, it’s still a full-on Triple Eight program.
Our first race is the Adelaide 500 at the beginning of March, but before then there’s the official Test Day at Sydney Motorsport Park. Can’t wait to get by backside trackside and have a run in the new weapon.