Event date: 13-15 May 2022
Similar to the famed sign on the Hollywood Hills, the sight of the big letters MOUNT PANORAMA - BATHURST never fails to excite when I arrive at this very special racetrack. For a fan of the 12 Hour race (usually held in February), it’s unusual to see the letters surrounded by fog, but things are being done a bit differently this year.
On Saturday, I alternated between enjoying the comfort of the corporate box (including the endless food and drink served by our wonderful waiters), wandering around the GT3 pit garages, and watching the on-track action from various points along Conrod Straight. In the morning, we had several GT3 practice sessions, a weird and wonderful bunch of production cars in the Combined Sedans races, and the feisty little Aussie Racing cars. Ex-V8 Supercars driver Garth Tander did an interview in our corporate box. Garth just happened to be walking past when someone asked me if Garth was racing at this event. I said to them “he’s only commentating, but he probably brought his racing suit along just in case”, then Garth looked over and said “you bet I did!”.
Saturday afternoon was the qualifying session, with the order being shaken up by several top teams occupied with major repairs and the fascinating comparison between the international GT3 pros and the local drivers with more experience at this track. Sadly there were no BMWs to cheer for this year, so I pinned my hopes on locals Chaz Mostert (who drove for BMW here in 2017-2020) and Shane van Gisbergen. Qualifying finished with a brilliant Top Ten shootout, where Chaz Mostert clinched pole position right in the dying seconds of the session.
Sunday morning started off with a grid walk, as we got up close and personal with the crazy machines (and their drivers) who were about to race flat-out in the darkness and fog. There was much talk of the first few hours being stuck behind the safety car due to the fog, but thankfully the proper racing was able to start after a few laps. During the race, I also checked out the various other attractions, such as the Shannon’s cars and coffee display, the racing car simulator and the bus to the top of the mountain (all carefully timed between the numerous meals served in our suite, of course!). It always amazes me that this international racetrack most of the time is actually just a country road, with the end of someone’s driveway separated from a pack of GT3 racing cars by just a temporary barrier. At around 5pm, after 12 hours of racing, we congregated to the rooftop area to cheer the winning SunEnergy1 Mercedes as it crossed the finish line. Then it was down onto the track to watch the podium presentation
After all of the lockdowns etc, I was so excited when it was announced that the Bathurst 12 Hour was back on. It turned out to be a wonderful weekend, and I’m already looking forward to going back next February for the 2023 race.
Simon de Lisle | Member #430
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne