THIS years Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour will be the answer to the minority of racing fans who clamor for ‘the good old days’ when Bathurst’s fields were huge and filled with inter-class racing from top to bottom.
In fact, they now have no reason to complain nor to not show up and support what is becoming an increasingly visible and important race on the local calendar.
This year 66 cars have confirmed entries and those confirmed range from fire-breathing four-wheel drive turbo rocket-ships at the front, to a tiny Hyundai Excel Cup racer at what is likely to be the very back and racing for the pure joy of just being there in true Bathurst spirit. And there’s quite literally just about everything in between.
You can check out the official entry list, as announced this morning on the official event website here.
The six-hour is a look back to the days of Bathurst’s old when the cars were lightly modified for racing and still shared a majority of the same components as their road going counterparts.
That 66 number is important, too. A look back through the Bathurst record books indicates that as long as more than 63 of those take the drop of the green on Easter Sunday it will set a record for what could reasonably be defined as a ‘Major’ Bathurst enduro – and by that we mean the various years of the October 500/1000km classic, the 12 and 24-hour races and, of course, last year’s inaugural six-hour sprint.
It’s a legitimately interesting grid, too.
Class A, split between Forced Induction (A1) and Normally Aspirated (A2) cars features a majority of the key firepower and is likely from where the winner will emerge – and there’s some fascinating cars and teams shaping up to challenge.
Among the regulars, Dylan Thomas’ fleet of CXC Global Racing Mitsubishi’s are always strong, as is anything the Melbourne Performance Centre puts on the track. The same can be said for the pair of EVOs entered by Jim Pollicina which, if you followed last year’s race, you’ll know featured right to the very end. And despite now being slightly older, Alan East’s Wall Racing-prepped car was a contender to the very end last year.
Meanwhile Tony Alford’s Donut King Audi TT:RS will likely be a contender, especially if he taps regular co-driver Aaron Seton on the shoulder for a drive. The revised national Production Car regulations have sensibly brought the TT into the fold – it was not eligible outside of the invitational class last year – and it’s five-cylinder wail makes it one of the best sounding cars on the grid, too.
Porsche Carrera Cup ace James Abela’s Subaru, which we understand may include Formula Ford champ Cameron Hill behind the wheel – will be competitive, as will an expanded pair of three Mercedes-AMG A45s – two of them built by Garth Walden’s Sydney team.
Fast but fragile on debut in 2016, a year’s worth of development should have the kinks worked out of the very fast hot hatch and assuming the driving squad matches the car, they should contend again this year.
There’s new metal, too – two Ford Focus RSs will be very handy indeed, especially if the one entered by Barry Morcom contains the pair of drivers who won last year’s race. If you don’t know who they are, go Google it and you’ll quickly go ‘Oh, right – I get it’.
The second Focus is entered by ‘Keltic Racing’ and that may not instantly click with some people, but here’s a tip: Keltic Racing is Tony Quinn’s racing enterprise, and you can bet anything he enters is going to be at least slightly competitive. Probably more than slightly, we’d wager.
Also set to be fast will be the Brothers Sherrin, who upgrade from a Class B BMW to a Class A version of the latest M4. It’s a rear-drive sedan counterpart to the fleet of all-wheel-drive hatches and will be an interesting upgrade from their older car.
A browse though the classes also brings some interesting combinations.
The defending winner is back, the venerable 335i still competing at the pointy-end as it was when it made it’s debut in the 2007 Bathurst 12 Hour, now some 10 years ago.
In Class C the Renault Megane RS265 has become the dominant car, while David Raddatz’s brand new Alfa Romeo Gulietta QV makes for a very interesting addition. It’s also great to see new models of new Production Cars being built throughout the field.
As it was last year, Class D is the domain of the Toyota 86, though the interesting addition of Terry Conroy’s Kia ProCeed GT will be worth watching and is yet another new car built for the race.
Class D also includes one Jordan Cox, who is the same Jordan Cox who has torn up the internet in the first quarter of 2017 in his remarkable Honda Civic Improved Production racer.
He’s got more than 1 million views on the internet thanks to his antics and would probably wish he could run that car in this race. Sadly, it’s not eligible – so a sightly more sedate Nissan Pulsar will have to do. Still, if you’re leading him going over McPhillamy Park, in any car, check your mirrors..
There’s much more to this year’s six-hour than just that, and The Race Torque will have coverage of the event up to, during, and after the Easter long weekend this April.
But with 66 cars, 17 brands and more than 30 models, if there’s ever a race that will bring Bathurst back to what some call the ‘good old days’, then this is it. Buy your tickets, get trackside and support the event so it may continue.
However – it looks to us like the Good Old Days are only just beginning for this race.
WORDS: Richard Craill
IMAGE: Nathan Wong / Bathurst6hour.com.au