THE FANS, at least in their majority, weren’t there for qualifying on Friday and they won’t be on Saturday, either – it’s an odd Bathurst 1000. But as GARRY O’BRIEN remembers, it’s really not that different to how it once was.
WORDS: Garry O’Brien IMAGE: Kelly Racing
QUALIFYING DAY on Mt Panorama for the 2020 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in some respects takes me back to a day long gone.
It is 1975, there were no support category races and on Saturday afternoon barely a soul was on top of the mountain: Just a few campers and locals. Also there were no checks for alcohol: where basically it was open slather.
The fans would arrive in their droves on Sunday morning.
So, under an overcast sky on a coolish day, one ahead of the Hardie-Ferodo 1000, you drive in and park wherever you like and trudge around the circuit – from Reid Park all the way down to Forrest Elbow. Then when you had the energy, make the climb back up to Skyline.
On that afternoon, Saturday October 4, Allan Moffat put in a flying 2 minutes 27.5 seconds in the Allan Moffat Racing/City Ford XB Ford Falcon Coupe which looked likely to take pole position.
There was only a couple of minutes of the session remaining and his co-driver Ian Geoghegan jumped in the car for a lap of so. In his exuberant style he was sideways, waving his arm out the window as he passed the Sulman Park gates – I guess in celebration of his team boss putting the car on position number one for the Sunday race.
It turned out he was a little premature!
In the meantime, Colin Bond had belted up in the lone Marlboro Holden Dealer Team Torana SL/R 5000 L34 that he was sharing with Johnnie Walker for one last attempt to wrestle away the top spot.
With a 62-car entry over four classes, track congestion could be a problem which Bond found out about. He crested the hill and readied for the fast flow across the top. In front of him was a Datsun right on the race line.
Bond opted to the grass on the inside of the circuit to get past – just about at the spot where he rolled his Torana XU-1 in 1972, early in the great race.
In his exuberant style he was sideways, waving his arm out the window as he passed the Sulman Park gates – I guess in celebration of his team boss putting the car on position number one for the Sunday race.
Miraculously he kept the L34 straight and even more incredibly, completed the lap one tenth of a second faster than Moffat. Pole position changed virtually as the session finished.
Interestingly across the top ten, the time split was 6.2 seconds, far more than would cover the whole field these days.
Former Bond team mate Peter Brock had branched out on his own and qualified third. He and co-driver Brian Sampson would go onto win the great race that year, which also doubled as the third round of the 1975 Australian Manufacturers’ Championship.
Garry O’Brien is one of Australia’s longest-serving motorsport media members, the national editor for Auto Action Magazine and has attended every Bathurst race meeting since Walter J. McPhillamy opened his gates.. more or less. If it happened at Mount Panorama; he was there.