Wilko’s Most Awesome Bathurst Interview
Before we go racing at Bathurst this weekend, here’s a reminder that our favourite town west of the Blue Mountains has always been filled with colourful characters.
To set the scene, it’s important to note that to this day there is a large community housed on the slopes of Mount Panorama, including some significant primary industry, with features including a winery and a fig plantation.
Annually we take a walk up through the centre of the track, and frankly, it’s a world away from the pure madness of pit lane.
Back in the 1980s though, it was a slightly different time.
Easy vehicle access to the centre of the racetrack by car didn’t come until 1994 when the tunnel at The Chase was installed, while Ross Palmer’s tradeoff for running the inaugural Bathurst 24 Hour in 2002 was to build a road network linking up all of the marooned properties to the outside world.
It’s also important to keep in mind that there was a time before Mount Panorama was a racetrack – prior to the circuit’s opening in 1938, numerous farms covered the area around what was then known as “The Bald Hill.”
There were several roads in place prior to the scenic drive being completed over the top of the hill, the below images show the relative landholdings in 1930 versus how the circuit ultimately cut a path through the pastures and over The Mountain.
While this weekend’s broadcast from Mount Panorama on Stan Sports/9Gem/9Go! will feature plenty of fantastic colour pieces to fill the gaps between races, the original innovator in this TV space was Channel 7’s Garry Wilkinson.
Outside of fronting 7 Nightly News, or presenting the Olympics, for a generation of motorsport fans, Wilko’s contributions to the Channel 7 car racing coverage from the 1980s through the ‘90s made him a fan favourite.
While he will confess to not being a gearhead by any stretch, his strength came in his special comments, plus his interviews.
However, in the 1984 Bathurst 1000 coverage, Wilko may have met his match…
Meet Jimmy Windsor, a Granny Smith Apple farmer from the left-hand side of Conrod Straight.
Now, NIMBYs these days are infamous for moving next to a racetrack, and subsequently whining about the noise – Jimmy on the other hand lived on his orchard since 1932, and “he was not all that fussed about racing cars” that cut off his property from the outside world.
Check out the clip below for Jimmy’s mega hot takes on the world of motorsport, and the story of how every Sunday he went to town to play the violin for people at the old folk’s home, before crossing the live track during the main race under the cover of yellow flags, then stuff his ears with cotton wool and return to work on the farm…
We are led to believe Jimmy’s family still resides in Bathurst to this day – we salute him for his frank chat, and for adding to the legend of Mount Panorama.