Insight Mark Walker June 18, 2024 (Comments off) (637)

Bathurst’s Worst Warm-Up Lap: Take 2

A few years ago, these pages ran a yarn asking the question: was this the worst Bathurst warm-up lap ever?

To summarise: on a sodden first Sunday in October 1996, the Super Tourers took to Mount Panorama for a warm-up lap ahead of their curtain-raising support race.

Craig Baird got as far as turn two before he binned his BMW.

Later on in the lap, it became awfully apparent that the Audis were in stife – despite their Quattro four-wheel drive system, imported factory ace Tamara Vidali was battling slick tyres, and subsequently had the mother of all moments as the cars charged down towards The Chase.

However, sinking further down into the depths of the internet, we may have found a match for that effort, with one truly awful warm-up lap…

Introducing the 1986 Nissan Celebrity Race Warm-Up Lap

It seems that back in 1986, spirited warm-up laps were in vogue…

Getting caught up in the moment, Italian ace Roberto Ravaglia came unstuck at Forrest’s Elbow and was subsequently smashed by Jim Richards. The mess left only eight starters on the grid.

Allegedly, Ravaglia got confused by the car’s left-hand gear change, which kicked off the unfortunate series of events.

It wasn’t a great day for Ravaglia, who finished The Great Race parked at The Cutting with a battered BMW after only two circuits. He had initially qualified second for the race before placing ninth in the top-ten shootout.

The Peter Jackson-sponsored pro-driver encounter was framed as a grudge match between internationals (including two Kiwis) versus Aussies (and two more New Zealanders), with Franz Klammer, Denny Hulme, Michel Delcourt, Ravaglia and Robbie Francevic going up against Colin Bond, George Fury, Richards, Dick Johnson and Graeme Crosby.

Rather uniquely, the grid for the race was loosely based on the results of a remote-controlled car race on Saturday morning contested in front of Channel 9’s cameras!

The three-lap celebrity driver race was a continuation of sorts for the 1984 Calder Park Australian Grand Prix celebrity race and the 1985 Nissan Turbo Super Challenge, which toured the country with pro racers tearing up some perfectly good Pulsars in the name of entertainment.

In October of that year, the Pulsars made the debut appearance of a support category at the Bathurst 1000, with the race filling a gap on the Saturday afternoon program.

Channelling some future NASCAR marketing, the encounter was sponsored by M&Ms, and produced a truly NASCAR finish, with West Aussie Tim Slako claiming a side-by-side drag race to the line with Jim Richards.

Post-race in 1986, the cars were apparently sold off for $5,000 a pop.

Pulsars on The Mountain

While it might be an unlikely racecar, various generations of the Pulsar have been in the thick of the action at Bathurst.

Probably the wildest Pulsar in Bathurst’s history was the one-of-a-kind wild Group A variant, which debuted in Nissan Motorsport colours under the control of Christine Gibson and Bob Muir in 1983, while in ’84, Gibson paired with Glenn Seton.

Sadly, both efforts resulted in non-finishes.

The last Nissan Pulsar to start the Great Race was a New Zealand Group S car in the 1998 race, which was a N14 Pulsar rebadged as a Sentra for the Kiwi market.

Unfortunately, that particular entry was in the heart of the race’s biggest drama, with its crash at McPhillamy Park teeing off a chain reaction that eliminated three leading cars from the race.

In the early 1990s, the N14 proved to be a stout class competitor on the Mountain in the first iteration of the Bathurst 12 Hour.

The SSS debuted in 1992, and just missed out on a class win – Mark Larkham, Warwick Rooklyn and Jeff Hutchinson finished 15th outright and second in class to the Peter Brock/Neil Crompton/Paul Gover Peugeot 405.

Third in class were Murray Carter and Ed Lamont, with the Garry Rogers Motorsport entered car of Melinda Price, Tracey Taylor and Michelle Callaghan fourth.

Murray Carter bounced back in 1993 to win Class B, alongside Damon Beck and Brian Wilshire.

Meanwhile, in 1994, Craig Lowndes claimed class honours from his Bathurst tin-top debut alongside John and Phil Morriss, capping a strong rebound run for the entry.

A modern inclusion of the Pulsar in Bathurst 1000 folklore came in 2014 when Michael Caruso and Dean Fiore ran a throwback livery on their Nissan Altima in that year’s Great Race.

The Nissan factory used the event to launch a limited-edition Pulsar SSS Heritage Edition, complete with the familiar white, blue, and red livery.

When the Bathurst 6 Hour was born in 2016, it witnessed the Pulsar’s return to racing on the Mountain.

That year, Dimitri Agathos claimed Class E alongside James Duckworth, with a smattering of entries coming in the following years.

To prove that you can’t keep a good thing away from Bathurst, in 2022, the Australian Pulsar Racing Association debuted its one-make championship at The Mountain and has subsequently thrilled crowds at the Easter meets.

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