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HomeNewsBathurstOPINION: Bathurst International must step up in 2023

OPINION: Bathurst International must step up in 2023

THIS mightn’t win me many friends within the Australian Racing Group camp but it’s something that needs to be said.

The 2022 edition of the Bathurst International probably isn’t worthy of an annual fixture on the hallowed tarmac of Mount Panorama.

First, it is necessary to acknowledge the challenges the event has faced since winning the tender in 2019 to score the venue’s fifth and final track closure slot allocated per year.

Of course, at that point in time no one could have forecast how difficult it would soon be to deliver an international spectacle.

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And so, after cancellations in 2020 and 2021, it’s only fair to treat the weekend’s event as a baseline to simply, finally, get the initiative off the ground. Something to build on.

But it absolutely must be that and no less.

From next year, the Bathurst International needs to live up to what it was sold as: an occasion that attracts significant overseas talent, and, in a perfect world, a proper two-driver TCR enduro.

That Tony D’Alberto was promoted as an international component of the weekend’s action, owing to his Italian heritage, says plenty.

In reality, the foreign contingent pretty much consisted of French TCR driver Teddy Clairet and American Trans Am teen Robert Noaker. Jordan Love too, if you want to count his cameo return home from Europe.

All in all, a fun weekend of racing was delivered, complete with title drama and big crashes.

But does it actually add to the annual Mount Panorama offering? Or even the opposite? (i.e. overloading a prestigious venue with an event described by some fans as a club-level meet)

A crowd was almost non-existent – even after naming rights backer Supercheap Auto came to the party with a late offer of free entry for all Bathurst residents as well as gift cards for campgrounds and volunteers – and there was little particularly special about the occasion beyond the fact it was at The Mountain.

Josh Buchan’s new Hyundai TCR sedan. Pic: Australian Racing Group

The other four regular Bathurst events all bring a unique, worthwhile dimension.

The headline act is undoubtedly the Repco Bathurst 1000 – Australia’s premier motorsport event. Say no more.

The Bathurst 12 Hour is a sensational weekend filled with star drivers, impressive GT3 cars and spectacular racing through dark, sunrise and daylight.

The Bathurst 6 Hour slots in as a bumper Easter weekend carnival, at which production cars take centre stage for a different sort of enduro – and where ARG’s suite of categories generally feature anyway.

Finally, there’s Challenge Bathurst, which is another kettle of fish altogether, targeted at the more everyday enthusiast.

Each adds value.

Might I note, a true TCR international probably would too (even if the enduro element of the concept seems to have cooled on the relevant powerbrokers to a degree).

It’s now known that the new-for-2023 TCR World Tour will incorporate two stops in Australia, including one at Bathurst.

How exactly that looks is not quite clear just yet, but it is obviously an opportunity to give meaning to Bathurst fifth’s event.

Either way, it’s important to not accept mediocrity when it comes to one of the most iconic motor racing circuits on the planet.

If the Bathurst International cannot reach the appropriate level by this time next year, then serious questions must be asked.

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