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HomeNewsBathurstOPINION: Why the Bathurst 6 Hour works

OPINION: Why the Bathurst 6 Hour works

I SPENT Easter 2024 at Mount Panorama at the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed my third trip to the Mountain for the year, even more than I had expected.

The production car classic was being held for the eighth time since it kicked off in 2016 and being back behind the microphone as part of the coverage that aired on SBS and Fox Sports made for a busy weekend.

A field of 59 cars practiced for the 6 Hour of all shapes and sizes, with stars including Supercar aces Will Davison and Thomas Randle, Hall of Famer John Bowe and a range of other familiar and not-so-familiar names.

Driving back to Melbourne on Monday I had time to reflect on why I had enjoyed the event so much and I kept coming back to one thing: people were genuinely happy to be there and have their chance to tackle the Mountain.

The Bathurst 1000 and 12 Hour have morphed into events that are fully professional. That’s not a knock on anything or anyone, it’s just how they have evolved over time. I love both events for their unique flavours, atmospheres and racing products.

That leaves the 6 Hour as the race that club, state and national-level racers can realistically aspire to and compete in.

Sure, some of the cars have been around for years.

Sure, it would be great to have something other than a BMW contend for the outright positions.

Sure, the field isn’t a totally accurate reflection of the current new car market.

But you know what?

I enjoyed it.

I spent my weekend up and down the pit lane talking with drivers, team members and families and there was a common theme among many: they were getting to live their dream of racing at Bathurst.

The number of stories and smiles of genuinely passionate, enthusiastic people about simply going car racing with their family, friends and communities was, genuinely, heart-warming. There’s still room for romance in motorsport.

In years gone by the 1000 and 12 Hour provided an opportunity for Joe Blow and Joanne Blow to tackle the Mountain, however it’s now the 6 Hour that allows this. It’s genuinely a good thing.

Sure, the 6 Hour doesn’t have a crowd anywhere near the level of the other events and doesn’t have the eyes of the motorsport world on it, but with over 300 entries across all of the categories for the weekend, it ticked all of the boxes it needed to.

Promoters ARG would have been rewarded by their efforts and turned a profit, it was available on free-to-air TV for those interested to watch and scores of competitors lapped up the chance to, er, lap the Mountain.

The support categories at the Bathurst 6 Hour were packed with cars. There were HQs as far as the eye could see! Photo: Nathan Wong/Bathurst 6 Hour.

Some would argue that this race needs to allow GT4 cars into it in the future, however I strongly disagree with this.

The speed discrepancy between a Class X BMW and a Class D or E production car is one thing, the speed differential between a GT4 car on slicks with aero and travelling 10 seconds a lap faster with cars in the smaller classes is taking things too far.

If GT4 was added and the pole time was a 2m14-second lap, it wouldn’t blow many of the slower cars out beyond the 130% cut-off of pole position, but it would move 15 cars in last weekend’s field to above 120% based on the qualifying times last weekend.

In essence you end up with 15 cars with a Camry/Class X BMW speed difference instead of one. Not fun.

If GT4 builds enough momentum and car count, it should be big enough on its own two feet for its own race at the Mountain. And I can genuinely see it reaching this point in upcoming years.

Perhaps in future GT4 cars can have their own Saturday afternoon support at the 12 Hour or find a slot at the International, or whatever becomes of that event/date.

But leave the 6 Hour as it is.

I hope watching on Easter Sunday inspired a range of club and state racers to start pooling their resources and get themselves to the Mountain next year.

But my 64-million-dollar question remains.

Will the blokes from Queensland with the cult car of the 2024 race, the Camry, bring it back next year?

I genuinely look forward to finding out …

Oh what a feeling! Noonan couldn’t help but be the V6 Sleuth for a moment on Sunday post-race. Photo: Supplied.
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