Thursday, October 14, 2004

(*) Vroom vroom

I am NOT a rev-head by any means. But living in this town - once a year - drives you a bit potty along the way. The population of this place literally doubles for one week a year every October, with the Bathurst Mt Panorama 1000 Race. Twas the weekend just gone.

I'd only been up to 'The Mount' (as we locals know it affectionately as) in my first year here, 9 years' ago. Even then, I was running a bookstall at a site alongside the racetrack, having nothing at all to do with the cars at all. As I sat and waited for the gates to open (it must have been a practise day), the very first car I saw go past me thru Forest Elbow was the Brock 05 Holden! Whoo hoo! So, in all these years, i've never been back to the mount when the madness invades. Lo and behold, my housemate, who works for the local rag, leant me her Media Pass for Saturday afternoon! That's like access all areas sort of thing! Wow! Rather than drive there (the place was going to be crowded as...), I walked the 3km easily enough. As soon as I got over the rise near the Uni, I got my first glimpse of the whole scene - cars, tents, people - everywhere! I felt like I was walking into a rock festival rather than a car race! The weather was perfect - clear blue skies with a light breeze... no sign of the 4 seasons in one day Bathurst is famous for that day.

I'd never been to Pitt Lane when it was all go go go before... I didn't quite know what to expect. The first thing that hit me was - the smell! That burnt rubber/petrol/hot smell! For a second I thought I was going to throw up! But with crowds of people everywhere I felt kind of happily lost, although I knew where I was going. Having 'that' pass was a bit magical - I just walked straight in! No queue or anything! I climbed the bridge across Pitt Straight (which anybody can - for a fee of $30/day!) with V8's roaring past underneath my feet! The whole bridge shook... being the mild wimp I am, I have to admit it was a bit scary for a few seconds! The roar, the thump, the shudder... right under my feet. With the bridge totally enclosed, it was a surreal experience, and I hurried across so i could see what was going on.

In the recent months the local Council has spent like 500 bizillion dollars building a whole new Pitt complex - and I had a good sticky-beak thru it all. It looked amazing - the cars and drivers were right there! I climbed the stairs to where the Corporate Hospitality areas were on the next 2 levels - altho I couldn't get in there, the amount of food/drink just getting wasted ad thrown out was staggering! People who own a car (or whatever) have these places they can just hang out and get spoilt as they watch the race in relevant comfort. They've got live TV feeds, all the race programs, even waiters - crazy stuff! On the roof there's a viewing area, and that's where I found my perfect pozzie. Half-way-between the Start line and the Finish line, I could clearly see the whole of Pitt Straight, both Murrays' and Hell Corners, as well as the scoreboard. Behind me I had a great glimpse of the madness that is Caltex Chase (
where drivers brake their cars from 300km/h to about 80km/h!) I grabbed a white plastic chair not being used from one of the Hospitality tents, and settled in with my water bottle, hat, and jaw hanging open.

Whilst the view was amazing - there was a 20-something-lap race almost finishing when I arrived, it was the whole spectacle of the crowd along the opposite side of the Straight that was amazing to see. So colourful, seething human mass. i found out there was like 45,000 people there that day! People everywhere! And the noise they made - the collective 'oooohhh' as 2 cars came around Hell Corner side by side! Amazing! I love sound as it is - that was like the ultimate in crowd quadraphonic! Right in front of me, the Porches lined up along the start for their Carera Cup race - smash! Three Porches all in bits when the lights went green. Luckily no one was hurt, but that was my introduction to car racing at the Mount - a messy, noisy prang at the starting line! Whoo hoo!

Between that race and the start of the Top 10 Shootout (which decides the starting positions for the big race the next day), 2 stunt bike riders blew us all away. Not just filthy monos, but huge burn-outs, and even front-wheel monos under brakes! Amazing. There was this Ute that was the noisiest thing I've ever heard - its' only purpose was to do burn outs! Thick white smoke everywhere! The bogans on the hill loved it - well, it did look pretty damn cool! Then 5 planes came over in precision formation, trailing coloured smoke streamers behind - they did about 10 passes right over my head - they were flying so low at one point they were only about 100 feet up!

While other people arrived at the spot I'd made for myself, I was sweet - I had my chair, so it wasn't gonna get nicked! While everybody else had to stand while they were waiting between cars, I could sit down and put my feet up - luxury! lol. It was an eye-opening experience listening to peoples' reactions and comments as drivers either blew the clock away or bombed out totally!

Once the actual racing was finished for the day, I went back downstairs to check out the noisy activity in the pits. Teams were working furiously on some of the cars, making all sorts of clunking noises trying to put things right for the next days' race, I guess. As I got to the end of the row of pitts, there was a very small knot of people huddled around someone, so i went and had a sticky beak. There was Peter Brock casually handing out autographs, so i got one for the boys! Walking back along the pits, i managed to get a set of posters each for the boys, and grabbed another 2 drivers' autographs - for the boys (really!) - Glenn Seton and Russell Ingall. I had no idea who Russell Ingall was at the time - i just got the autograph and found out later who it was! How dorky is that! pmsl! The crowd waiting to get back across the bridge to get out was huge, so i just hung out along the back of the pits, watching as they brought cars in off the track, that sort of thing. Well, one car came in off the back of a tow-truck - only bits of it came in! As they were reversing the wreck off the tipper- tray, one of the crew handed a smashed mirror to a kid standing next to him watching all this unfold! The kid was wrapped - wow, a broken rear-view mirror from a race car! hahahaa!

I eventually managed to get back across the bridge, and took a sticky around where all the displays and merchandise stalls were set up. I was amazed at the amount people were spending to get their Ford or Holden stuff... gees. I thought I heard a band starting up, and at a large paddock all fenced off a band was going thru their paces - they just finished their sound check as I got there! hahahaa! Walking back between all the stands, I saw the funniest thing - they were selling bourbon and cola slushies! Seriously - $5 for a small bourbon slushy! How's that for pure bogan pleasure?! I'm sure glad I walked, because the line of cars went on forever... I'm sure I beat some people home.

The next day - watching the start of the main race on TV and with the sound turned down, being able to hear the roar of the engines from my place! Although I'm only about 3kms from the Starting line, I could hear them as plain as daylight! A very surreal experience - watching on TV and hearing it in real life!

The whole weekend was a bit of an experience. There's no way I'd ever want to go up to the top of the Mount where all the pure-bred bogans reside while the race week is on, but the view from the Pits was a great memory to have.

On That Wednesday That Was Yesterday...
Born: Paul Simon (singer, 1941); Lenny Bruce (1925); Margaret Thatcher (1925); Sammy Hagar (Van Halen etc, 1949); Neil Aspinall (Beatles road manager, 1941).
Died: Ed Sullivan (TV guy, 1974).
Events: Leonard McMahon swallows 501 live goldfish in 1975 (sick bugga!)
Useless Trivia:  Ratu Udre Udre, Fijian Chief, ate between 872 - 999 people in the 19th century.
My Soundtrack:
"Lurgi", The Goon Show; "Tapestry", Carol King.

Mal (ie. Mallard the Quackers)   :o)

"If we see light at the end of the tunnel, it's the light of the oncoming train." (Robert Lowell)

"Nuts"  (US General, Battle of the Bulge 1944, in reply to German surrender demand)
"The Lord survives the rainbow of His will." (Robert Lowell)


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