Motor Racing

Motorsports is one of the most popular spectator sports in Australia. Australia's first recorded motorcycle race was held in 1901 around the Sydney Cricket Ground. In March 1904, the first four-wheeled cars race took place on Sandown horseracing track near Melbourne. And the first Australian Grand Prix was held at Cowes on Phillip Island on a dirt and gravel 6.5-mile circuit back in March 1928.

The most widely watched motorsport today are the V8 Supercars, especially at the Bathurst 1000. Australians have had a long love affair with cars and racing that continues today.

Mount Panorama holds a special place in the minds of motor racing fans and an incredible awareness in people with only a passing interest in the sport. To understand and appreciate this you need to know the history of this internationally acclaimed circuit.

In the 1930's a visionary local politician, the Mayor of Bathurst Alderman Martin Griffin, obtained funding from the State Government for a scenic road to be built on Bald Hill. He always knew that the road was going to be used for motor racing but Depression Era funds weren't easy to come by, so he had to create a ruse. Mount Panorama was first used as an official race track in 1938, holding the "Australian Tourist Trophy for Motorcycles" on Easter Saturday. On Easter Monday the ‘Australian Grand Prix' for Motor Cars was held.

With the beginning of WW2, racing was stopped until 1947 when races recommenced. Further Grand Prix meetings were held in 1952 and 1958.first races were held and except for the war years, have been held ever since. Mount Panorama has been upgraded over the years and had a deviation installed on Con-Rod Straight, but the essential nature of the track hasn't changed since 1938. It's still the most challenging track in Australia and one of the best circuits in the world. Drivers and riders have always seen success at "The Mount" as necessary on their CV's. World Champions such as Sir Jack Brabham, Wayne Gardner, Alan Jones, Kel Carruthers and Mick Doohan can all attest to the fact that if you can win at Bathurst, you can succeed anywhere.


"The Great Race" (as we know it) didn't actually originate in Bathurst. Sponsored by Armstrong Shock Absorbers and known as the "Armstrong 500", a car race was held at Phillip Island for the first time in 1960.

This race was over a distance of 500 miles (805 kms) and was intended for production saloon cars, in standard form, that had sold at least 100. No ‘hotted up' cars were allowed. Entry criteria required all cars to be Australian-assembled street cars (no cages or roll bars) - just as would be purchased from a car yard. The race was intended as a buyers' guide. There were 4 classes within the race and each class related to the purchase cost of the vehicles on the market. Class A up to £900, Class B £901 - £1000, Class C £1001 - £1200, and Class D £1201 - £2000.

The race moved to Bathurst after the track on Phillip Island was badly damaged during the 1962 race, requiring substantial repairs. Held on the long-weekend on Sunday 6th October 1963, at 9.00am the flag dropped in the ‘inaugural' Bathurst race at Mount Panorama. An especially designed aerial bomb was also released to herald the beginning of the race - it was heard for miles.

"The Armstrong 500" was broadcast by Channel 7 and consisted of 130 laps of the Mount (estimated time of about 8 hours).

Sixty-one entries were received, of which 56 were on the starter's line. Each team was restricted to 2 time keepers and 2 pit crew. An estimated crowd of about 25,000 was expected, and within the Bathurst community extra trains were put on to bring in visitors, accommodation houses were fully booked and extra supplies of fuel and food were brought in.

The Shell Petrol Company erected a sign with enough canvas to fit out a ‘fair-sized' sailing ship. Back in 1963 there was no outright winner as such, just winners in each of the classes. However, history now says that the winner of the race was entrant number 20, Harry Firth and Bob Jane in a red and white Ford Cortina GT with a circular number patch in a time of 7 hours 47 minutes and 7 seconds - they were actually entered in the Class C division. And according to that team "the car performed beautifully"...!!! Interesting to note that even after such a successful race, it was only ‘hoped' that Bathurst would host the race again in 1964...!!!