Mount Panorama Circuit is a motor racing track located in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia.
It is situated on a hill with the dual official names of Mount Panorama and Wahluu and is best known as the home of the Bathurst 1000 motor race held each October, and the Bathurst 12 Hour event held each February. The 6.213 km (4 mi) long track is technically a street circuit, and is a public road when no racing events are being run, and there are many residences which can only be accessed from the circuit.
The track is an unusual design by modern standards, with a 174-metre (570-foot) vertical difference between its highest and lowest points, and grades as steep as 1:6.13. From the start-finish line, the track can be viewed in three sections; the short pit straight and then a tight left turn into the long, steep Mountain straight; the tight, narrow section across the top of the mountain itself; and then the long, downhill section of Conrod Straight, with the very fast Chase and the turn back onto pit straight to complete the lap.
Historically, the racetrack has been used for a wide variety of racing categories, including everything from open-wheel racers to motorcycles. However, the factors that make the track so unusual, and tighter modern safety standards, make it unlikely that major race meetings in these categories will be held there again, and as such it has become the near-exclusive province of closed-bodied cars.
As a public road, on non-race days and when it is not closed off during the day as part of a racing event, Mount Panorama is open to the public. Cars can drive in both directions around the circuit for no charge. However, a strict speed limit of 60 km/h (37 mph) is enforced, and police regularly patrol the circuit.
It also has the fastest corner in touring car racing,, the kink at the entrance to the Chase. French sportscar driver Alexandre Prémat, who later raced as a V8 Supercar regular, once described the circuit as "A mix of the (Nürburgring) Nordschleife, Petit Le Mans (Road Atlanta) and Laguna Seca". German driver Maro Engel described the circuit as the "Blue Hell", as a play on the Nürburgring's nickname "Green Hell".
The Pit Straight
The Pit Straight of Mount Panorama, which is adjacent to the pit complex, has a different start line and finish line. For the standing start only, the start line is 143m closer to Hell Corner so that traffic does not go too far around Murray's Corner when the start grid is formed. The finish line is positioned such that all of the pit bays are located after it.
The common misconception of nomenclature due to the accidents that happen at this turn are widespread. Hell Corner was named after a tree stump that existed on the apex of the turn. It was believed that any motorcycle riders who hit the stump would die in an act of folly and thereby be doomed to an eternity of death.
Mountain Straight is a long straight that begins the climb up the mountain towards Griffins Bend. V8 Supercars reach speeds of up to 250 km/h (155 mph) before the braking point for Griffins Bend. In the days before modern aerodynamics, drivers would have to lift off the throttle to prevent becoming airborne over the crest halfway up the straight. The crest also caused problems during the old Easter motorbike races at the circuit with a number of riders having serious crashes due to not lifting before the crest and their bikes becoming airborne.
Named after Martin Griffin, the Mayor of Bathurst whose vision it was to create the circuit, drivers heading around this right-hander have to be careful not to drift too far out of this negatively cambered turn and hit the wall upon exit. Allan Moffat spun his Ford XA Falcon GT Hardtop here in the 1973 Hardie-Ferodo 1000, narrowly being missed by a couple of Minis he had just passed going up Mountain Straight.
A pair of left hand corners leading into a steep 1 in 6 grade exit, overtaking in this section of circuit is difficult and it is very hard to recover from a spin here because of the narrow room and steep gradient. This corner was the location of the infamous 'race rage' incident between Marcos Ambrose and Greg Murphy. The pair collided when both drivers refused to give the other racing room late in the 2005 Supercheap Auto 1000, with the resulting incident partially blocking the circuit.
Following the Cutting, there is a pair of uphill right-hand corners then a left-hand turn. This is Reid Park, named after the Bathurst City engineer Hughie Reid, who redesigned sections of the track to be more suitable for motor racing. One of the most famous incidents in the history of the Bathurst 1000 occurred here when Dick Johnson crashed his Ford XD Falcon out of the lead on lap 18 of the 1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000. Johnson was unable to avoid a large rock that had fallen from the spectator area as he was passing a quick-lift tow truck at the time and had nowhere else to go. The car was destroyed after running over the rock and hitting the outside concrete wall which the car almost leapt over (the wall had only been put in place prior to the 1979 Hardie-Ferodo 1000; before then the fence had consisted of railway sleepers and fence posts), taking with it Johnson's means of supporting his racing ambitions. An emotional public appeal followed during the race's telecast which re-launched Johnson's career.
After Reid Park, there is a steep drop which flows into a climbing left-hand turn, heading towards the highest point of Mount Panorama. This is the location of Sulman Park and its nature park. Peter Brock had his first major crash at Bathurst here when he crashed his Holden Racing Team VP Commodore into retirement on lap 138 of the 1994 Tooheys 1000. Jason Bright crashed here in his Ford EL Falcon in practice during the 1998 FAI 1000. The car was then rebuilt in time to scrape into qualifying in the dying minutes before Bright and Steven Richards went on to take victory in the race. This corner was also the scene of a crash in a V8 Supercar Development Series race in 2006 that claimed the life of Mark Porter.
McPhillamy Park is a fast, downhill left-hand turn which is guarded by a crest prior to the turn-in point, rendering the corner blind to approaching drivers. Drivers have to stay close to the wall while turning so as not to run wide on exit. However, going too close may cause the car to clip the inside kerbing, which Allan Moffat did in practice for the 1986 James Hardie 1000, crashing the Holden VK Commodore, which he was sharing with long-time rival Peter Brock, head on into the concrete. British driver Win Percy, driving Allan Grice's Roadways VL Commodore, would complete an almost carbon copy of Moffat's crash in practice for the 1987 James Hardie 1000. McPhillamy Park is the location of the longest-running campsite for those who camp at the track (sometimes for over a week in advance of a race). The park was named after Walter J. McPhillamy, a previous mayor of the Bathurst City Council and the owner of most of the land occupied by the Bald Hills which was donated.
McPhillamy was the site of Bill Brown's rollover during the 1971 Hardie-Ferodo 500 when the front right tyre on his Ford XY Falcon GTHO Phase III blew at over 100 mph (161 km/h), sending Brown up an earth bank before barrel-rolling along the fence. A pair of marshals stationed at that point were lucky to escape being hit after taking evasive action. Amazingly, Brown suffered only minor cuts and bruises in the accident largely due to the driver's seat breaking in the initial impact. The famous corner was also the site of the crash between the Falcons of Bob Morris and Christine Gibson that blocked the track and stopped the 1981 James Hardie 1000 on lap 120, 43 laps short of race distance, giving Dick Johnson and John French the win.
In the interests of safety for both drivers and spectators at McPhillamy (and to open up the corner to avoid a repeat of the 1981 crash that blocked the track), the banking that had been just off the outside of the track was removed and pushed back approximately 30 metres on an angle to allow a sand trap and concrete retaining wall to be put in place prior to the 1985 James Hardie 1000.
A short straight connects McPhillamy to the next corner. Named in recent years "Brock's Skyline" after nine-time Bathurst 1000 winner Peter Brock, Skyline is a sharply descending right hand corner which signifies the beginning of the descent from the top of the circuit. The corner acquired the name from the visual effect of looking upwards at the corner from below, such is the sharpness of that initial plunge. During the 1970 Hardie-Ferodo 500, 1969 co-winner Tony Roberts lost control of his Ford XW Falcon GTHO and launched over Skyline backwards before tumbling down the hillside.
The Esses are the series of corners which begin at Skyline and stretch down the Mountain towards Forrest's Elbow. There have been many notable accidents at this part of the circuit, including a blockage of the track in 2003 when Jason Bargwanna made contact with David Brabham. The most famous of the Esses, the Dipper (the third corner in the sequence), is a sharp left hand corner so named because, before safety changes were made, there was a dip in the road surface and a steep drop not far from the edge of the road, and many cars were able to get two wheels off of the ground. Chaz Mostert had a severe accident in the Esses during qualifying for the Great Race in 2015. Mostert clipped the inside wall on the run down to Forrest's Elbow, ricocheting the car into the outside wall before it eventually mounted a concrete barrier and clipped the roof of a marshals' post. The car then slid down the track and came to a halt at the apex of Forrest's Elbow. The accident saw the entry withdrawn from the event and caused qualifying to be red flagged and postponed. Mostert suffered season-ending leg and wrist injuries as his leg made contact with the floor shifter in the crash.
Forrest's Elbow – named after Jack Forrest, a motorcycle racer who scraped his elbow away after laying down his bike – is a slow, descending left-hand turn that leads on to the long Conrod Straight. The corner's line drifts towards the outside wall on exit and drivers have to be careful of getting too close. It was on the exit of the corner that Dick Johnson clipped a tyre barrier during the top ten shootout for the 1983 James Hardie 1000, which broke the car's steering and sent Johnson off into a grove of trees and demolishing the car. This is also where Craig Lowndes aquaplaned into the tyre wall in 2001.
Formerly known as Main Straight, Conrod Straight was so named because of a con-rod failure that ended the 1939 Easter race of Frank Kleinig in his Kleinig/Hudson racecar. At 1.916 km, Conrod Straight is the fastest section of Mount Panorama, with V8 Supercars almost reaching 300 km/h (186 mph). The straight is a roller-coaster ride featuring two distinct crests, the second of which was rebuilt in 1987. Conrod Straight has been the scene of five of the six car racing deaths on the circuit – Bevan Gibson, Tom Sulman, Mike Burgmann, Denny Hulme and Don Watson. All except 1967 Formula One World Champion Denny Hulme (heart attack) died in high-speed accidents. However, the chicane introduced into Conrod Straight reduced the top speed of cars going down the straight and has created one of the fastest corners in the world. Most drivers arrive at the initial part of the chicane at over 290 km/h (180 mph). Prior to the introduction of The Chase in 1987, Conrod Straight was a mile-long straight where the faster cars were getting airborne over the second hump, which was a contributing factor in Burgmann's accident.
The fastest ever speed recorded by a touring car on the old straight was by Scotland's Tom Walkinshaw driving a V12 Jaguar XJS during qualifying for the 1984 James Hardie 1000. Walkinshaw was timed at 290 km/h (180 mph). Ironically, while the Chase was introduced in an effort to reduce terminal speeds on Conrod, by the 1990 Tooheys 1000, the turbocharged Ford Sierra RS500's were achieving higher speeds than pre-1987 with Tony Longhurstreportedly being timed at 295 km/h (183 mph) during official qualifying for the race.
Known for many years as "Caltex Chase", this three-turn sequence was added in preparation for the World Touring Car Championship round in 1987 to comply with a FIA requirement that a straight could not exceed 1.2 kilometers, (1200 metres). It interrupts Conrod Straight with a fast right hand bend that international motorsport commentator Mike Joy compared to Road America's kink during a United States broadcast of the Bathurst 1000 in 2011, descending to the right away from the crest prior to the spectator bridge, before a sharp 120 km/h (75 mph) left-hand bend. A right-hand corner then returns the cars to Conrod Straight for the run down to Murray's Corner.The section was dedicated to Mike Burgmann, who died in an accident at the chicane's spot in the previous year.
This corner was the scene of Peter Brock's only rollover in his motor racing career when he rolled his Vauxhall Vectra during practice for the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000. The Chase has been the scene of numerous other rollover accidents: Tomas Mezera during the 1997 Bathurst 1000, John Cleland during the 2004 Bathurst 1000, Len Cave during the 2008 WPS Bathurst 12 Hour, Allan Letcher in a V8 Utes race during the 2009 Bathurst 1000 event and Fabian Coulthard during the 2010 Bathurst 1000.
Don Watson was killed in an accident at the Chase during qualifying for the 1994 Bathurst 1000 when his Holden VP Commodore blew a brake disc when he attempted to slow for the kink, leaving him without brakes and limited steering. His car failed to slow and take the right hand kink, instead continuing at undiminished speed across the sand trap before hitting the tyre wall head on and flipping on to its roof, coming to rest on the wall. Watson initially survived the crash but later died from his injuries in Bathurst Base Hospital. The accident occurred in front of former race winners Peter Brock and England's Win Percy, who described it as a "major accident".
Murray's Corner is the final corner before Pit Straight and the lowest point of the circuit. It is a 90-degree left hand turn, and is a good overtaking spot as drivers hold braking duels for the corner. It was previously called Pit Corner before Bill Murray crashed his Hudson racing car there in 1946.
The current official lap record is held by Shane van Gisbergen, who set a time of 2:01.5670 during the 2016 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour on 7 February 2016, driving a McLaren 650S GT3. It is the outright and GT3 record.
A faster lap was recorded at Mount Panorama in March 2011 but as it was not achieved during a race it does not count as a record. As part of publicity for the 2011 Australian Grand Prix, McLaren provided a MP4-23 Formula One car for Jenson Button and Craig Lowndes. Button recorded a time of 1:48.88.
The fastest lap of the pre-1987 circuit was a 2:09.7 set by Formula 5000 driver Neil Allan in 1970 driving a McLaren M10B-Chevrolet.
Kevin Bartlett set the first ever 100 mph (161 km/h) lap of the Mount Panorama Circuit at the Easter meeting in 1967 driving a Repco Brabham BT11A, recording a 2:17.7 lap. For his achievement he was awarded 25 bottles of champagne. Later in the weekend he won the NSW State Road Racing Championship and lowered his lap record to 2:17.4, which earned him another 100 bottles. With a time of 2:17.8, Allan Grice set the first 100 mph lap of the circuit for a touring car (under Group C regulations) during qualifying for the 1982 James Hardie 1000 driving a V8 powered Holden VH Commodore SS. Four years later at the 1986 James Hardie 1000, Grice also set the first 100 mph lap in a Group A touring car driving a Holden VK Commodore SS Group A, recording a 2:16.16 in official qualifying.
The very first race held at the Mount Panorama Circuit was the 1938 Australian Grand Prix. Since that historic meeting the circuit has attracted some of the biggest races in the country. The Australian Grand Prix was held here three further times, in 1947, 1952 and 1958, and the circuit also played host to the Australian motorcycle Grand Prix for a significant portion of its pre-world championship life. The Australian Tourist Trophy also visited sporadically as well as numerous other Australian Championships.
The circuit has been home to one of the world's classic endurance events, the Bathurst 1000, since 1963. This was the continuation of the event which began in 1960 at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Victoria. The race was 500 miles between its start at Phillip Island in 1960, and from 1963 to 1972 at Bathurst, before being changed to its current 1000 km format in 1973. Since 1999, the Bathurst 1000 has also become a round of the V8 Supercars (formerly Australian Touring Car Championship) calendar. In addition to this event, the circuit has hosted six sprint rounds of the ATCC; in 1966, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1995 and 1996.
In more recent years, the circuit has also hosted longer endurance races including the Bathurst 24 Hour (2003–04) and the Bathurst 12 Hour (1991–94 and 2007 onwards) Since 2011, the Bathurst 12 Hour has become a FIA GT3 race, and became a part of the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge in 2016. The other major event currently held at the circuit is the Bathurst Motor Festival at Easter, which includes the newly launched Bathurst 6 Hour as of 2016.
The first motorsport event was a speed hillclimb held from Mountain Straight up to Reid Park. This event is still held today as a round of the New South Wales Hillclimb Championship.
In 2008, the circuit hosted the IGSA Gravity Sports World Championships: skateboard downhill and street luge downhill. The race began at Skyline and ended at Conrod Straight.