Aussie motor racing legend and Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe is certainly well versed in two special Australian motor races, The Bathurst 1000 and the Bathurst 12 Hour.
Bowe has spent 30 years venturing to Mount Panorama, completing more laps around the circuit than most and winning ‘The Great Race’ twice and the Bathurst 12 Hour on three occasions.
John recalls his first time racing at the Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama in 1985, which was a Volvo 240T from New Zealand he drove with Robbie Francevic.
“My first event was a culture shock. It was only my second race in Touring Cars so the whole event and the track itself were overwhelming. It was the beginning of a learning process of both racing in the top Australian tier and driving the mountain itself.”
“The Bathurst 1000 is steeped in Australian tradition and has been a cultural event since its inception decades ago. It has featured our Aussie hero cars and many hero drivers on display in front of the masses in the crowds and on TV for a long time.”
The Bathurst 12 hour was originally created for series production cars to showcase their abilities in racing to the general public who were able to purchase something nearly identical from the showroom floor, which includes the GT spec cars that are available to buy in race format.
The event ran for a few years in the early 1990’s however was discontinued until 2007 when it was revived. It was in 2011 that the event introduced GT cars, adding a more professional level of competition and opening up the event to international teams that had GT spec machinery.
“Being a GT race now, the event has gone to another level. The event is much more visible on an international stage and builds higher credibility each year.”
“The Bathurst 12 hour is similar in many ways to the older days of the Bathurst 1000. It has a wide variety of marques competing and large speed differences between some of the cars, which certainly creates an interesting and very different dynamic to the modern Bathurst 1000.”
“These days the Bathurst 1000 is just a long sprint event and is very tactical, with cars now finishing the race only seconds apart, whereas in the earlier years of the event, it was minutes, so the racing is incredibly close, no doubt about it. This year proved that.”
The Bathurst 1000 is still the centrepiece of the motor sport calendar in Australia but that doesn’t mean both events can’t co-exist nicely as two separate style events.
“The Bathurst 1000 is a flamboyant event, with more pomp and ceremony attached to it, similar to NASCAR. The crowds are huge every year.”
With the Bathurst 12 Hour gaining momentum, a stable naming rights sponsor and a healthy field with increasing numbers of international teams heading across the world for the event, some believe the B12H is a threat to the Bathurst 1000. However Bowe doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think the 12 Hour is a threat to the 1000 as I don’t think the events cross pollinate at all. The status of the Bathurst 12 Hour will continue to grow though and I’m sure in next few years it will become one of the major race events on the world motorsport calendar.”
In terms of driving the two events, both are physically and mentally challenging and take an immense amount of concentration over a long period. The Bathurst 1000 consists of the main driver, with a co-driver allocated to share driving duties. The B12H regulations allow up to 4 drivers per car, with a mix of professional and amateur drives being the requirement.
“We are attracting huge names now in the Bathurst 12 hour. This year, I teamed up with ex Formula One driver Mika Salo as part of the Maranello Motorsport team and there is many high level drivers from around the world now taking part in the event”.
“I haven’t talked to a single international driver who has raced at Bathurst for the first time and not been in awe at what an amazing track it is.”
Controversy erupted between the two events recently, with a date clash between the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour and the V8 Supercar season launch/test day, ruling out a number of V8 Supercar drivers who were planning to compete.
“It’s wrong that it clashed. I understand why, but all of the relevant parties, and there are a few, should have all come together and had more concern for the interest of Australian motorsport in general. I hope in 2016 we won’t see a repeat of the clash.”
Irrespective of whether it is the Bathurst 12 Hour or the Bathurst 1000, Mount Panorama is a special place, steeped in history with countless tales of sheer heartbreak, mixed with moments of elation with success.
The future of both events remain bright and having two fantastic events at Mount Panorama is a win for all motorsport enthusiasts not only in Australia, but around the world.