Bathurst 1000 Km – Wednesday
This Is Racing, Australian (& Morgan) Style

Wednesday morning – and shopping in Bathurst. What a great town this is. A population of 30,000, lovely wide streets, modestly sized but particularly attractive buildings and plaques set into the paving stones outside the Civic Centre, recognizing the winners of the Bathurst 1000.

dailysportscar.comIt was dear Win Percy who suggested going to find these plaques, and here’s the one recognizing his achievement in 1990, with Alan Grice. Win is a great fan of this circuit and area, and it’s not hard to see why. We’re sure that Winston Percy will be racing again in England next year: wouldn’t it be fantastic to see him come back to Bathurst again?

We hadn’t been in the media center more than five minutes before Panoz PR man Paul Ryan suggested a trip round the track – which neatly got round having to struggle up and down the track in the Toyota motorhome. Paul took it very gently, pausing at appropriate spots for us to admire the track and the view. Uphill is moderately steep, along the top of the Mountain is a thrill, but the downhill section is surely the most thrilling piece of track anywhere.

“A helter skelter,” was Paul Ryan’s description, and we can’t do any better than that. The steepness, the cambers, the sequence of corners: heaven knows what this is like during the night.


Morgan and Rollcentre logistics man Darrell Dixon described what the Dipper (above) was like in the days before the walls were constructed. “You could just launch the car across the dirt, then hope you landed it right, so you could get it straightened up and ready to take the next part. It’s still rather like that even now, although you can’t use the dirt because there isn’t any. But taking corners like this still loads up the driveshafts and suspension, so there’s a way of getting through there without doing harm to the car.”

Morgan Team Manager David Dowse pointed out that his blend of youth and experience (driving the Aero 8) had spent much of the day talking about the challenges of Bathurst, and therefore how Keith Ahlers, Neil Cunningham, Adam Sharpe and Tom Shrimpton were planning to bring the Morgan home at 14.00 on Sunday.

“It’s a really exciting driver line-up: two of them have driven together a lot this year, Keith Ahlers is so experienced in Morgans, while Tom Shrimpton is the really youthful one. Tom drove this car, the Richard Thorne Cup car, on the Stowe Circuit at Silverstone, while the rest of us were racing on the Bugatti Circuit ten days ago.”

Shrimpton: "I love the torque of V8s. It'll be perfect going up the hill."


Dowse was absolutely delighted with the progress the LM-GT car made at Le Mans: now he’s looking at Sebring, the LMES and, hopefully, Le Mans in 2004. “We’re going to find more speed before Sebring: the LMES is custom made for us, while Sebring fits in with the launch of the Aero 8 Mkll in North America, at the LA and New York Motor Shows.”

Right, back on Bathurst: while lapping the track in one of the red Holdens the staff are using here, we found Adam Sharpe, Neil Cunningham, Tom Shrimpton, and Pat Pearce (left to right) admiring the view at the top of the Mountain. A perfect photo opportunity, as captured by David Lord.


Pat Pearce was looking forward to driving the Mosler. “It will be totally different from the Porsche Matt (Griffin) and I raced this year in British GTs. With the Mosler, we’ll be able to ‘sit back’ a little and use the torque. With the Porsche, we were always using the engine all the way to the rev limit, and the car was always on the edge. This should be very different.”

Adam Sharpe was still suffering a little from the effects of three hours Aero 8 racing round the Bugatti Circuit on November 9. “In the LM-GT car, we use a Winston Cup gearbox for reliability, but it’s a heavy change and we lose out a little on every change.”

Adam pointed out that his father had played a major role in getting this Morgan – the Richard Thorne British GT Cup car – into the Bathurst 24 Hours, “with 45 minutes to spare. That’s why I’m listed as the entrant, but it’s Richard’s car of course, and David Dowse is managing the whole effort. I’ll be driving for Morgan next year.”

Neil Cunningham is more than just a driver, Adam Sharpe letting on that Neil is an expert at securing spares for the Morgans, in return for logos on the cars, or other services in return. Cunningham’s verbal skills (of persuasion) will henceforth be as well known as his immediate one-liners.

So who will the Morgan’s main rivals be this week, David Dowse? “All of them. It’s not simply about how fast you can go, which is why I personally love 24 hour races. Not losing time in the pits will be the key to a good result, of course.”

Richard Thorne’s outfit, with works support of course, has identified and fixed two reliability issue with the Cup Morgan this year: “The power steering, and routing the air flow to keep moisture away from the airflow metering. It was fine for the road car, but it wasn’t good enough for racing. We’ve fixed it.”

We’ll look at some of the local entries tomorrow, Thursday, as we build up to the track action starting on Friday. Besides the weather, the circuit and the entry (a full listing will be available tomorrow), we hear that ticket and campsite bookings are up on last year’s inaugural 24 hours, and this event, on this magical circuit, is going to build and build, year after year. That is exactly as it should be.



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