24 Hours – Conclusions
Turning The GT World Upside Down
Race For The Win
Klaus Engelhorn, joint owner of the Baron-Engelhorn Ferrari, had
some interesting opinions on the way the race developed (he was
speaking shortly before the Monaros dipped into the 2:14s during
the closing moments of the race):
set a 2:15 in our car, within a couple of tenths of the Monaros’
best, but they have another 200 bhp more than us. Either
- they didn’t run at full speed
- or Andrea is a better driver than the Holden drivers
- or the Modena is better over the kerbs than the Monaro (allowing
us to get so close to their times).
you to decide which to apply to the situation at this event.”
Garry Rogers had some
equally interesting thoughts (which were expressed in the race programme):
“… we’ve got to hope that the others have some
problems where we can hopefully make up the shortcomings that we
will have in actual vehicle speed. And that’s where I see
our best opportunities will be.”
In other words, Garry
Rogers didn’t think the Monaros would be fast enough.
Those thoughts didn’t
sit too well with the observation that the Holdens looked so easy
at 2:19 or 20. And then, in traffic, during the last three laps
of the race, both of them ripped off 2:14s.
a new engine next year: we had 50 bhp more at Le Mans, and with
that engine here, we would have pushed the Monaros harder. If we
had pushed them harder…,” wondered Klaus Engelhorn.
Let’s look a little
more closely at what did happen during those closing laps…..
“Who would have thought that we’d have to go hammer
and tongs like that,” said Garth Tander afterwards.
Of course, it’s
no good relying on a driver to help perpetrate a little deception,
which was clarified when his last laps rival admitted that "the
call was made to have a fight at the finish," (Greg Murphy).
But the hammer and tongs
were very exciting: all credit to Garry Rogers for allowing Tander
and Murphy to go at it so enthusiastically. The task was to make
a great show, but not collide or go or off in the process. The two
drivers put on a brilliant show, amid much ‘oohing and aahing’
from the press corps. It was wonderful entertainment, but 2:14s
in such close company, so close to the end – in traffic. What
are the Monaros really capable of?
Can you imagine two Audis
pretending to race like this at Le Mans?
So, to almost conclude
this part of the wrap up, the Monaros put up an outstanding performance
for 23 hours 53 minutes, hardly giving anyone else a look in, and
then took some risks to provide brilliant entertainment for seven
“It’s a fantastic circuit, the real deal,” pointed
out Klaus Engelhorn. “It’s dangerous and it’s
difficult: if there was more gravel, you’d have more chances
to get though the race even if you made a mistake. But if it’s
secure and easy, why do it?
Thanks to the generosity
of the organisers and personnel at the track, one of our number
had three separate excursions around Mount Panorama. Paul Ryan took
it nice and gently, Ross Palmer took it even more gently, while
Pete in the Chase Car took Lordy and I round in “about 3:05.”
Across the top was great fun, but coming down was the most exhilarating
ride possible – on any circuit anywhere, we believe. There
is no other circuit like it.
Klaus Engelhorn spun
on his own oil, Heather Spurle was cut off by a slower car and spun,
while Allan Simonsen had the mother and father of all moments after
another puncture on the Lamborghini, but despite finding grass,
he still managed to keep it off the walls. No doubt there were other
incidents up there we didn’t hear about. Someone saw Uwe Alzen
pass a Monaro round the outside, somewhere up there, in the pouring
rain: this is a circuit on which legends are created. Drama is guaranteed,
lasting memories are assured.
In some ways
though, Mount Panormama and the Bathurst 24 Hours are well kept
secrets. They won’t stay that way internationally for long.
Let’s pick out a few of the names: Ross Palmer, Brian Lawrence,
Chris Nixon and Peter Turner of PROCAR, and Maggie and Errin in
the press room. You simply could not conjure up a more helpful and
welcoming group than these. “We don’t know how others
do it,” said PROCAR PR Chris Nixon, “so we just do it
our own way.” Please don’t worry about finding out any
other ways to do it, Chris. From food in the press room, to offering
chances of laps of the circuit, to a shower (plus towels, soap and
shampoo) in the press room, to introductions to anyone and everyone
who could add to a reporter’s understanding of the event,
this meeting was a brilliant experience (for me) from start to finish.
Next year there will
be a new row of pit garages and suites, and a new press room. The
only niggle we could find was the slow phone lines, and they weren’t
that slow, and we could cope with that.
Should we take any wet weather gear? Perhaps we ought to, just in
the 24 Hours, we sorted out the drought too,” chuckled Ross
Friday was changeable,
adding to the difficulties for the teams – of getting cars
and drivers dialled in and qualified in one day. Perhaps the wet
second session was a help though…. The two downpours during
the race were just about confined to Saturday, and what rain! Some
teams had just had fresh slicks fitted before the first deluge,
and the likes of Pat Pearce had to slip and slide their way in to
the pits on slicks – “I was full lock this way, full
lock that way, then back again.” How easy it would have been
to have lost it at 15 mph – but at least it shouldn’t
have been a race ending accident. Tim Harvey described how bad it
was while trying to find the car in front, in the Safety Car queue.
Looking for the walls then steering away from them? This place is
dramatic enough without biblical volumes of water drenching the
track and everyone out there.
A Kiwi in a tent next
to our little camper behind the paddock was seen to try and dig
channels to divert the rain around his tent, then gave up and trudged
off to watch the midnight race.
David Lord kept
the same clothes on throughout the race, and his trousers were still
damp at bedtime on Sunday… “And don’t forget to
mention the parrots and the ants.”
Did the weather put some off coming? It almost certainly did. But
a three day crowd of 41,000 was double last year’s.
seems to be the local term for those less desirable race fans who
set up shop at the top of The Mountain, and binge their way through
the meeting. The funniest story we heard was of the group at the
1000 Kms who spotted the cappuccino vendor setting up his machine.
They watched and waited, and when he left his post to attend to
a call of nature, they blew up his machine. Literally. Whatever
they used, the poor cappuccino machine exploded – upwards.
33 cars finished, from 45 starters: that is an excellent reliability
record. Commiserations go to the 888 Porsche and Honda S2000 squads,
the final retirements, the 911 with only moments of the race left.
In terms of potential
class or race winners, the significant retirements were the BE Ferrari,
the PHR BMW, the Cirtek Porsche (24) and the Morgan.
It was the loss of the
Ferrari that hurt the race the most, although the Morgan had become
a real crowd pleaser before its engine failure a quarter of the
way through the race. We loved following what the Richard Thorne
boys were up to, and Neil Cunningham in particular was as effervescent
as one of that poor chap’s cappuccinos. Keith Ahlers was the
one at the wheel when the Morgan suffered that first hour hose leak,
but it didn’t seem to get him down at all. Where would the
Moggie have finished had the engine not let go?
We loved the Lamborghini
effort. Its only mechanical ailment was a broken (and very hard
to find) spark plug connector, but that series of punctures was
at first worrying and then frightening. Time after time they bolted
on fresh rubber and sent Simonsen and co. on their way towards who
knows what, but an eighth place at the flag was almost an overall
win in terms of pure satisfaction derived from getting it home.
Here are some interesting statistics, based on the spread of best
lap times from the drivers in each of the following (significant)
cars. The first figure is the spread from fastest to slowest driver
in each car. The second figure is the spread from fastest to third
fastest (therefore ignoring the best time from the slowest driver
in each car).
1. 05 Monaro 2.8 secs 1.0 secs
2. 427 Monaro 2.6 secs 2.4 secs
3. 54 Porsche 5.5 secs 4.5 secs
4. 6 Porsche 5.0 secs 3.2 secs
5. 900 Mosler 8.4 secs 2.4 secs
6. 7 Porsche 1.3 secs 1.2 secs
7. 8 Porsche 4.1 secs 1.6 secs
8. 20 Lamborghini 2.6 secs 1.7 secs
70 Porsche 12.3 secs
888 Porsche 10.3 secs 9.8 secs
24 Porsche 19.9 secs 13.5 secs
48 Ferrari 6.3 secs 2.2 secs
420 BMW 10.1 secs 1.5 secs.
What do these figures
prove? Well, the excellent Falken Tyres Porsche effort might have
got closer to the Monaros with four more evenly balanced drivers,
but what a stunning effort it was anyway.
The likes of Tim Harvey
in the 24 Porsche and David Brabham, Andrea Montermini and Philipp
Peter in the 48 Ferrari might have been very well matched, but Harvey
didn’t have the support that Brabham did, for example.
As this 24 hour
race develops in the coming years, expect more and more strong driver
What contrasting fortunes these four enjoyed during the three days
of the meeting.
It was the Mosler that
was ‘again’ best of the Brits at Bathurst: ‘again’
because it was almost the only British entry last year. This time,
Martin Short was scratching his head (and eye?) on Friday, wondering
how to make the 2003 Mosler behave through the dips and sweeps:
he knew the answer of course, and his three laps in the 2:15s just
after dawn were wonderful proof that the man loves this place –
and has mastered it. All three co-drivers provided wonderful support
in their different ways, and each was a hero / heroine in his /
her own way.
Some found the
Morgan simply funny. It’s appearance is dramatically different
from anything else, but we’d call that a plus. Keith Ahlers
running in a very solid 12th for the first half hour, and then Neil
Cunningham setting a best lap of 2:25 were proof of what this car
can achieve, and with a different engine management system for 2004,
expect even better results.
Did Rob Schirle
work his crew harder than any other? A very late night on Friday
paid off with the green Kawasaki car on Saturday and Sunday, a fine
seventh placed finish for Ian and Andrew Donaldson, Liz Halliday
and Peter Floyd.
The GNM Porsche did make
it to the finish, and only Tommy Erdos knows how he set a 4:19 on
his first visit to the track.
Track action starting on Friday made it difficult for some, probably
none more so than Graham Nash’s crew. “Three days of
solid action, that’s how it should be,” said Nash on
Thursday. And it was. Two engine changes and three qualifying sessions
in one day, and then the TAFE guys straightening the 911 GT3-R from
1am until 8 am: but didn’t it look good in Sunday’s
Ten out of ten. Let’s hope the new complex retains the atmosphere
of the old. Everyone was extremely keen to tell their story, but
we found it tough (OK, we failed) to keep up with most of the local
teams. We had five of us at the 1000 Km…. And a smaller entry.
We met many, but must have missed many more. Darrell Dixon (Rollcentre
and Morgan logistics) was larger than life, his mum (right) even
more so. She was up all night feeding the two teams and was still
smiling at 7am on Sunday, despite a broken arm. What with Darrell’s
broken ankle last year (Shorty ran over it), breaks seem to run
in the family.
(below) was great fun to be around, his racefax
keeping everyone informed as often as he could produce it. We loved
his ‘dsc’ trainers, but Mrs dsc wasn’t so sure…
When the score became 17-17, one of the Australians with Rollcentre
suggested “get on the radio and tell Shorty the score.”
He didn’t have the same idea moments later when England took
the lead again.
The press room went awfully
quiet with that last score, but most Australians were gracious enough
to admit that England did deserve to win this one.
Extra time at Bathurst
probably wouldn’t have made a difference to the result, the
Monaros looking as though they could have run for another 24 hours.
We loved those V8 Brutes. How much would it cost to bring one to
the UK, for editorial use?
The final Bathurst
tale involves this young man, Peter (below) by name. He was so sure
that the Morgans are built with a frame made of wood that he borrowed
his parents’ mobile phone to call the local radio station
and answer the question. He was the winner, although we’re
not sure that he won.
We found the
gentleman with him in this image (above) at Eastern Creek (below)
a week later – for the final rounds of the V8 Supercars. That's
Mark Skaife jumping the start, almost handing the title to Marcus
Ambrose. The lunchtime entertainment on Saturday involved a jet-powered
Donut King van, plus a couple of Donut King V8 Brutes. The circuit
had never seen such a crowd on a Saturday, but as the Bathurst 24
Hours grows and grows, we’re expecting the Australian endurance
race to broaden its appeal, with both fans and teams. Don’t
miss next year’s event, either as a participant or a spectator.