Bathurst 1000 is more than just a great race, according to diehard fans

Every year a myriad quirky, colourful characters converge on Mount Panorama for the race that captures the nation’s attention.

But, for these motorsport diehards, the annual pilgrimage has become so much more than a sporting spectacle. For them, it’s about family, camaraderie, passion and remembrance.

On top of the mountain, trackside, there resides a pole that is embellished with three named plaques and photos, marked RIP.

Next to the tributes, Tim Daly and his 20 mates set up camp every year to watch the great race, while enjoying one another’s company.

“I’ve been coming to Bathurst for almost 20 years,” Daly told ABC Sport.

“What brings me back is the guys I’ve met here on the hill, the mates we’ve lost and come to remember.

“Gary — our mate who used to organise all of our campsites — died of bowel cancer. His ashes are spread on the McPhillamy sand trap and the rest were buried under the pole with his plaque up there.

Metal plaque and a photo tribute on a power pole on top of Mount Panorama
Tim Daly and his friend’s warming tribute to their dear friend Gary at the top of Mount Panorama.(ABC: Chloe Hart)

“Another mate, Wal, passed away last year and no one could make the funeral because of COVID-19. Our mate Steve’s daughter has a plaque on the pole too.

“We’ve come back up this year to pay tribute to them — it’s all about the mates — Ford or Holden we are all mates at the end of the day.”

Fellow diehard, Halder Green, also has a close friend whose last wish was to have his ashes spread on Booths Corner, along the V8 track of Mount Panorama.

Green says that, although coming to the circuit brings up happy and sad emotions, the annual event is a special sentiment he holds close to his heart.

“There’s a tree down on the corner, his wishes were to put his ashes there,” Greens said.

“We put a cross on the spot with ‘rest in peace Bruce’ and a photo.

“I go down there every year have a few beers and say hello to him. With the mountain and the V8’s, what else could you ask for?”

After last year’s camping was cancelled because of the pandemic, everyone is thrilled to be back.

“We come down here every year, follow all the racing and the cars. I’ve been coming since I was a young fella,” Green said.

“Bathurst is more than motor racing. Everybody is family up here. We missed last year but I’ve got my campsite back. We’re stoked to be back.”

Greg Parry drives nine hours every year from St Andrews in Victoria.

The Ford diehard sets up his retro Ford beside the track, year on year, along with his other custom-made memorabilia.

“This is my 16th year. It would have been 17 except for last year because of COVID,” Parry said.

Man standing with his retro Ford at the Bathurst 1000
Greg Parry alongside his pride and joy.(ABC: Chloe Hart)

“Ecstatic to be back, there’s a lot of people we haven’t seen in 12 months — it’s a reunion.

“We’ve got the barbecue and a mobility scooter all painted up like Fords, so we are certainly diehards.

“It’s the atmosphere [that he loves most] and I follow Dick Johnson [Racing]. But, mainly, the camaraderie, whether you’re Holden or Ford, it’s the beautiful people”

Walking through the campsite on top of the mountain, you’ll be stopped in your tracks coming across the Wobbly Boot Bowling Club.

A dedicated group of around 100 race fans from around Australia who have gathered at the Bathurst 1000 for the past 25 years collectively.

“I’ve been coming to Bathurst for 37 years — it started off just for the racing but then turned into getting together with mates — mates we only see and have met through Bathurst 1000,” said Wobbly Boot leader Robbie Christian, from Batlow.

Three men dress in Christmas outfits at the Bathurst 1000
Robbie Christian, left, with other members of the Wobbly Boot Bowling Club at the Bathurst 1000.(ABC: Chloe Hart)

“We all come back together every 12 months. It just gets bigger and bigger,” Christian said.

They have quite an impressive set-up, with two in-built bars, barbecues, TVs, slushie machines and even a bowling alley.

“I’ve got mates all over the hill. We’ve got their shirts, they’ve got ours. We are all just one, big, happy family bringing us back every year,” Christian said.

“We missed out last year so we’re making up for that.”

But who do the race diehards think will be crowned the king of the mountain for 2021?

“The first car that crosses the line,” Christian laughed. “It’s going to be tight this year, anyone’s bet.”

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