The iconic Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is going back to the future in just 30 days.
This year’s event will be the first time in two decades makes other than Ford and Holden will take on Mount Panorama; one of the world’s most challenging, and brutal, tracks.
Nissan and the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG will return; the first time since the infamous ‘Godzilla’ won on the Mountain in 1992 and Mercedes-Benz last tackled the Bathurst 1000 in 1990.
To mark the occasion four modern day drivers joined some of their legendary counterparts in a unique assembly at Sydney’s Darling Harbour today.
V8 Supercars Championship contender Will Davison and fellow drivers Lee Holdsworth, Rick Kelly and Bathurst great Russell Ingall united with legends Dick Johnson, Mark Skaife, Jim Richards and George Miedecke (son of racing great Andrew Miedecke) for the spectacle.
All eight greats took part in a public autograph session which saw large crowds take advantage of the unique opportunity.
V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton said it was the start of the next generation of V8 Supercars, with Volvo also returning to the grid in 2014.
“The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is one of Australia’s greatest and most iconic international sporting events,” Mr Warburton said.
“In exactly 30 days’ time one of the world’s most famous races will be watched by hundreds of millions of people across the world; and one of the biggest television audiences in Australian sport.
“The rich tapestry of Australian motorsport and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is embedded in many of these cars and their drivers.”
Jim Richards championed the Mountain seven times; two of those were when he and Mark Skaife piloted the Nissan GT-R before the speedy make exited the sport in 1992.
Richards said the return of the two marques would make the race a great spectacle.
“You certainly get renewed interest now that Nissan and Benz are back in the series with Holden and Ford – I think it’ll be one of the best ever,” Richards said.
Russell Ingall, a two-time winner at the Mountain, relishes the endurance season and is confident he’s a chance to challenge for another victory.
“We’re really looking forward to it – I’ve got a great driver in (co-driver) Ryan Briscoe, another Aussie doing us proud in the USA,” the Supercheap Auto Commodore driver explained.
“We’re pretty strong. This is what we’re gearing up and have been building up for all year and we want to come out swinging. I have two Bathursts behind me and it’d be nice to get number three.”
In the Championship hunt sitting second in the points, 2009 Bathurst winner Will Davison said that while the Championship crown was important, Bathurst was the ‘holy grail’ of our sport.
“It certainly is a tough one to juggle but at the end of the day Bathurst is the holy grail, the big one you want to win,” the Pepsi Max Ford driver said.
“You focus on that and if you do (win) you put yourself in great Championship contention as well.
“It’s been an incredible year, so competitive, so frustrating at times, everyone’s so fast out there, everyone’s doing a great job … We’re in with a good shot and it would certainly be good to get a win for the blue oval at Bathurst after doing it in a Holden.
“It’s great to see all the different brands out on the grid this year, it’s very special to be out here with the legends next to us. There’s so much history at Bathurst – let’s make sure it keeps growing strong.”
Six-time winner Mark Skaife also emphasised the competitiveness of this year’s Championship, which has seen 12 different winners, eight different teams win races and 14 different place getters.
“When there are 300 points on offer for each race now, the pressure’s on at a place like Bathurst – to not only win the race but to burst your Championship chances.”