Breaking the Bathurst time barriers

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 06/10/2019
  • By Will Dale, V8 Sleuth

There's something magical about a never-before-seen number popping up on the timing screen at Bathurst.

Greg Murphy’s 2m06s in 2003 and Scott McLaughlin’s 2m03s 14 years later are two of the event’s most iconic modern-era moments.

With a 2:02s being touted as possible if conditions are favourable next weekend, we look back at the laps that have broken new ground on the Mountain.

We start with 1987; the first year of the current circuit configuration featuring The Chase on Conrod Straight.

The benchmark for the original layout will forever remain George Fury's 2m13.85s lap during the Top 10 Shootout for the 1984 race.

2m16.969s – Klaus Ludwig, Top 10 Shootout, 1987

The stunning black and red Texaco-sponsored Eggenberger Ford Sierras were untouchable on speed in 1987 – notwithstanding the illegal body modifications that had them disqualified from their one-two finish in the race.

German racer Klaus Ludwig was the quickest of them all, the Bathurst rookie punching out the first 'sixteen' of the post-Chase era on sticky qualifying tyres in the Hardie's Heroes shootout.

An illustration of just how big a leap forward the RS500 Sierra was over its rivals? Ludwig's lap was 0.19s faster than Gary Scott's pole time from the year before, and Scott's Nissan didn't have the Chase to contend with…

2m15.80s – Peter Brock, Top 10 Shootout, 1989

The 'King of the Mountain' capped his return to competitiveness in 1989 by putting his Ford Sierra on pole for the Bathurst 1000.

The lap wasn't without some controversy: a peek under the bonnet of Brock's Sierra revealed a nozzle connected to the on-board fire extinguisher system was squirting the intercooler, boosting horsepower.

He copped a $5,000 sanction – from the teams' association, not CAMS – for the setup.

2m13.84s – Tony Longhurst, Qualifying 1, 1990

Ahead of the 1990 race, the entire 6.213-kilometre layout was resurfaced for the first time in its entirety in decades.

Tony Longhurst unleashed his Ford Sierra RS500 in the opening qualifying session, bypassing the 'fourteens' entirely with a 2m13.84s to secure provisional pole.

Coincidentally, Longhurst's teammate Alan Jones posted an identical time in a later session in the sister B&H Sierra.

2m12.84s – Mark Skaife, Qualifying 1, 1991

It's unsurprising that a Nissan GT-R appears on this list. Rising star Skaife was entrusted qualifying duties at Bathurst, and set Mount Panorama's first 'twelve' straight off the bat in the opening session.

He went even faster in the Shootout, setting a time that took the new winged, five-litre V8s introduced at the end of 1992 a couple of years to beat.

2m11.86s – Dick Johnson, Top 10 Shootout warm-up, 1994

Unlike today where drivers have a five-hour wait, the 10 fastest drivers had a special 15-minute warm-up session directly before the Shootout on Saturday morning back in 1994.

Johnson wrung the Mountain's first 'eleven' out of his #17 Falcon in the warm-up that year, but failed to repeat the dose when it counted.

The car stepped out on him exiting the Cutting during his Shootout lap, slapping the wall and consigning him to 10th on the grid. Not that it hurt he or co-driver John Bowe, who went on to win the race.

2m10.9529s – Craig Lowndes, Qualifying 1, 1996

The battle for pole in 1996 was largely a fight between just two drivers: Lowndes and Glenn Seton.

While the Ford pilot stormed to provisional pole and topped the Shootout, it was Holden's young star who'd fired the first shot by delivering the first '10' to top the opening qualifying session.

2m09.8993s – Mark Skaife, Top 10 Shootout warm-up, 1997

In front of a record crowd on hand to farewell Peter Brock in (at the time) his final Bathurst 1000 start, qualifying duties in the #05 Commodore were entrusted to new Holden Racing Team recruit Mark Skaife.

Proving he was more than up to the task, Skaife dropped the first 'nine' in the warm-up and secured pole with a lap that was nearly its equal.

2m08.7630s – Jason Bright, Top 15 Shootout warm-up, 2001

The circuit was completely resurfaced ahead of the 2001 event, which saw the official lap record undercut come race day.

Bright foreshadowed that by setting Mount Panorama's first 'eight' the day before, almost a second faster than anyone else.

Nobody was able to come close to it in the Top 15 Shootout – including Bright, who had a moment at Griffins Bend on his flying lap and managed no better than a low '10' for fourth on the grid.

2m07.9900s – Mark Skaife, Friday qualifying, 2003

Skaife, John Bowe and Greg Murphy engaged in a thrilling battle for provisional pole for the 2003 race.

All three dipped into the 'sevens' at the close of the session, Skaife breaking the barrier first before being undercut by Murphy.

As spectacular as it was, it wasn't very long before doing a 'seven' became old hat…

2m06.8594s – Greg Murphy, Top 10 Shootout, 2003

So much has been written about the 'Lap of the Gods' in the years since, but it hasn't dulled the impact of seeing the Kiwi setting unimaginable split times, then registering a seemingly impossible number at its end.

In the first Saturday afternoon Shootout shown live on television, Murphy delivered his incredible performance in front of the largest audience ever to witness a Top 10 Shootout live to that point.

Befitting of the magnitude of the achievement, Murphy's lap wasn't beaten by another Supercar for seven years.

2m05.9011s – Mark Winterbottom, Practice 5, 2014

Mount Panorama was again resurfaced in its entirety ahead of the 2014 race. Although the new tarmac famously broke up and caused the race to be red-flagged, it delivered blistering speeds in the lead-up.

Fabian Coulthard took provisional pole with a 'five', but he wasn't the first to set one.

Appropriately that honour went to the driver of car #5, Winterbottom setting the time in Friday's last practice session ahead of Qualifying.

2m04.9097s – Jamie Whincup, Practice 5, 2015

Like it had the previous year, Friday's Practice 5 session saw a Supercars driver smash through another of Mount Panorama's lap time barriers.

Whincup's lap came out of nowhere; the #1 Holden hadn't been near the top of the times until that point of the weekend, but proved to be one of the cars to beat on race day.

2m03.8312s – Scott McLaughlin, Top 10 Shootout, 2017

In contrast to Whincup's first 'four', McLaughlin had been the benchmark car for most of the weekend.

On Friday, in the heat of the day, he set a 2m04.1470s lap that was the first for a Supercar around Mount Panorama at an average speed of over 180 km/h.

Carrying the pressure of knowing he'd have to beat David Reynolds' 2m04.27s to take pole, McLaughlin delivered a lap that was almost half a second quicker, the 'three' triggering a hero's reception upon his return to the pits.

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