This is the second edition of the Mountain Memories series for Supercars.com. Kicking off the countdown to this year’s Repco Bathurst 1000, we celebrate the long-held tradition of camping at the Great Race and hear the untold stories of Mount Panorama.
Gary Noble has camped at Bathurst since 2006, his site is 1546 in The Paddock.
My whole family goes to Bathurst each year, my son, his wife, and their kids go as well.
My son and I were the original ones, then my wife tagged along, and then my other son joined along the way.
I think the first one that my son and I went to was in 2006, and we only missed the one year when COVID stopped camping.
We have three sites in The Paddock, and we are right beside where Chaz Mostert’s and Mark Winterbottom's parents camp too.
We just say hello to them, we try to be polite but not daggy and hang off their side, but you just say hello.
That's a major part of the whole Bathurst experience, you can camp beside people that have million-dollar setups, or you can be staying there with just a swag on the ground, and everyone talks and gets on.
Like many dedicated campers, Noble’s annual pilgrimage to the Repco Bathurst 1000 has become a family tradition.
I grew up as a tiny kid, in the early 1970s watching Bathurst on television.
I remember watching Peter Brock and Alan Moffat, and I suppose it was ingrained in me.
Then when I got the opportunity to go, it just became a family tradition.
We are a bit of a bunch of diehards.
It's something that is a part of our family that we have to do, and we love it. Just the whole experience.
I still get excited when I come over the hill.
Every time I drive into Bathurst and see the sign at the top of the hill and see the flags, my heart starts going, it's just an experience.
I reckon everybody, no matter whether you like car racing or not, should do it.
It’s the whole Aussie camping experience.
People from all walks of life getting on, putting up with whatever the weather is because it's always either windy or snowing or you're hot or cold.
Noble’s first Bathurst 1000 in 2006 was one of the most emotional in the Great Race’s history. The biggest crowd ever seen at Mount Panorama witnessed Craig Lowndes honour his mentor, the late Peter Brock, in victorious style.
I remember lots of iconic memories on track.
I remember Fabian Coulthard’s enormous rollover right at The Chase in 2010.
He rolled about seven or eight times at The Chase, right in front of us.
That was an unbelievable experience watching that. Of course, you don’t like watching accidents, but that was a big moment.
The year that Brock died, the atmosphere at the race is something I’ll always remember.
The emotion, you can't describe.
Because of the emotion and because it was that transition period from the old school Bathurst camping, which was known to be really rough, particularly up the top of the mountain, and becoming more of a family environment.
At that time, there were enormous numbers of police. I can remember the police helicopters, and SWAT teams running around because there was just so much emotion at that event.
The Noble family has camped at The Paddock for nearly 15 years
That was really iconic.
For us, on a personal level, my son was young at the time, in his mid-teens.
He has Asperger's, which is a form of autism.
He was going through this really terrible time, and I took him to Bathurst, and it was a really important bonding moment for us.
It was a really difficult weekend for us, we had this really old Ute, that we converted to gas, and it had a terrible time going up and down the mountains to get there, it was conking in and out.
When we eventually got there and joined our group, they had all Dick Johnson's team in the tent with us and Dick Johnson's daughter.
That blew us away, to have members of an iconic team being in average people's camps, just to say hello.
Despite the hardship we were facing as a family at the time, going to the mountain was something we had to do, and we had to come back and do it again.
Now we have done it ever since.
Proving that camping can be accessible for all, Noble and his family have camped at The Paddock for nearly 15 years.
My wife has a rare condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
It's a physical disability, she has had probably around 60 surgeries and she’s had two strokes.
It means that she's used a wheelchair a lot of the time throughout her life.
In a Bathurst 1000 context, I can remember the first year we went camping, we weren’t in our current sites but over behind the Rydges hotel.
It rained and rained and trying to get a wheelchair in and out of the areas wasn’t fun.
But the volunteers were just unbelievable in terms of their support.
My wife doesn’t use a wheelchair at the moment, but there was a service that we used a few years ago that would come and pick people with disabilities up from their camping sites and drive them to where they needed to be.
They would pick us up at our site inside The Paddock and drive us down to where the bus stop was so that we could get the bus to go up to the top of the mountain.
Or drive us to the viewing platform, down the corner near Murray’s, that sort of thing.
There is pretty good support for people with disabilities.
Making the trip from Queensland each year, Noble believes the 1000km journey to Mount Panorama is just as important as the Great Race itself.
The major part not only for Queenslanders but for people from all over Australia is the drive, it is a real journey to get there.
One of the iconic parts is driving to Mount Panorama.
It is a highlight for us.
The Kelly brothers used to do it too, they would drive an old caravan up from country Victoria.
It represents what the Bathurst 1000 is about for everyone.