FEW people thought it was possible, but Sunday’s Bathurst 6 Hour has set the record for the largest field to ever start a major endurance race at Mount Panorama.
Sixty-four cars across seven classes started the day, breaking the historic record of 63 cars, last recorded in the 1984 James Hardie 1000.
Event director James O’Brien said he was “very happy” to see such a great start for the second running of the event.
“To have a record field of 64 cars, very happy with that. [It was] 79 years in the making,” he said.
The field was just the beginning of what ended up being a record-setting day.
After six hours of challenging racing, Luke Searle took out the race with co-drivers Paul Morris and Barry Graham.
Their victory thrust Morris into the history books, seeing him become the only driver to have won the Bathurst 1000, Bathurst 12 Hour and Bathurst 6 Hour.
In the final five minutes, however, it appeared Morris was going to narrowly miss out on the “triple-crown”, as it has been coined, to defending champions Chaz Mostert and Nathan Morcom.
A gearbox malfunction saw Searle able to claw his way back into first position with only minutes to go.
Spectators are in for more mountain rivalries in the future, with the size of the field and incremental growth of the crowd indicating the 6 Hour’s staying power.
Mr O’Brien said the feedback from teams had been positive and the crowd was likely to grow as the event cements itself on the calendar.
“I think there will be a small amount of growth each year as people realise the event is on and, secondly, it will grow in stature because of the drivers and the cars and the size of the field,” he said.
The strong potential for this event to grow bigger in the future is a positive for the city as well as the motor sport industry.
Mayor Graeme Hanger OAM said that there will be benefits to tourism and Bathurst’s visitor economy.
“There are local people of course, but there are also lots of out-of-towners who bring an entourage, not the big entourages that we have with the V8s, but they have to have a support crew and they have to be fed and they have to have a sleepover, so it is good,” he said.