TWELVE months after the inaugural edition of Challenge Bathurst, a close to capacity field will tackle the slopes of Mount Panorama this week as the event returns.
A four-day event, Challenge Bathurst is unique in that it caters for both car club members and more serious drivers looking to gain valuable track time at the circuit ahead of events such as February’s Bathurst 12 Hour.
It is split into a super sprint – where drivers race against the clock – on Thursday and Friday, with two days of regularity to follow.
Event director James O’Brien was happy to see the good response after the first Challenge Bathurst attracted 322 entries. However, the growth is something he anticipated.
“It’s a good field, we are 10 spots under capacity, 435 is the maximum capacity and we’re at 425,” he said.
“We were targeting 90 percent capacity and we’ve achieved that. It will be hard to maximise it because there are always withdrawals leading into the event, realistically anything within single figures of the max capacity is about the best we can hope for. So we are very satisfied with the result this year.
“I’m not really surprised actually, because in the first year you’ll always have people that didn’t hear about it for whatever reason or might sit back on the fence and see what it’s all about.
“We are pretty confident that the package was good enough, it’s the right price, that people who went, we were confident a large percentage of them would return and they’d spread the message to their friends in the motor sport fraternity.
“So we were confident of getting a good up size, we just didn’t know what that would be.”
While still in its infancy, O’Brien feels the future of Challenge Bathurst is looking good given the event fills a niche others staged at the Mount do not.
“Part of the design of the event is catering for Bathurst 1000, Bathurst 6 Hour and 12 Hour competitors, it gives them the opportunity to get some more laps under their belt,” he said.
“For those car clubs and club level racers who might not get the opportunity to compete at one of those big events, they get the opportunity to come and cut some laps around the mountain too.
“It’s important that it doesn’t cannibalise any other event which is has done because it’s not a race. It just fits nicely into supporting them, for want of a better term.
“The super sprint is more designed for the racers and regularity for the club level guys. It’s the only opportunity they get to come to the mountain with the exception of the Porsche Club of New South Wales, it has an annual sport at the Bathurst 6 Hour.
“There are some beautiful cars, there are plenty of GT3 cars, GT4 cars and production cars as well, there’s a big cross section of cars. You’ll have anything from road going club cars through to GT3 cars, they are all eligible.”
The field includes the likes of four-time Bathurst 1000 victor Steve Richards (BMW M4 GT4) as well as a number of Central West drivers such as Matthew McLellan (Radical SR3RS), Brad Schumacher (Lotus Exige S) and Chris Kingston (BMW E36/7 Roadster).
Action in the second edition of Challenge Bathurst will commence at 8.20am on Friday.