MOUNT Panorama is set to host the largest motor sport event since the resumption of racing this year, with over 300 competitors expected for this month's Challenge Bathurst.
That number could be further bolstered as well as even though official entries have now closed, organisers continue to try and accommodate drivers who have spent much of the year without events to compete in due to COVID-19.
Late entries from Queensland and Victoria will be accepted without financial penalty, should border restrictions mean entrants can now make the trip to conquer the Mount between November 26-29.
Event director James O'Brien is delighted Challenge Bathurst can still go ahead given COVID-19 forced the cancellation of events such as this year's Bathurst 6 Hour and inaugural edition of the Bathurst International.
"It was looking a little dire for awhile there, but there were enough competitors in New South Wales alone to make the event viable and now with the announcements about the Queensland and Victorian borders, we're getting a number of late entries to the event as well, so the numbers are healthy," O'Brien said.
"It was always a possibility [it could be cancelled], but of all the events that go ahead at Mount Panorama it's the least affected by COVID in terms of it's size, how it's set up, the lack of spectators, lack of corporates, lack of ticketing.
"It's really just an event for the competitor and their car. So we were always hopeful of having the event go on, it was just a matter of attracting enough entries to make it viable.
"Challenge Bathurst [is] the largest event to be held since the return of motor sport."
First run in 2016, Challenge Bathurst has proved popular with not only teams looking to get valuable data prior to the 12 Hour, but for drivers simply looking for a chance to lap the famous circuit.
In both 2018 and 2019 Challenge Bathurst received close to 400 entries.
I enjoy seeing the joy on the drivers' faces after they get out of their car after doing a lap of the mountain.James O'Brien
While this year's event will not attract renowned international drivers as has been the case in the past - men such as Christopher Mies and Ben Barnicot having previously set hot laps at the Mount - O'Brien points out that Challenge Bathurst has not been focused on professionals.
"This event is primarily for grassroots motor sport, club level guys and girls through to competitors on a state level then up at the pointy end there'll be some professional drivers here testing their vehicles," he said.
"But the vast majority are club level competitors and grassroots motor sport. That's what the event is targeted at and obviously there are a huge amount of competitors at that level.
"Even non-club level guys, just enthusiasts, it's still a bucket list item when they find out they can come here in a road car and belt around Mount Panorama. There are some checks and balances obviously, but they're not onerous."
As has been the case in past editions, the first half of the four-day event will be a super sprint before a regularity component on the concluding two days.
Thus far 98 competitors across four groups, including one dedicated entirely to Australian GT machinery, have been confirmed for the super sprint, and more than 200 for the regularity.
There are five groups of regularity competitors, including one full field of competitors representing the Porsche Club of New South Wales.
A final entry list will be released closer to the event but O'Brien knows all those that do come will enjoy the experience of testing themselves at one of the world's greatest circuits.
"After running some of the big events over the years, I enjoy seeing the joy on the drivers' faces after they get out of their car after doing a lap of the mountain," he said.
"It reminds you of how special the place is, so the more people who can experience it, the better."