Come a particular Sunday in the month of October, each year petrol heads across the world strap themselves in for Australia’s biggest day of motor racing – the Great Race.
For about as long as I can remember in my household Bathurst has always graced the television screen; I remember it so well because it was the only day of the year when Three News had to battle to maintain its timeslot.
With the duration of the Great Race spanning practically an entire working day, understandably many less dedicated people choose to create their own virtual highlight reel: watching the beginning of the race, along with the first few laps; the end of the race, along with the last few laps; with a few periodic updates thrown in along the way.
Since having my own place thus total control of the television, from as far back as 2004, I have fond memories of dedicating this entire Sunday to the Great Race; in the early days, despite the race itself not being underway until 1 p.m., I recall flicking on the TV at 10 and catching all the preliminary racing hype…
Three years ago I did just that. Two years ago, around 11 a.m. I flicked on 55 inches of Sony Bravia LCD (first of its size to go on sale in New Zealand, now over five years old, possibly outdated but still awesome), and watched in delight as the Porsches, the Formula Fords, the Suzuki Swifts and all the other classes of racecar flew around the famous Mount Panorama racetrack at Bathurst. I recall seeing the spectators, seeing all the the enthusiasts; seeing those who only saw the race between foraging for cans of beer amid the depths of their Eskis, and those who appeared too drunk to see much of anything. I saw Bathurst. I saw the sensational television coverage, I saw so many different camera angles and viewpoints; I saw the camera-equipped helicopter all day flying up and down Conrod Straight just to secure that birds’ eye vantage point. I saw Bathurst.
…Suffice to say, two years ago, the Great Race was a reasonably big day on my calendar.
One year ago I flicked on the TV at 10 with Bathurst preliminaries in mind, to see some cheesy daytime television show. On consulting my television page I saw that someone had made a terrible mistake. What were the television editors at Sunday News doing, I asked myself, with that uneasy feeling of foreboding collecting at the base of my neck. One year ago I knew something was wrong. Perhaps they were just not screening Bathurst this year until the main race..? But why, I wondered; that wouldn’t be very fair on the Suzuki Swift supporters. This wasn’t right, something was up; where was the racing – where was Bathurst?
Finally I realised what I realised I had known all along. Bathurst is no longer a free-to-air production. One year ago, on that realisation, I vomited in my mouth just a little bit.
Speaking to my father later that evening one year ago I was surprised to find him similarly bemused; he after all, pays for the honour of viewing television. He asked me, “Where was Bathurst today?”
I responded, “I think it was in Australia, think it’ll be there tomorrow, too.”
“Don’t be a smart-arse,” he said, one year ago, “I mean why wasn’t it on TV?”
“That’s a good point,” I said, “I would’ve expected it would have been a part of your deluxe programming…”
“Well I couldn’t find it,” he concluded in disbelief.
This year, having clean forgotten about last year’s debacle, I was again excited about Bathurst. Having bought my paper containing the TV page then checking the TV page, the memories of last year’s horror show came flooding in. I recall thought/mumbling several profane utterances before having a half-arsed slap on my drums then stomping dejectedly outside.
I came back in minutes later to fetch my (Holden Racing Team) bucket hat and saw the paper where I had left it. I wonder where Bathurst is screening, I thought to myself, riffling through pages of All Black support until finally coming upon one Bathurst-dedicated page. Scott McLaughlin was taking readers through the Mount Panorama racetrack which, fetching my glasses and taking a seat, I read with some interest. Minutes later, feeling as though I could have driven that track just as well as he did, I remembered what I was originally seeking.
Sure enough, in small print at the bottom of that page were the words, ‘Coverage on Sky Sport 4 from Noon’.
Sky Sport 4? Shit I had no idea there was even a Sky Sport 3.
As per last year, guess I’ll be catching the Bathurst highlights on Three News tonight.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Pete L Vision
Photography by Beth Hurst