The newbie trail to Mt Panorama
By Gideon Street. Photos by Gideon Street and Des Hill.
A few months ago a post went up: Bathurst 2022… some time in May.
“Hey babe,” I said to herself.
“You know my birthday’s in May right?”
“I’ll sort out my own present out this year.” 😊
Get the car transported down, $2k you say, nah she’ll be right I’ll sort something. What’s that Des, there’s a trailer in Mackay for sale you say, well now there’s a bargain and quite serendipitous as I’ll only be 6 hours from there in a couple of weeks.
Drag that puppy down the highway, spend time with a wire wheel and a rattle can and all good, just don’t look too close.
Day before I leave, hey self, yes? put the trailer back together! Oh yeah right, that can’t be too hard, it’s just a trailer.
Sorted, easy as, only took 5 times longer because everything is wet and the shed floor just got painted and needs another couple of days to cure so this needs to be done outside in what feels like a monsoon. It’s always good to have at least 6 unfinished projects on the go I find.
Test fit the car? Nah the trailer was put together back to spec, even rang a couple people to find out what that spec was, including the rather nice man who built it, should be good.
Day of leaving, right so car doesn’t fit with the stone deflector in place, righto, hope the PPF holds up.
Change the schedule to a couple of 6-8 hour drive days and off we go. Few hours later, a quick call home, Hey babe. Yeah? Roads west of Toowoomba are closed due to flooding, can you jump on the gargler, jazz hand that sucker and see if you can get me through somewhere? Answer: You willing to drive through national forest? Mmm
Drive back to Brissie and down the M1 we go, 8 hours driving and I’m in Ballina, a few hours south of where I started. Time for a kip.
Midnight someone decides to reverse a truck in the carpark for what feels like an hour, then once parked, the world’s funniest joke was told which took about 2 six packs.
Half five, someone’s V8 was called in to provide a smokescreen for Ukraine artillery, so rather than risk getting caught in the cross fire I decided to get back on the road. Lets get to Coffs for a coffee, that should perk things up a bit.
What I was told should be a 9 hour drive, ye old GPS turned into 13 odd hours. By the way, Old Bells Line of Road in the Blue Mountains is magnificent. A great road that one should investigate, preferably when not towing said car that would be used to enjoy the aforementioned.
The welcome dinner (trust me I’m getting there). Lots of food, some beverages whilst we listen to some Lotus higher ups talk about Business tragedy and alignment with the 3 core values derived in 1980 or something. Old mate Darryl, stole from under my nose a rather lack lustre looking steak and replaced it with some lawn clippings on a coles chook. Apparently, the steak was horrible so I was all the better for never having tasted it.
Thanks to Google I missed scrutineering Monday, so up early to get that sorted and sign some forms about paying attention to something or other. Then another old mate telling us about not doing things and something about flags. He was quite insistent about flags, maybe he just had a semaphore class and wanted to pass on his knowledge, who knows, you have to admire people with a passion.
Roo’s, echidnas, some recipe with MSG and a bit more talking about 3 things that were repeated quite often and were very important. Dunno, cracking good coffee for a pit side coffee shop.
Then some people went out to drive fast, then some other people went out to drive faster, then I was supposed to go out and drive faster than some but not as fast as others. No problem, I haven’t been out on track with this green thing yet, I have zero desire to bend it, I’m a bit rusty, and still a bit tired. Start slow and build up was mentioned somewhere in between MSG and flags, so let’s do that.
Someone decided that the Redfern council way of life is the way things should be on this mountain. Half to 1 metre of grass, then solid concrete walls, routinely interspersed with going very sharply upwards or very sharply downwards, whilst also failing to continue in a straight line. There’s a storm drain in the middle which is apparently quite attractive but should be considered off limits. Oh, and there’s a very pretty view of some town that you’ll never have a chance to look at because there’s an awful lot of concrete walls about.
That was the top of the track, the bottom part consists of a few long straight bits, with a bit of a kink followed by a lot more of a kink. With the various kink bits being traversable at quite a rapid pace, if one were of some intestinal fortitude.
I started with not a lot of intestinal fortitude and built up a modicum of such across the day. Not as much as Des or Evan in their respective blue and yellow machinery but I ended the day having achieved my goal of learning more about how the green thing works and not bending anything. Big win in my book.
Changing pace from waxing lyrical, a lap to honour Tony was undertaken just after lunch. It consisted of 106 Lotus cars, led by Darryl, trying to stay in pairs for a slow lap, I hope it was seen as the lap of honour that it was intended to be! Watching some videos after the fact the emotion of the time was evident and everyone was proud to be involved, I know I was in my own small way. Being there this wasn’t a chore or something to do, everyone knew that what we do has its risks but we do it anyway, the highs are high, but the lows unfortunately in this instance are very low indeed. I won’t stop doing this because there’s nothing like it, and I’m fairly sure I’m not alone.
My greatest joy of the day was chasing, and being chased by, a near exact green thing (although one who decided carbon was a better roofing material than me, thanks Chris), listening to his exhaust note follow mine up or down in timber as we entered and exited the various straights and corners and laying waste to the egos of any who dared challenge us for precedence into and out of our corners, for those brief few moments we were in our prime. That may sound a bit over the top but this is truly a track that demands respect and conquering even a small part of it is worthy of celebration.
By my own admission I am not the greatest operator of combustion powered motor vehicles, but by golly gosh what an experience. It’s one I want to repeat because of and in spite of the problems that I encountered as at the end of the day we were all just there to have fun. 6.2 Kilometres of bitumen straddling a mountain provides an awful lot of opportunity to have fun, with a very sombre reminder that sometimes having fun has consequences but in my estimation worth it never the less. Would my no racing friends agree, I’m not sure, but I think you reading this probably do.
It’s the journey, it’s the learning, and more importantly it’s the people along the way. It’s my privilege to say that I value meeting all of you. Vale Tony.