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Is the Bathurst 12 Hour better than the Bathurst 1000?
By Matthew Hansen • 17/02/2017
Blogging Bathurst musings in the wake of one of the craziest 12 Hour races ever
What wakes you up at 4am?
Is it the sound of a baby crying. Possibly a text from your first love. Is it just the necessity of work?
The 4am wake-up call is something we love as children on Christmas morning, then grow to dread in our older years.
It's 3.56am on a Sunday morning, and I'm sauntering around my hotel room blindly reaching out for a light switch.
There's a slight regret there in the background, knowing that many of my friends won't awake from their slumber for at least a few more hours. The utter bastards.
This doesn't feel like winning, but it is. This is going to be one of the best days of photography for every motorsport photgrapher in attendance, though you do need to swallow a bit of pain to be able to savour the pleasure.
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour has always been this way; a haven for those of us lucky enough to chase cars all year with cameras due to its unique early start.
They call it 'Golden Hour', when the sun has just risen and the light has a gorgeous red hue. Worth the wake-up call, and the only opportunity for many people here to shoot these kinds of cars in these conditions.
The 12 Hour is this mouth-watering holy trinity of circumstances: it takes place during a full spectrum of lighting conditions, the cars competing are some of the most exotic in the Southern hemisphere, and it takes place at Mount Panorama — one of the greatest circuits in the world.
The 1000km variant is still my main love. The atmosphere of that event is unrivaled by anything else in Australasia. But, there's something to be said for the 12 Hour's smaller scales.
The ability to drive wherever you want, whenever you want — even during the race on Sunday — is excellent. Especially compared to the 1000, where during the weekend it's almost impossible to drive anywhere.
One of the other cool things at the 12 Hour is the international contingent present. There's press people representing brands like Audi and Bentley that fly out to the event to document the weekend.
Coupling those people with the sharp-as-a-tack Radio Le Mans crew that pop down each year, and of course the vast contingent of overseas GT drivers, and it gives the event a great international flavour behind the scenes. Like you're reporting on a Formula 1 event minus the egos.
We had a total of 14 New Zealanders on the grid. That number then grew by two when we realised that we'd skipped over a couple — my apologies to them.
It was an incredible number, one that I think speaks to a future focus on GT formulae.
Our own North and South Island Endurance Series' feature a growing number of GT3-specification cars, and at a time where people are asking what the next category will be to lead the Kiwi circuit-racing framework, they seem like a solid, if overlooked, option.
Naturally though, given all the pre-race hype, many of the New Zealanders fell by the wayside. Earl Bamber fought to the lead before retiring with suspension problems, Andrew Waite's McLaren crashed out of third, and Shane van Gisbergen's race ended with the flag in sight at the exit of the Dipper.
And that's just what endurance racing at Bathurst does — it spits up variables and creates scenarios that you simply would never see anywhere else.
Just about the only familiar on-track sight was that of van Gisbergen dicing with Jamie Whincup. There is zero love loss between these two guns, even at speeds in excess of 250kph where the pair seemed almost happy to make contact and hit each other.
Whincup and co-drivers Toni Vilander and Craig Lowndes proved to be deserving winners. They were one of the quickest cars in the build up, and were the quickest in the race.
It's telling of course that so many of Australia's biggest names are putting their name into the 12 Hour hat on an annual basis. Telling too that the Supercars Championship are now the ones who promote this event.
It suggests that the growth of GT racing in Australia is now getting to a point where the formula (and by proxy the Australian GT Championship) are considering their guns next to the hulking juggernaut of the Supercars — who themselves are in a bit of a sticky situation with manufacturer involvement toing and froing by the minute.
It's a perfect storm that's helped invigorate a culture of nastiness among certain fans — keen to play the 'my thing is bigger and better than your thing' card at the first opportunity during debate.
Great. Another divide in motorsport. Exactly what we all need.
Why are people so eager to run those who have differing views to theirs into the ground? It's a question as relevant in 2017 as it's ever been before.
The reason of course is that we revel in it. We revel and wallow in the process of hating things. It's much more fun to post updates of hate on social media than it is to be positive. Why post a status commending the efforts of those in Christchurch putting out that incredible fire when instead you can rip apart a celebrity instead.
Both Bathurst events, the 12 Hour and the 1000, are truly epic. Both are well organised, both have cultural meaning, both are 100 per cent unpredictable, and both are completely different.