Almanac Motor Racing – Bathurst (Part 2): The road trip Friday


Bathurst – Friday

Danny and Nick in a rare photo at Bathurst!


The bus picked us up at 7am.  About eight, we walked to the track.  None of us saw the ‘No Alcohol’ sign at the entrance.  When I offered my bag for inspection, I had no idea we couldn’t bring in alcohol.  The security guard who checked my bag asked if I had any alcohol.




She looked in my bag.  ‘A man tried to bring in a carton of beer yesterday and I tipped it out in front of him.’  She smiled triumphantly.  ‘I don’t know why he tried to bring it in.  He said don’t tip it out, he’d drink it in the car park and I said I wouldn’t let him in because he was intoxicated.’


My head swivelled to Danny, who was in another line.  He was carrying the soft esky.  He’d been pulled up by security.  Danny looked bewildered as the security guard pulled cans from the esky.


I wandered over.  The security guard pulled the tab from a beer and threw it into a wheelie bin.  ‘What’s going on?’ I said.


‘Can’t bring in beer,’ the guard said.


‘The website said we can,’ Danny said.


The guard shook his head.  Another security guard wandered over.  ‘This is a licensed event,’ he said.  ‘You can’t bring in alcohol.’


‘The website said we can,’ I said.


‘That’s for the campers.’


There was no point arguing, but I gave it a shot as 20 cans were opened and tipped out into a bin.  ‘Why differentiate between the walk-ins and the campers?’ I asked.


‘It’s a licensed event,’ the guard said.


‘But not for the campers?’


He nodded.  I sighed.  Displeasure was all over our faces.  ‘I’m not buying one beer here this weekend,’ I said.


The guard shrugged.  ‘I don’t care.  I don’t drink beer.’


Wandering off, aggravated and enraged, we raged against websites and incorrect information.  Nick and Danny checked the website before we bought beer.  It said we could bring in a carton per day each, or a bottle of spirits distilled into plastic.  There was no mention of the differentiation between campers and walk-ins.  The local newspaper, in a story about alcohol restrictions, didn’t differentiate either.


The organisers should’ve arranged lockers for people like us.  Call them the Imbecile Lockers.  Whatever the name.  Wasting 20 cans because of a misunderstanding was criminal.  We would’ve paid to store them until we left.


Through the chill we walked pit lane and along roads named after great racers, checking out the cars, old and new.  A kid gave Danny and I two water bottles. We didn’t think to get one for Nick. We took photos of the cars.  In a huge marquee, replica cars were on display, copy cars from former Bathurst winners.


It was freezing.  The promotional girls, clad in short dresses and one-piece paint-ons smiled against the chill, their legs red and splotched with goose bumps.


‘How are you handling the cold?’ I asked a brunette.


‘At least I’ve got clothes on,’ she said, giving me an inflatable whacker.


We walked to the beginning of Conrod Straight, stopping at the Nissan enclosure.  People nearby were drinking beer.  It was about 10am.  Danny shook his head.  ‘That could’ve been us,’ he said.


We ragged on about injustice.  Why can the campers bring in and drink what they wanted, and we couldn’t? It didn’t make sense.  I bought three coffees.  Nick had a sip of rum from a water bottle.  Danny and I had 500mls of whiskey in a water bottle to drink.


The wind howled through us.  After an hour or so, we went back down the hill and over the bridge at Pit Straight.  The sun was emerging.  We found a seat beneath a gazebo and ate a few bread rolls despite not being hungry.  I poured whiskey into a can of Pepsi.  Danny sipped from the water bottle.  Nick sipped on the rum.  We tried getting into the Bathurst Museum but balked at the $15 fee.


In Merchandise Lane we bought $5 hats for our kids.  There were no clouds.  We were getting burnt.  We spent an hour at the last turn into pit straight, sitting in the sun before moving to Hell’s Corner for more sun.


Throughout the day we’d seen the Super Cars practice, the Porsches practice and the Super 2s go round the track.  It was the sound that captivated me, and the speed.  It was easy to be drawn into racing.


Nick had finished half a litre of rum from the water bottle.  The other water bottle still had whiskey inside.  The bus ride back to Millthorpe was fairly quiet.  I watched the farms roll by, admiring the dams and the pretty country and wondering what it was like before settlement.  Checking my health app, I discovered we had walked 9km during the day.


Dinner was toast and leftover lunch and beers.  We sat outside in the cold, drinking with a panel beater from Bundaberg and Peter, almost a retiree, from Brisbane.  The South Africans arrived drunk from the pub.  One of them introduced himself as Ian or Ben or Hey Mate.  He looked like Jason Akermanis.  Another was tall and thin, his eyes covered by thin-framed glasses.  He seemed the rational one.  They fetched beers and joined the chill.


The ribbing went on.  The ticket-loser, despite new tickets being issued, would never live it down.  He remained horrified by the loss and thanked us for our advice.  Then he told one of his mates to nick off.


‘I’m your dad,’ he said.  ‘It’s your bedtime.’  The South Africans roared with laughter.


For an hour we talked about Bathurst, what we’d seen and where we’d been.  The South Africans had been to the top of the mountain on the $5 bus.  That was our plan for Saturday.  The panel-beater finished his six-pack.  He hadn’t eaten.  He used our toilet so he wouldn’t wake his father.  We gave him a beer and a sandwich.


The panel-beater, who didn’t eat vegetables, peeled the sandwich apart to check the contents, finding chicken, pasta salad and cheese.  He frowned at the grated carrot but ate anyway.


Aside from the panel-beater, we were the youngest at the motel.  It was booked out by the same events company, 47 people in 20 rooms all going to Bathurst on the same bus.  The demographic had surprised me.  There were kids around, but most people I’d seen at Bathurst, including the campers, were 30 and above.  I expected a younger crowd.

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

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