Almanac Motor Racing – Bathurst (Part 3): The road trip Saturday

Part 3


The Saturday bus wasn’t arriving until 8:30am so we partied.  By bedtime, we were suitably juiced.  We found a British zombie movie on SBS.


Nick also found a pillow in the same cupboard Danny looked in.  As Nick brandished the pillow, Danny looked shocked.  ‘It wasn’t there yesterday,’ Danny said.


I tried explaining how Danny could’ve missed it, that it blended in with its surroundings.


‘By not looking properly is how he missed it,’ Nick said.


Danny laughed.  I opened the narrow cupboard.  We looked inside.  The pillow had been on the floor instead of the shelf where the blanket was.  Danny hadn’t looked down.  Nick put the red pillows on the bed, to throw at us when we were snoring.


At 11:17, I finally convinced Nick and Danny to turn the television off.  They were in no mood to sleep.  Danny kept us awake by reliving Bathurst history.  Beginning at 1965, he asked us who won each race.  Exhausted, my head beneath a pillow, I offered a few answers, Allan Border and Bob Hawke.  It was 12:17am when Danny’s trivia session ended at 1986.


Amazingly, Danny was up at 4:45am.  Nick sparked up too.


‘What are you doing?’ I asked.


‘Time to get up,’ Nick said.


‘You fucking bastards,’ I said.  ‘The bus isn’t here for hours.’


‘I can’t sleep,’ Danny said.


I pulled the pillow over my head.  I couldn’t sleep either as Danny did the dishes and rinsed the beer bottles.  After five, he went to the general store for bread, cheese and coffee.  Nick turned the television on about 6am.  I stayed in bed, head covered by the pillow, until 7am.


Making the sandwiches was a team effort.  We made coffee for each other.  Outside the room, a cleaner waited beside her trolley.  A short, portly woman with black hair, she smiled and said hello.


‘I hope we didn’t shock you with our room,’ I said.


‘You’re clean compared to most,’ she said.


Nick shrugged.  ‘We’ll have to try harder,’ he said.  The bus waited at the kerb.  We sat in the back seats.  Danny talked to the panel-beater about cars on the way to Bathurst.  Several South Africans were too hungover to speak.


At the track, after buying $5 bus tickets, a bus took us on a slow drive to the top of the mountain on a back road.  The view at The Cutting was breathtaking.  So was the weather.


‘My feet are cold,’ Danny said.


My body was cold.  I pulled a North Melbourne hoodie over the top of a zip-up North Melbourne hoodie.  We videoed cars that sped past at one of the bends.  After an hour or so, we kept climbing, past the elaborate campsites.  The campers took Bathurst seriously.  Some campsites must’ve taken a week to set up.  One campsite had a pool table.  Swags lay everywhere.  Barbeques cooked as men frowned at eggs and bacon.  Fires burned.  There were caravans, camper trailers, tents and marquees.


One idiot wearing a yellow t-shirt threw a gridiron ball about 30-metres from a campsite.  It smacked into the head of a man walking a ridge near the track.  The thud was like a slamming door.  He shook it off and rubbed his head.  The man in yellow smiled.  His mates cheered.  Someone picked up the rolling ball and threw it back to the idiot in yellow.


Nick, Danny and I shared glances.  Those looks suggested the ball would’ve either been stolen or popped if it hit either of us.  We couldn’t understand why someone would do something so stupid.


Cops rode past on motorbikes, too late to see the gridiron ball fly.  We walked past a police-only rest area.  Five officers sat in the sun outside a small, squat brick building.  A fire burned nearby.  They looked relaxed.


At every bend and turn on the top of the mountain, Skyline, the Esses, the Dipper and Forrest’s Elbow, we stopped and watched the cars speed by.  When the sun came out, clothes had to come off.  I almost dislocated my right shoulder trying to pry one hoodie from the other.  We ate and sipped water, applying sunscreen.  Following the path as far as it went, at the top of Conrod Straight, we stopped until about 1pm.


‘I’m looking forward to tomorrow,’ Nick said.


It took about an hour to walk back from where we’d came.  A bus took us back down the mountain.  At Hell’s Corner, we sought shade for an hour as the Porsches and utes sped past.  Emerging from the shade, we found a patch of grass.  Before the shootout the afternoon sun almost pulled me to sleep.  I stood up and went to the fence, watching the Porsches on their final laps.  There was no way I was falling asleep at Bathurst, not with the sun and the wind and the sound of the engines.


At 5pm, the shoot-out began.


‘I’m going for Scott McLaughlin,’ Danny said.


‘I’m going for Lowndes,’ Nick said.


‘Who are you going for?’ Danny asked me.


‘Ross,’ I said.  I was thinking about a character in the Steve McQueen movie Bullett.


Danny raised an eyebrow.  ‘Ross?’




‘There’s no Ross in the race.’  Danny smiled.


I looked at Hell’s Corner.  Ross sounded like a name that belonged to a motor racer.  ‘Who’s that other bloke whose name starts with R?’


‘David Reynolds.’


‘I’m going for Reynolds,’ I said.  ‘To win the shootout and the race.’  I nodded like I knew what I was talking about.  I’d never heard of David Reynolds.


‘He’s a vegan,’ Nick said.


‘Peter Siddle used to be a vegan,’ I said.  ‘How can Reynolds race at Bathurst without eating meat?’


‘Want to change your selection?’ Nick asked.


‘When he goes off for celery he’ll put in the co-driver.’  I had no idea who Reynolds was partnered with.  Danny said I might learn a lot during the weekend.  So far I hadn’t learned much.


McLaughlin won the shoot-out with a hurl of a lap.  Reynold did well too, finishing second.


We filled the back seats of the bus.  The hungover South Africans had recovered to enjoy the day.  All the nearby talk was about McLaughlin and his record time.  He’d had a few difficult moments but performed superbly.


A large crowd filled the Commercial Hotel.  We arrived about 7pm.  There was already a 45 minute wait for dinner.  The pub’s owner was absent, leaving two barmen to work the beers.  It was obvious they were frustrated.  It took five minutes to get beers.  Dinner took an hour.  We filled up and left by 9:30pm, finding more beers in the motel room.


Danny sat on the bed.  ‘I can’t believe I free-balled all day,’ he said.


I grimaced.  Nick shook his head.


Went I went for a shower, Danny’s undies hung limply on the towel rack, drying slowly.  He’d be right for Sunday.


Read Part 1: The Road Trip

Read Part 2: Friday

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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