When it comes to sporting theatre, nothing matches the best single hour of motorsport in Australia, perhaps the world, all year — the Top 10 Shootout at Mount Panorama.
At no other point during the season do drivers push to the eleventh tenth at just one chance of asking at such an iconic location.
The drama, the buzz, the anticipation. 6.213 kilometres of one of the best circuits in world motorsport, all to the driver and their machine. Today’s the day, and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 will demonstrate yet another defining day.
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In 1978, the Hardies Heroes qualifying concept pitted the 10 fastest cars against the clock to set the first five rows of the grid for the Bathurst 1000. 41 years year, and we’ve had ample time to reflect on just how special the Shootout is, and today will be no different.
Take the circuit length, which produces lap times in excess of two minutes. In any category around the world, a two-minute lap is a long time. At Mount Panorama, it’s the time which adds to the anxiety for drivers and fans. Every tiny improvement or error can make or break the lap.
However, as sport goes, records are made to be broken. We all know what Greg Murphy did in 2003, and Scott McLaughlin 14 years later. Those moments stick in the mind, because of the venue, because of the drama, because of the history, because of the motivation to be faster.
McLaughlin will be the last man out in the Shootout, which commences at 5:05pm AEDT.
Don’t miss it.
Follow the Saturday action in the live blog below.
Six times world champion Lewis Hamilton laid hands on the Formula One winners’ trophy as his late team boss Niki Lauda was voted personality of the year at the governing FIA’s awards gala.
Austrian Lauda, a triple world champion and one of the all-time greats as well as the Mercedes team’s non-executive chairman, died in May aged 70 after a lung transplant the previous August.
The award was the result of a vote by permanently accredited media from the International Automobile Federation’s various championships. There was also recognition of late race director Charlie Whiting, who died before the season-opening race in Australia, and French F2 driver Anthoine Hubert, who died at the Belgian Grand Prix weekend in July.
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Hamilton was last to receive his prize but the trophy has become a familiar object, handed to another driver only once in the past six years – his now- retired teammate Nico Rosberg winning in 2016.
Appearing on stage in a zip-fronted sky blue suit at the black tie event in the Carrousel du Louvre, the 34-year-old said it had been the best season of his life but hoped for even better in 2020.
The Briton had earlier told reporters, however, that he was no fan of such events.
“I could happily be on holiday right now and it could be shipped to me. I’m not working my year for the actual trophy as such,” he said.
Hamilton said that nonetheless he enjoyed seeing others celebrate their successes and was inspired by the clips of their achievements. Hamilton can equal Michael Schumacher’s record seven championships next year, and looks set to surpass the great German’s milestone 91 wins, but said he had never been focused on such statistics.
“Every year is a blank slate, every season,” said Hamilton.
“I use 44 on my car, I never use number one. I feel like every season number one is there up for grabs for everyone.”
Hamilton’s Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, who drove his Mercedes on stage before stepping out to collect the second place driver’s trophy, might feel encouraged by those words.
Red Bull’s British-born Thai driver Alexander Albon was named rookie of the year, while Dutch teammate Max Verstappen, third in the championship with three race wins, took the action of the year for an overtake on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
The best promoter’s award went to the Mexican Grand Prix for the fifth year in a row.
The 40-year-old Italian, a nine times world champion with seven of those coming in the top MotoGP class, will drive a 2017 Mercedes while Hamilton gets to ride Rossi’s Yamaha.
Rossi has driven a Formula One car before, several times with Ferrari between 2004 and 2010 when there was speculation he could switch from two wheels to four.
Four times 500cc world champion John Surtees remains the only man to win the Formula One title (in 1964) as well as top motorcycling honours.
Hamilton is also a keen motorcycle rider, riding to some European tracks and testing a Yamaha superbike but never a MotoGP machine.
“I’m super excited about it,” the 34-year-old told reporters last month.
“Just being on the same track at the same time as Valentino is going to be very, very surreal, and a real honour, because he’s such an icon in the sport, and he’s done so much. It’ll be cool to see him in my car as well.”
Across the test, an active damper system was used to allow for more accurate testing through a range of ride heights. The key was not only to balance the two models, but also shed approximately 12 percent from 2019 downforce levels to improve the quality of racing.
In-season aero adjustments only inflamed the parity debate, but last week’s test – after using an improved VCAT method – ensured all parties left the test “aligned and happy” with the resolution, according to Supercars’ head of motorsport [HoM] Adrian Burgess.
Supercars also locked in the new engine rules which will come into effect, with the category confirming a penalty system will be introduced ahead of a limit to three engine rebuilds a season.
Earlier this year, Supercars confirmed the drop from four to three rebuilds, which could save teams as much as $50,000. A control piston ring and rocker package will also be introduced, and while a drop of around 15 horsepower has been mooted, the units are expected to be more reliable.
However, should teams require additional rebuilds, they face grid penalties – similar to the divisive system seen in Formula 1.
Each sealed engine unit must cover a minimum 4000 kilometres before seals can be removed – but if a unit requires a rebuild before 4000 kilometres have been covered, the car will be slapped with a 10-place grid penalty for the next race.
However, Supercars will allow a number of exceptions to ensure “common sense” if penalties loom over teams.
Notably, teams can seek approval from the category under the supervision of the HoM to break the seals and undertake necessary repairs from leaks or accident damage.
Component failures can also be exceptions if the category is satisfied the new parts won’t hand teams a performance advantage.
Burgess admitted the penalty system will be in place to “protect” the new rules, but remains optimistic the sport’s concessions will help avoid the grid penalty furores seen in F1.
“There will be a degree of common sense needed for all circumstances. If there’s a problem with something we’ll let them open it up under supervision and fix it without using a seal or incurring a penalty.
“But the rules and penalty provision have to be there to protect what we’re trying to do and that’s reduce costs for teams.
“Since we started this discussion we’ve already seen a benefit, without even having introduced the rules yet.
“Last year only two engines went over 4000km all season and this year there were 12, so teams have already been adjusting, and therefore saving money, knowing these rules are coming.”