Mount Panorama. Recognised as one of the world’s best race circuits. Home of the Bathurst 1000. On every motorsport enthusiast’s bucket list.

So when Dan Hall discovered that the Bathurst Light Car Club was running 2 Hillclimbs on the circuit in March a number of us immediately started planning the trip.


Ironically by the time entries opened Dan was a non starter due to a clash with his Lacrosse Coaching duties for their final but Graham Deahl, Graeme Ruby, Peter Castelow, Peter and Kerry Thomson, Brendan Sullivan and I signed up.


Most of us headed off on Thursday 2nd and stopped at Holbrook on the way up.


All of us arrived in Bathurst on Friday in time to do some leisurely laps of Mount Panorama, which is a public road with a 60kph speed limit when it is not a race circuit.


Just pulling onto the track was a spine tingling moment. The first thing that strikes you is now steep the track is, and in the twisty bits up and down the mountain 60kph was plenty.

Both Hillclimbs finished at McPhillamy Park and this was where the cars assembled each day. Most of us offloaded cars from trailers here on Friday and headed back to Bathurst for some light refreshments.


The Saturday Hillclimb was called ‘The Esses”. It started halfway up Conrod Straight and headed the wrong way up through Forrest’s Elbow, up The Dipper, through The Esses and onto Skyline where the finish line was at the timing hut.


We all assembled in McPhillamy Park at 7am. Deahly in his white MGB, Graeme in his maroon MGBGTV8, Peter T in his BRG MGB, Peter C in his red TVR, Brendan in his green MGA and yours truly in ……. a BMW 135i. I have just bought this to replace my Porsche which has gone to a new home in NSW and I couldn’t resist the chance to try out its 225kw on the track.


The field of 100 cars, ranging from everyday cars to high-powered hillclimb specials was split into 3 groups and we were all in group 2. Our group headed down the mountain and formed up on the Conrod Straight hump.


My heart was thumping when it was my turn. Forrest’s Elbow seemed very tight and very narrow. First run was not a time for heroics but I pushed as much as I dared and it was great fun.

We all had 4 runs at The Esses course, gradually getting faster each time. The concrete walls are right at the edge of the track, which seems very narrow at speed and it never stopped being scary – or being great fun.

After the second run Deahly and Brendan generously offered to pick up lunch in Bathurst. Various Subway subs were ordered and they headed off via the rear entrance into the circuit. All went well until they arrived back at this entrance – at 12.33pm – to discover the the gate is locked at 12.30pm. A dramatic race against time then ensued, taking in a lot of rural Bathurst in an effort to find yet another entrance into McPhillamy Park.

Our group was called to the grid. Ringing Brendan and telling him this did not lower his stress level.

But all was well. They turned up just as we were about to head down to the start line.

The rest of the day passed without incident although one competitor did manage to do a 360 spin across the finish line, luckily without hitting anything.


At the end of the day our results were:

Graeme Ruby

34.83 sec

Chris Freeman


Peter Thomson


Brendan Sullivan


Graham Deahl


Peter Castelow


To put that in perspective fastest time of the day was an Empire open-wheeler with a time of 22.58!

Most of us hit the sack relatively early on Saturday night and we were back at McPhillamy Park early Sunday morning for the Mountain Straight Hillclimb.

This was a much longer course, roughly twice as long as The Esses.

It started on the hump on Mountain Straight, which is way more pronounced than it seems on TV, takes a hard right through Griffin’s Bend, up through The Cutting, which is very tight and then on through Reid Park, Sulman Park and along Brock’s Skyline to McPhillamy Park. The course is a combination of tight turns and open sweeping bends, climbing upwards and often with only a view of the sky out the windscreen. A V8 Supercar is touching 250kph through parts of this, me not so much.

If we thought Saturday was fun this ramped it up to 11.

I had Googled and found a video of competitors from last year on the course to do some prep work. In the first minute it showed a very nice Ford Escort losing it in The Cutting and hitting the wall. I didn’t watch any more.


We again got 4 runs, meeting back in McPhillamy park at the end of each run for a debrief. Confidence increased with each run and we all had big grins on our faces all day.


Our results for the second day were:

Graeme Ruby

61.89 sec

Chris Freeman


Peter Thomson


Brendan Sullivan


Graham Deahl


Peter Castelow



The same open wheeler did 40.83 on this course which is impressive enough but the course record is 34.88 – or just over half the time we were doing.


Graeme Ruby proved that he can beat all of us anywhere but we were all very pleased with our efforts.

We retired to our motel for a well earned rest before dinner at the local club. Well most of us did. Graham Deahl headed home straight from the track – still a working man.

The next morning Graeme Ruby and Peter Castelow left very early for home while the rest of us took our time over breakfast and then headed to the National Motorsport Museum, located at Mount Panorama. This was good but not great. A lot of the cars were replicas and it was very Bathurst-centric.


Museum visit ticked we headed back to Holbrook and the Riverina Hotel where the food was fantastic but the rooms less so. Monks would complain. Good value though.

Tuesday morning we went our separate ways. Brendan on the road early, Peter and Kerry taking a route that avoided the freeway and me taking my time to start the day.

By the time I got home I had traveled 2000 kms, used way too much petrol, spent more of the kids inheritance and had a fabulous time.

Wow. A great event, shared with great mates. Bucket list item ticked.

Oh – and Dan’s lacrosse team won their final.


Chris Freeman