Two centuries have passed since British settlers first sighted what is now known as Bathurst.
You head west from Sydney, over the Blue Mountains and into central New South Wales, where many have sought their fortunes in gold, agriculture and manufacturing. But fame has been sought on one mountain, Mount Panorama, by those who race cars.
The Bathurst community turns 200 this year and a few miles from the city centre, the racetrack that has made it famous right around the world turns 75. It started life as what looked like a tourism project, but it was one that had a second purpose.
Funds were hard to come by in post-Depression Australia but the community-spirited project to build a graded dirt and gravel 'Scenic Drive' (so designated by Bathurst Mayor Martin Griffin) attracted welcome funding from Australia's Federal government. To this day, sponsors notwithstanding, the track's second corner is known as 'Griffin's Bend'.
But the project's other intended purpose was demonstrated by the support of the project from the NSW Light Car Club and the Auto Cycle Union, and it was hardly a surprise when at Easter in 1938 the venue's first race meeting was conducted.
The Australian Tourist Trophy and the Australian Grand Prix were raced in front of an estimated 20,000 spectators. Over 150 miles, Yorkshireman Peter Whitehead won the Grand Prix in his ERA.
When racing resumed Down Under in 1947, Bathurst was an obvious choice to host the AGP again. Bill Murray won in his MG TC; five years later, Doug Whiteford won in his Lago Talbot; and in 1958, Lex Davison won the third of what would be four wins.
But while Bathurst shared the GP on a rotating system, and the annual Easter races showcased racing on two, four and even three wheels for a post-war population eager for entertainment, the feeling was that Mount Panorama needed a marquee event.
The answer lay south, at Phillip Island. Suspension component manufacturer Armstrong was looking to showcase its technology to the public, so in 1960 it sponsored a 500-mile race at the circuit by the sea.
1963, and the birth of the Bathurst 500 © Autopics.au
The event was a great success, and in the three years that the race was held at the track, interest in the event grew. By 1962, manufacturers themselves were entering cars for professional drivers, and Ford won the race with Harry Firth and Bob Jane.
But if Armstrong's shock absorbers were standing up to the punishment, the track itself was not. The damage caused to the track, and the relatively difficult accessibility of the circuit, made it almost inevitable that the race would move.
In 1963 it did, and the Bathurst 500 was born.
With the arrival of the 500 at Bathurst so came television coverage - a single camera, broadcast to Sydney only. But even so, the race was becoming more and more important and the manufacturers started to up the ante.
Ford replaced its Cortina with a GT version of its Falcon family sedan, powered by a 289 cubic-inch V8, which won the race in 1967. Holden responded with a version of its new Monaro two-door coupe, powered by a 327 cubic-inch V8. Ford trumped that by installing a 351 in the Falcon GT 'HO' (for 'Handling Option').
Holden won in '69; Ford countered with the HO Phase II and then the Phase III - which at the time (and for some years afterwards) was the fastest four-door production car available anywhere in the world. When Canadian-born Allan Moffat swept to Bathurst wins in 1970 and '71, Holden fought back with its Torana XU-1 - virtually a Vauxhall Viva implanted with a high-performance six-cylinder motor.
By now, Chrysler's local maker, Valiant, was also in the game, with its six-cylinder Charger coupe. For 1973, Holden was preparing a Torana V8, Valiant a Charger V8 and Ford a Phase IV Falcon.
A Sydney motoring reporter named Evan Green wrote about the development of '160mph road cars' and, inevitably, the conservative politicians of the days cried enough. They wanted the 'Death Machines' stopped and the makers, not wanting to upset the people who bought many of their cars, ended Australia's high-performance arms race.
Standard stock cars made way for fully tuned race versions © Autopics.au
A new era started. Barely modified, stock standard cars would be replaced by modified, racing versions. The 500-miler would become a 1000-kilometre endurance race, with two-drivers per car.
The emphasis would switch from the cars to the drivers, Moffat in the Ford corner versus the man who drove solo to the '72 win, Peter Brock. It was the sport's golden era; Moffat won in '73, Brock struck back in '75.
Two years later, partnered with endurance legend Jacky Ickx, Moffat won his fourth Bathurst crown - which would also be his last.
Armed with a series of V8-powered Holden Toranas and then Commodores, and partnered by Melbourne-domiciled New Zealander Jim Richards, Brock ran off three race wins in a row in 1978-'80, emphasising his dominance in one of those races by setting the fastest lap of the race on the final lap. It was called 'The Brock Crush'.
Brock took another hat-trick of wins in '82-'84, partnered by former Formula 1 driver Larry Perkins, but it was what happened between his three-peats that was writ largest into the race's history.
Brisbane garage proprietor Dick Johnson had mortgaged virtually everything he owned to build a Ford Falcon racer and, after pushing Brock hard in the build-up races in 1980, was running away with the Bathurst 1000 when he hit a rock that had fallen onto the track.
As his destroyed car was towed away Johnson broke down and sobbed on national television - and suddenly, the network broadcasting the race was deluged with financial pledges from concerned viewers.
A huge amount of money was raised (matched dollar-for-dollar by no less than Edsel Ford II, who was present at the race) and to complete the fairytale, Johnson and co-driver John French won the race a year later, even if it was red-flagged 40 laps early when the track was blocked by a dramatic multi-car pile-up.
Brock's hat-tricks sandwiched Dick Johnson's emotional victory © Autopics.au
During those years, host broadcaster the Seven Network (which was actually a co-promoter of the race, in partnership with the Bathurst City Council and the Australian Racing Drivers' Club) had dramatically expanded its coverage, which was now national.
In 1979, its technicians developed 'Racecam', to broadcast live pictures from inside Peter Williamson's 2-litre Toyota Celica during the race. So limited was the technology of the day, Williamson (who loved talking about cars almost as much as he loved racing them) had no way of knowing whether he was on the air or not - so he talked non-stop during his 90-minute stints.
Motor racing broadcasts would never be the same again. Once the technology was refined, Brock and Johnson proved to be naturals at bringing TV viewers into their cars while they were fighting on the track.
Johnson and Brock carried their rivalry into the new era of Australian Touring Cars. The local ASN, CAMS, decided to abandon the local, indigenous cars in favour of the international Group A formula. While Brock continued (and, mostly, struggled) with his Holdens, Sierras replaced Falcons; BMWs and Volvos appeared; and occasionally, Jaguars.
Having competed in the race in a locally developed Jaguar in 1984, Tom Walkinshaw brought his 'pukka' XJS Group A racers to Bathurst a year later and blew the locals away. Allan Grice and Graeme Bailey won a year later in their privateer Holden and in 1987, the world came, saw and conquered Bathurst - or so we thought...
The 1000 of '87 was a round of the World Touring Car Championship. Out went many of the traditions of the race (like the standing start) and in came a number of items, the specification of which may not have been familiar to some Aussies.
The race turned out to be a rout for Ford, the Eggenberger Sierras taking a one-two, but post-race protests were lodged about a number of what were seen as irregularities by the locals.
After months of lobbying, and with the winner of the WTCC itself at stake, the FIA eventually disqualified the Fords from the race. That elevated the man who had finished third to the win - and inevitably, that was Brock, his Holden outgunned by the Euro turbos but the driver never giving in.
It was his ninth win in the Great Race in 15 years - and it was to be his last.
Walkinshaw's Jaguars blew the local away in 1985 © Autopics.au
With the WTCC dissolved after a single controversial season, the 1988 1000 was again a 'home' race. The local versions of the Sierras continued to win until Grice and Win Percy scored an unlikely win in 1990, TWR now running the official Holden Racing Team.
A year later, Nissan arrived with its sledgehammer, the R32 GT-R, and won the race in 1991 and '92. History had repeated; the Bathurst race was becoming beholden to a manufacturers' arms race, this time on a global scale, and with cars Aussies could not buy, even if they wanted to.
Worse, the local brands did not stand a chance.
The resulting next phase was the end of Group A and the start of what would become known as V8 Supercars. Holden's Commodore and Ford's Falcon were elevated to the lead acts (and, after a one-year cameo by BMW's M3, the only acts).
The cars would, compared to the Group A behemoths, look and sound like many Australians wanted their racecars to, and be relatively cheap and accessible to privateers. It was Australia's NASCAR and it was to be very successful.
Perkins won twice in his own cars and Johnson once, in '94, but only after late in the race his co-driver John Bowe fought off a teenage rookie who had been recruited by Walkinshaw.
His name was Craig Lowndes; in '96, he won not only the Bathurst 1000 for the first time but the Sandown lead-up race (sharing both with Kiwi Greg Murphy), as well as taking the ATCC title. The triple crown was a rare display of superiority.
There was a fight coming, but this one was off the track. For years, neither Bathurst nor its traditional Sandown lead-up event had been a part of the ATCC itself. The championship traditionally ended in August, the champions were crowned and then the teams prepared for the 500km and 1000km enduros.
Fords dominated in the late '80s, but the manufacturers' arms race was a precursor to political fallout © Autopics.au
But professionalism had come to touring car racing; in '97, there were be two 1000km races at Bathurst, the traditional race was held for Super Tourers, while a 'breakaway' event was conducted by AVESCO, which was the body formed by the teams and sports promoter SEL to take the category into the future.
There were many international entries in the '97 and '98 races, with the local BMW team and Walkinshaw's BTCC-winning Volvo team taking the honours while the local V8 teams fought out similar but separate events.
By 1999, the split was repaired, a single race was conducted and peace returned to the land Down Under.
The HRT and Mark Skaife dominated the early part of the new century at Bathurst, taking wins in '01 and '02, but in 2003, three significant things happened.
Larry Perkins crashed in practice for the first time anyone could remember, the five-time winner announcing he would retire at the end of the season. In a semi-works Holden, Greg Murphy took pole position in the single-lap shoot-out by more than a second in what became known as 'The Laps of The Gods'. And Paul Radisich and '98 winner (for Volvo) Rickard Rydell finished seventh in a Ford.
That is not a result often noted a decade later, but they drove for what had been the mid-pack John Briggs Racing team, and which had just been bought by Triple Eight Race Engineering. Its boss, Roland Dane, liked what he saw at Bathurst...
Murphy (with Rick Kelly) and Skaife (with Rick's brother Todd) won the next two 1000s but the 2006 race was like no other.
In the first V8 Supercar race after the death of Brock in an otherwise meaningless rally a few weeks before, Lowndes literally wiped the tears from his eyes and drove the race of his life, in much the same fashion as his former team-mate, friend and mentor might have done 20 years before.
With co-driver Jamie Whincup, he gave Triple Eight its first 1000 victory and it just kept winning. Triple 8 completed a hat-trick of wins in 2008 (in Fords) and two more in Holdens - in 2010 (Lowndes and Skaife winning in a rare one-two team finish) and last year, Whincup sharing the win with his former karting rival and close friend Paul Dumbrell.
Triple Eight, winner of five of the past seven races at Bathurst, arrives this year on the back of a Sandown one-two
Triple Eight has become the sport's pre-eminent team, on the back of winning five of the past seven Bathurst 1000s. Now in the colours of Red Bull, it heads to Bathurst this year fresh from a one-two result at Sandown.
But they face varied opposition. The Holden/Ford duopoly has ended and V8 Supercars' new Car of The Future programme has attracted new makes into the category.
Nissan Motorsport (formerly Kelly Racing, headed by former race winners Todd and Rick Kelly) will race four Altima sedans
while Erebus Motorsport will field its three customer Mercedes-Benz AMG E63s, after having taken a dominant win in February's Bathurst 12 Hour in the team's AMG GT3 racers. And next year, a fifth brand, Volvo, enters the V8 Supercar game. Bathurst has evolved once again.
The dusty track around Mount Panorama has given way to smooth tarmac and neat kerbs, and a modern pit and hospitality complex stands where cramped and crude pitboxes once stood. But the challenge remains the same; race hard, race all day and try to beat the Mountain...
JOHN CLELAND'S VIEW
Two-time BTCC champion John Cleland was one of the best-performing international drivers in the history of the Bathurst 1000 and, even today, smiles at the memory of racing at Mount Panorama.
"I did my first race at Bathurst with Peter Brock in 1993," he says. "I did the two Super Touring races in 1997 and '98 and I drove a total of 11 V8 Supercar races. The track is, in my view, the best and most challenging in the world. It scares many drivers who never click with it, but I had good teachers in Brock and Mark Skaife. For me, it was easy!
"Every time I drove out of pitlane and up Mountain Straight I used to smile all the way to The Cutting. When you got the lap right, with every apex and crest on a good set of rubber, it was just awesome!
"I miss it like hell and hope they run a Historic Touring Car race for old buggers one day. When they do, I will be back."
This week's AUTOSPORT magazine - available on Thursday October 10 - features a comprehensive Bathurst 1000 supplement