BIG4’s behind the scenes recap of the Bathurst 1000

The BIG4-wrapped Nissan car flies around the track at Bathurst.

If you could see through the belting rain and low cloud you might have noticed BIG4 was at Bathurst last week, and knee-deep in title contention late into the Great Race on Sunday afternoon.

Although the BIG4 supercar entry driven by Nissan’s Michael Caruso finished sixth, it could have been so much more. For the first six hours the drivers – including Caruso - stayed conservative, waiting for accidents that didn’t happen, and for engine and car failures that never eventuated.

The only consistency throughout the day was the rain falling on Bathurst – the first drops the city had seen in months, but the most ill-timed rainfall of the year with 2.5 million people watching the race from home.

Rainfall was consistent on the day of the race, making for interesting conditions for drivers.

Into the last hour however, things changed. With the race now on the line, drivers took more risks, resulting in more crashes and more laps under the watch of the safety car. Caruso had fought from 19th and almost 45 seconds behind the race leader to finish in sixth place – a monumental drive in the most trying of conditions.

“I’m feeling really emotional,” said Caruso’s wife Dani, after the race. “I’m so proud of him.”

Caruso and Fiore’s lion-hearted drive mirrored their efforts earlier in the week, when they commandeered a Nissan Pathfinder and Jayco JPod to visit BIG4 parks on their way to Bathurst – reviving an annual event started by brothers Todd and Rick Kelly.

Watch the hilarious video here.

BIG4 was invited along to watch the Great Race, and our keen observer brought home these fun facts about the race, through the eyes of a first-time visitor to Mt Panorama:

  • Cool tracks are better than warm ones. Drivers zig-zag across the track to warm up their tyres, but they prefer driving on cold surfaces. During practise on a very cool Thursday at Mt Panorama, Nissan co-driver Dean Fiore was asked “what’s the track like to drive on when it’s this cold?” “It’s the best time to drive,” he said. Cold tracks and warm tyres are the perfect combination for speed.

Nissan co-drivers Michael Caruso and Dean Fiore.

  • Each car goes through $150k in tyres per car per season in the V8 Supercar series, all of them using the same tyres from Dunlop.
  • Engines in V8 Supercars cost around $100k each.
  • V8 Supercars emit a very loud mini explosion several times per lap. This is excess fuel exploding through the exhaust. You never hear this on TV.
  • Drivers don’t fear the speed. They are so comfortable with the car’s pace they spend most of the time looking for the apex, and seeking to brake perfectly – looking for the markers before each braking spot.
  • Think about this – there’s never any ‘rolling’ time in Supercars. The cars are either under full acceleration or braking. There’s no downtime.

It quickly becomes clear that the drivers don't fear the speed.

  • Most teams have their own cooks, who are often the hardest working team members. Nissan’s cooks Beez, Katrina and Marco smashed out hundreds of meals in the five-day event working from dawn until dusk.
  • Teams wear racing uniforms all day, but why? It’s simple. There is so much dust, grit and sweat in car racing that wearing any business shirts and slacks will ruin them in no time.
  • The power and acceleration of V8 supercars through turns like The Chase at Bathurst are not captured that well on TV. It’s something you need to experience in the flesh to appreciate.

Dean Fiore in Nissan's racing uniform, which is worn all day.

  • There’s not much difference between drivers in terms of ability – great teams are built around mechanics and engineers who can extract extra power and speed from race cars. Stripping half a second off a lap is the ultimate goal.
  • The loudest cars by far are the Porsche vehicles in the Carrera Cup. Their noise emission hangs in the air long after the car has disappeared from sight, and is when most people reach for the ear plugs.
  • The ‘top’ at Bathurst is where the biggest parties, biggest hangovers and biggest cheers happen throughout the event. It’s also the most popular campground at the circuit.

The Porsche cars in the Carrera Cup are by far the loudest.

  • The section of the track called skyline is a terrifying vision for a newbie. Skyline marks the beginning of the descent into the ‘Dipper’ but it looks like you could fly off the mountaintop as you are coming into the section.
  • BIG4 and Nissan did a lap of the circuit and driver Grant Rowley had his foot on the brake at 40km/h throughout the descent. Yet the race drivers hammer through this section at 100km/h.
  • The drivers, mechanics and engineers have a traditional walk of the 6.2km circuit before they race. This is to evaluate the track which, strangely enough, actually changes every year.

The skyline section of the track offers a terrifying blind spot for drivers.

  • Wednesday is ‘set-up’ day. No cars are allowed to be driven or engines started – but race teams completely establish their garages during this time. The even replace the concrete floor with giant rubber mats so engineers and mechanics have a flat surface to work on.
  • The Church Bar in Bathurst’s CBD is worth visiting any time of the year. It has the best wood-fired pizza and fairly-priced refreshments. BIG4 ate there several times during race week. Honourable mention to Pantano’s Bar and Grill for their meat selection.
  • You can’t film the race on Saturday or Sunday. The TV rights are owned by Foxtel and they are super-strict about protecting their rights.
  • BIG4 and Nissan also combined to deliver a wish for young Wagga Wagga teenager Jaiden Martin. He originally wanted to go Bathurst for the race, but soon found himself in the Nissan garage with Rick Kelly and the race team. 

Jaiden and his family were ecstatic to find themselves in the Nissan garage courtesy of BIG4, Nissan and Make-a-Wish Australia.

BIG4 was a guest of Nissan Motorsport for Bathurst 2017. 

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