Best Laps At Bathurst

Best Laps At Bathurst

Everyone loves Bathurst, and nothing gets a Bathurst fan as fired-up as an all-out qualifying lap.

Watching a car dancing and bucking at the end of the straights, and squirming and squirrelling over the top of The Mountain, is one of the very best things in Australian motorsport.

When it’s time for the Top 10 Shootout, and the race to pole position for the big one, the drama jumps off the scale.

The Shootout has been run and won for more than 40 years with a variety of names and formats and trophies including the Tooheys Top Gun – but it has always produced memorable moments which are seared into memories and treasured on YouTube.

But which are the ten best qualifying laps?

Looking back through the record books, these magic moments emerge as the best of the best.

1981 – 2 minutes 36.432s

Ford and Holden were the traditional rivals at Bathurst through the 1980s, but Kevin Bartlett injected a fresh ingredient into the mix with his thundering Chevrolet Camaro coupe.

With backing from Channel 9, at an event broadcast by the Seven Network, he was hampered by a lack of rear disc brakes during the races.

But qualifying was another thing, as the former single-seater star reminded everyone of his towing talent with back-to-back poles in 1980 and 1981.

His best effort, and a stunning display of virtuoso driving, came in the first wet-weather Shootout as Bartlett and his 5.7-litre V8 beastie were a full 2.4 seconds clear of their nearest rival.

1984 – 2 minutes 13.850s

Anyone who questioned the bravery of the former rally champion was answered in a little over two minutes of turbocharged fury in 1984.

Pole position was the finest achievement for the first serious Nissan touring car contender, long before the days of the Godzilla GT-R.

Fury’s pole lap was a full second quicker than his own best effort in qualifying, comfortably beating Peter Brock and his ‘last of the Big Bangers’ Commodore.

The Bluebird was never going to win The Great Race, which went to Brock in the ultimate Group C shootout, but it took seven more years before the GT-R beat it’s qualifying time.

1991 – 2 minutes 16.071s

It was not a pole lap for the King of the Mountain, but Brock’s on-the-limit lap for sixth on the grid in 1991 is unquestionably legendary.

Footage of the nine-time winner dancing the #05 Mobil VN across the top – hiking inside wheels and catching lurid slides – is quintessential Brock and lives on through YouTube.

No amount of effort was going to put a Commodore on pole that year, as Mark Skaife did the job in the Nissan GT-R, but Brock’s first Bathurst effort in a Holden since 1987 proved he was was back where he belonged and giving it a red hot go.

1992 – 2 minutes 12.898s

Pole position was no surprise in the turbocharged era of the Sierra RS500, but Johnson’s effort in 1992 marked the pinnacle of performance from the Queensland team’s iconic Shell Fords.

In a Top 10 featuring a mix of Group A and 1993-specification 5-litre V8 machinery, Johnson went over three seconds faster than he’d been in the Shootout the year before, scoring pole by 1.2 seconds. He also reversed the result from qualifying, when he had been second to Skaife in a GT-R.

Second-fastest man Larry Perkins’ lap also deserves a place on this list as LP managed to split Johnson Skaife in his ageing VL Commodore.

1995 – 2 minutes 11.5540s

The Holden Racing Team’s double disaster on Sunday in the 1995 Great Race, as both cars were out early with engine failures, means Lowndes’ Saturday heroics are often forgotten.

In his first Bathurst Shootout, a then 21-year-old Lowndes upstaged all the regulars by putting the HRT’s #015 entry on top to become the youngest Bathurst pole-sitter in the process.

While the team was on the brink of losing its Holden deal in the aftermath of the race, Lowndes’ brilliance provided a clear sign of what could be achieved with a stay of execution for 1996.

1998 – 2 minutes 14.9265s

Bathurst is not always about thundering V8s, and the Super Touring era in Australia shifted the spotlight – briefly – to 2-litre international racers.

The Volvo S40 is not a legendary Bathurst car, but Rydell’s 1998 Super Tourer pole lap stands as one of the great Shootout performances.

Having won that year’s hotly contested British Touring Car Championship, the Swede was on top of his game and ready to build on an exploratory debut at Bathurst the previous year.

Rydell’s pole lap in the five-cylinder machine proved 1.5s quicker than the next-best and would have netted a top-15 start in that year’s V8 Bathurst 1000.

1999 – 2 minutes 09.5146s

The racer-turned-television pundit’s lap aboard his Mitre 10 Falcon in the 1999 Shootout stands as one of the great underdog Bathurst poles and the highlight of the popular Ford man’s career.

His time narrowly denied Holden Racing Team spearhead Mark Skaife a third-straight Bathurst pole, giving hope to Ford fans in an otherwise bleak year.

Larkham’s lap was the fastest for a Supercar at Bathurst to that point and the first to undercut Neil Allen’s long-standing race lap record benchmark, set in a Formula 5000 single-seater in 1970.

2001 – 2 minutes 09.7785s

Scoring pole on his Bathurst debut marked Ambrose as something very special.

He was only 11th fastest in regular qualifying but made the Shootout field thanks to the Top 15 format introduced for that year, and improved by over a second in the one-lap dash.

Ambrose remains one of just two rookies to score pole for the Great Race, together with Klaus Ludwig whose 1987 efforts were overshadowed by the disqualification of his Texaco Sierra from the subsequent race.

2003 – 2 minutes 06.8594s

The ‘Lap of the Gods’ has passed into Bathurst folklore.

While others have gone faster since, the legend of Murphy’s 2003 lap has only grown as time has passed – including the missed gear that he said stopped him going even quicker.

The last man out in the Shootout after recording provisional pole with a 2:07.9503, the Kiwi took aim at John Bowe’s 2:07.9556 benchmark.

Murphy’s stunning 2:06 drew unprecedented applause from rival teams on his return to pitlane and stood as the quickest Great Race pole lap until 2014.

2017 – 2 minutes 03.8312s

Just 14 years after cheering his childhood hero to pole, it was McLaughlin’s turn to add his Shootout heroics to Murphy’s effort.

In his first run at Bathurst with DJR Team Penske, McLaughlin had recorded a series of low 2:04s in the preliminary practice sessions.

Last out in the Top 10, the Shell Ford driver delivered when it mattered and his 2:03.8312s was enough to score pole by 0.4434s – a big margin by modern Supercars standards.