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Organisers of the Super Cheap Auto Bathurst 1000 are predicting the massive crowd generated last year by the death of Peter Brock will be overtaken tomorrow week.
More than 193,000 spectators, a rise of almost 30,000 on 2005, turned up over four days at Mt Panorama in 2006 as the tide of emotion following nine-time winner Brock's untimely death a month earlier descended on Australia's most hallowed motor-racing venue.
“We are on track for the biggest Bathurst 1000 ever,” V8 Supercars Australia chairman Tony Cochrane said.
“Many people thought with the death of Peter Brock last year those crowds would never be repeated.
“More than 80,000 advance Bathurst ticket sales had been made before the Sandown 500 last month.
“We are further ahead with grandstand sales than we were last year.”
Special celebrations have been organised for the 45th running of Bathurst that will include a parade of some former champions and their cars.
The legendary Harry Firth and tyre king Bob Jane wrote the first chapter in the Bathurst story when they shared a Ford Cortina GT and won what was called the Armstrong 500 Mile race in 1963.
Firth and Jane's Cortina will be one of several former winning machines which will be honoured in a special parade of champions before the 161-lap marathon next Sunday.
The traditional race start of 10am will be pushed back to 10.30am to make way for extended pre-race hoopla.
Series broadcaster Channel 7 will showcase each of the 31 cars in the race, showing them on individual laps immediately before they grid-up and informing viewers of their progress since rolling out for the opening practice sessions on Thursday.
The Bathurst bangers will go off on presentation laps at about 40-second intervals which will add about 20 minutes to the pre-race hype.
Channel 7 has committed an unprecedented 21 hours of live coverage over three days from next Friday to Sunday.
Even if bad weather and safety cars conspire to slow the race, Seven has given an assurance that it will bump its 6pm news back if necessary to show the race in its entirety.
The later start gives organisers some breathing space to help spectators filter into Mt Panorama and there is now time for two support races prior to the Bathurst 1000 starting.
“The later start helps from a point of view of filtering traffic into the circuit precinct, easing the pressure on day-trippers from Sydney and has made way for two support events (Carrera Cup and Touring Car Masters),” V8 Supercars general manager of special events, Shane Howard, said.
There are modifications to the movement and consumption of alcohol in response to a tightening of NSW liquor laws at major events this year.
An insignificant number of punters have requested refunds in light of the changes.
“Let's deal with the truth . . . we are approaching over 80,000-odd advance ticket sales,” Cochrane said.
“We've had 20 — two-zero — requests for refunds.”
Alcohol can still be brought into and consumed in the camping areas but it is prohibited to take alcohol into or out of the licensed areas, defined this year at the bottom of the circuit.
The bottom of the mountain from the Chase through to Pit Straight and Harris Park and up Mountain Straight will be fully licensed.
“We don't have any choice in that these are the terms and conditions of operating a major event in NSW,” Howard said.
“What we can do is negotiate with our caterer to ensure that alcohol prices in the venue are as low as the caterers can operate to.”
More than $750,000 is being spent on beefed-up police and security.
There will be 160 police at the circuit, double that of last year and there will be tougher searches at the entry points for fireworks and other contraband.
Great Race highlights
Legendary Harry Firth and Bob Jane claim the first Bathurst enduro, the Armstrong 500, in a Ford Cortina GT.
It was the year the mighty Morris Mini Cooper S conquered Mt Panorama with Rauno Aaltonen and Bob Holden sharing the wheel.
Firth claims his second Bathurst win with Fred Gibson in a Ford Falcon XR GT.
A youthful Peter Brock won the first of his nine victories at the mountain with a brilliant solo drive in a Holden Torana LJ XU1.
A star was born when Dick Johnson and his co-driver, Brisbane car dealer John French, steered a Ford Falcon XD to victory a year after the well-chronicled “rock” incident.
After suffering a puncture on the opening lap, Larry Perkins and Russell Ingall came from a lap down to win.
The decorated Jim Richards claims a seventh title as co-driver to Mark Skaife in the lead Holden Racing Team Commodore.
Peter Brock's understudy Craig Lowndes takes an emotional win with Jamie Whincup a month after the legendary racer was killed in a tarmac rally in Perth.