Mount Panorama Racing Circuit
Nicknamed Australia's own version of the 'Laguna Seca' track, The Mount Panorama race circuit is a major racing track located along the southern fringes of Bathurst in the state of New South Wales. It has hosted plenty of major race events but from an Australian perspective, the most famous is the Bathurst-1000 V8 Supercar championship held every October between Ford and Holden.Bathurst is a major town located on the Central Tablelands, west of the Blue Mountains and at a distance of roughly 220 kms from Sydney's Central Business District.
I've lived in Australia for over 10 years (8 of those in Sydney), but a shame I never really got a chance to visit this historical race-track in our backyard - until mid last year when a friend and I decided to take my BMW 325Ci-M for an exploration drive.
The destination was unplanned and not thought of - but as soon as we arrived at Bathurst, there was no way I was going to miss going to Mount Panorama.
The Drive around Mount Panorama
This track is considered one of the steepest tracks in the world but unlike many others of its class, you don't need to pay to enter as it is a scenic drive open to the public with some very lucky residents having houses along the track! (Kind of like the Nurburgring but without the 10 Euros entry fee and derestricted speed-limits).
As we entered the track, the petrol-headed child in me suddenly took over my senses and I was extremely tempted to simply floor it! Lucky (or unlucky) for me though, the RMS (Roads & Maritime Services in NSW) have wasted no resource whatsoever in warning motorists that when open to the public, the track's got an absolute and strict speed-limit of 60 KPH (roughly 40 MPH) and the chances of the track being riddled by cops is very high (especially on weekends).
I decided to take it cautious and slow (especially for the first few minutes) to familiarize myself with the course - I've played it a few times in Need For Speed - Shift Unleashed on my PS3 but then no game can really replace the real deal!
As we went past the Main Straight and Hell Corner, I couldn't help but look far ahead and marvel at how steep Mount Panorama actually is and why drivers are literally pushed to the limit when they're racing.
Between its highest and lowest points, Mount Panorama has a vertical distance of roughly 570 feet (or 174 m) and has one of the steepest gradients in the world between the mountain and straight sections.
The total length of the track (as I measured on my odo) is a a bit north of 6 km (or 4 miles) and if you strictly follow the speed limit (which many drivers rarely do), you should be able to lap the track in around 10 to 15 minutes. The lap-record however (though unofficial) was under 2 mins by British Formula-1 driver, Jenson Button who lapped his F1 car in around 1:50 as part of a promo for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
I call Mount Panorama, Australia's 'Laguna Seca' primarily due to the similarities in layout between Laguna Seca's Cork-Screw dive and Panorama's 'Esses and Skyline' and also the couple of turns that precede them (with a negative camber).
Overall, I had a heaven of a day crusing along our most spectacular circuit and I can't wait to get my race-licence now to really go full-throttle in a purpose-built car to really exploit what it has to offer!