Early history of Bathurst 1000
Funnily enough, the history of the Bathurst 1000 doesn’t begin in Bathurst, and the race wasn’t 1000km! Despite being the most famous car race in Australia, the Bathurst 1000 started life as the Armstrong 500, on Phillip Island near Melbourne, in November 1960. At the time, the event was promoted as the world’s premier production saloon car race. The 500 mile (800km) race came with an impressive prize pool for the era (£11,000) and was split into 5 classes based on engine size.
Some of the great names in Australian car racing took to the track. Both Harry Firth and the legendary Bob Jane were champions with a Mercedes 220 SE and Ford Falcon XL taking the honours between them.
After two years at Phillip Island, the Armstrong 500 needed a new home. The road between the island and the Victorian mainland was prone to breaking under the strain of the long race, meaning a more established circuit was required after severe damage occurred during the 1962 race.
The epic Mt Panorama circuit in Bathurst was chosen as the new home of the Armstrong 500, just as the race was becoming the main event on the motorsports calendar. While the official name ‘Bathurst 500’ didn’t come along until much later, contemporary Aussie slang of the time was already calling the race, “The Bathurst Special”.
By the late 1960’s the Bathurst race was internationally renowned and a landmark event in Aussie sport.