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Bathurst weekend – and yes, I care

Bathurst weekend – and yes, I care

On appearances, I don’t strike most people as a big V8 fan let alone someone who looks forward to the Bathurst 1000.

And yet, I am.

My name is Leah Cwikel, and I love Bathurst weekend.

My earliest memories of Bathurst are of weekends spent at my grandparent’s house, wondering why Grampy would want to spend a whole day watching cars drive around the same course over and over again.

I have always associated car racing – actually, anything to do with cars really – with my Grampy. Ever since I was little, whenever we went to their place whether it was just for dinner or for a big family gathering or an anniversary, one car race or another would be on the television. Throughout the day, in-between entertaining and pouring glasses of wine, Grampy would always take little chunks of time to sit in his chair and lose himself in the race, commentating his thoughts to no one in particular.

It wasn’t until four years ago now that, with a friend of mine, I actually sat down and watched the race. The weather that day wasn’t particularly great to do anything outdoors, I had a cupboard full of snacks (I still lived at home at this stage so the snack situation was always abundant and plentiful) and I found myself intrigued as to what the actual draw people found to car racing was.

By the halfway point I was so bloody excited that I was quite literally on the edge of my seat.

I had no idea that tactics played such a huge part in what seemed like a pretty straight forward, albeit long race. When to pull in for pit-stops, what laps do you try and conserve fuel and what laps to you go full ball, at what point do you tag in for the other driver, WHEN GOD WHEN DO YOU STOP TO FILL UP ON PETROL? I was lucky enough that my introduction to Bathurst was filled with as much drama as this year’s Bachelor finale.

It was the race where Jamie Whincup famously ignored his team’s calls to ease his pace and conserve fuel. He famously ran out of fuel on the 161st and final lap of the 2014 Bathurst 1000 allowing Chaz Mostert to pass him for the win.

So yeah – I lucked out when it came to being introduced to a new sport.

I am a big sports fan in general – another thing that people don’t really expect from me with my terrible eyesight, my short stature and my general being, really. But I love sports.

I am a keen follower of the W-League here in Australia, I am a Miami Dolphins fan and when I travelled to New York I absolutely fell in love with the New York Rangers and the NHL in general. You can take me to any live sports game and be guaranteed that not only will I have a good time, but I will be riddled with goosebumps and the inquisitive little girl that I used to be will coming raring back and I will ask all the questions I can think of. I can watch most sports on television if I understand the rules – except cricket, there is just something about that sport that I cannot deal with. However the 20/20 is brilliant and has become a staple for that time of year for me along with Christmas lights, balmy summer nights and weekends spent at the beach.

On Bathurst day, I go shopping in the morning for all the food and prepare a huge antipasto cheese platter, clean the house so that there is nothing that I feel that I should be doing other than sitting on the lounge, relaxing for the following seven hours. This Sunday it is meant to be cold and raining which only enhances Bathurst day for me – being snuggled on the lounge, warm and dry inside eating cheese.

It isn’t just the food side of things that I am particularly excited about, it is also the fact that Shane van Gisbergen (drives for Red Bull Racing and is my favourite driver because he drifts supercars which is pretty much impossible) is teaming up with a new co-driver. Fellow New-Zealander Earl Bamber is an endurance racer who has won the Le Mans 24-hour race twice, once in 2015 and then again last year in 2017. I am so keen to see how the pair do on Sunday as van Gisbergen is hoping for his first win at Bathurst (and is currently leading the championship tally board) while his co-driver is still brushing up on the race’s rules, “Even the driver change rules are different to Europe, how you have to take the belts off, so he’ll be refreshing himself on that,” van Gisbergen commented.

I never thought that car racing would ever be something that whips me into the frenzy, but there is something pretty special about Bathurst. It is like the 20/20 of car racing – even those who don’t particularly follow the sport enjoy the Bathurst 1000 and almost every Australian knows the famous Mount Panorama. Personally, I have really enjoyed familiarising myself and even getting excited about a sport that is so far removed from my regular interests and I also love the fact that it ties me to my Grampy, whether he is aware of it or not.

Pete and I have a big day tomorrow travelling to Bowral and back for a wedding. Waking up in bed on Sunday to a rainy morning with cheese and car racing to look forward to may not sound like everyone’s idea of heaven, but it certainly does to me.

Go van Gisbergen.

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