MORE THAN any other endurance event currently on the Bathurst schedule, Conrod Straight is likely to play a role in deciding the outcome of the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 hour this afternoon.
Top-end speed differences between the fastest and slowest cars in the six-hour field will be larger than any other major enduro on the Mountain – with more than 70km/hr difference between the fastest and slowest cars at the end of the 2km-long Conrod straight.
While the V8 Supercars that tackle the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 are geared to just over 300km/hr and the GT3 Machinery contesting the Bathurst 12 hour range between a v-max of 270km/hr to 295km/hr, the Bathurst 6 Hour will be a different story.
A wide range of speeds will see fast closing rates and some potentially tense moments throughout today’s race.
The fastest car down the long straight so far this weekend is the always impressive Sherrin Rentals BMW 135i, clocked at 261km/hr in practice three on Saturday morning.
Close behind are thee of their major rivals for the outright victory: the stunning new Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and the Morcom / Mostert BMW 335i both hitting 257 km/hr.
Beric Lynton and Tim Leahey’s BMW 1M was clocked at 254km/hr on Saturday morning, proving the all-round speed of the BMW brigade.
Notably, the fastest car in Friday’s pair of 50-minute practice sessions – the Searle / Graham BMW M135i – wasn’t quite as quick with a top speed of 246km/hr.
The Mitsubishi brigade are all equally matched – if you’re in an EVO X RS, that is: Both the CXC Global Racing and Pollicina Motorsport Lancer’s hit 252km/hr down Conrod in practice.
It was a different story for some of the older-specification Mitsubishi’s, however with the David Wall / John Bowe Evo IX topping out at just 241km/hr.
The Holden brigade slotted neatly in between the new and older Mitsubishi’s – a majority of the V8-powered Commodores getting close to 250km/hr throughout practice, though it’s suspected their low-down torque helps them going up the hill, rather than coming down it.
Subaru fans will notice their cars don’t feature yet – the fastest of their entries clocked at just over 240km/hr in practice three.
Interestingly, the new WRX STi driven by Adam Proctor and Marc McHenry struggled for straight-line on Friday, topping out at 235km/hr. Seeking more speed without an ability to raise the horsepower level (at least for the moment) the team sneakily removed the rear wing between Friday and Saturday’s sessions, in an effort to reduce drag.
The practice three speed traps showed a small improvement to 239km/hr for the Sydney team on Saturday morning.
Of course, some outright cars are stronger than others across the top of Mount Panorama despite suffering down Conrod straight but no amount of speed across the top will help if you're left standing down the long straight.
As you go through the classes the top speeds drop corresponding with lap times – ensuring traffic is likely to play the largest role in deciding the race on Sunday afternoon.
For instance, the Renault Megane RS265s entered in Class C all topped out at 229km/hr in practice while the Class D Toyota 86s were all consistently clocked at the 210-215km/hr mark.
The Ford Falcon Saloon Cars in the Invitational Class hit 222km/hr – similar straight-line performance as the Mazda RX-8 and the BMW 130i entries on the grid.
At the end of the spectrum are the little pocket-rockets in Class E: The Nissan Pulsar managed a remarkable 199km/hr while the slowest car on the grid in a straight line is the Houlihan / Hodges Crawshaw Suzuki Swift Sport.
It managed 186km/hr down the chute before the Chase entry – 71km/hr slower than the fastest BMW.
The Hi-tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour will be streamed live and free via the Bathurst Motor Festival website, with live coverage commencing from the Mountain at 8:00am this morning.