B6HR EXPLAINED: The classes
AS LONG as there has been Bathurst there has been class racing.
From the foundation of the Bathurst 1000 as a multi-category race, to the Bathurst 12 Hour’s mix of GT and Production Cars in its formative years and to the six-hour itself, having a ‘race within a race’ has always been a big storyline when it comes to endurance racing on the big hill.
And while the outright battle is always the headline-grabber, the fight for class victory is often just as, if not more, meaningful to those involved as it can represent their one chance to stand on that famous rostrum as a Bathurst winner.
AT the pointy-end sits Class X, dubbed ‘Ultimate Performance’ – because that’s what they do.
Here’s a collection of cars – mostly BMWs, these days – that are at the top of the tree of Production Car Racing in this part of the world. With a price cap of $140,000, Class X machines are the quickest cars on track and will be the key contenders both for pole position and the outright win come Easter Sunday.
These cars were part of the existing class structure before they were split off into their own category three years ago – and it’s flourished since then.
KEY CARS: BMW M2, M3 and M4 Competition, HSV GTS Gen F.
A FOR AWESOME
CLASS A is split into two categories. ‘A1’ is for ‘Extreme Performance Forced Induction’ which means super quick cars that have engines with either Turbochargers or Superchargers, while ‘A2’ is for the similar specification vehicles but without the addition of forced induction.
This is the most numerical class and until the BMW M-cars became so dominant, was the top of the Production Car tree in Australia. Watch out if it rains, too – the fact much of the A1 cars are all-wheel drive means they could become outright contenders in an instant.
A2 is for the Muscle Car lovers among us and in 2023 and perhaps links most closely of all to Bathurst’s past: it’s filled with V8 powered, rear-drive rockets. Perfect.
KEY CARS: (A1) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO, Mercedes A45 AMG (A2) Ford Mustang GT Mach 1, HSV Clubsport.
LIKE Class A, Class B (High Performance) is split into two categories for those with forced induction and those without. A slightly lower performance level than their big brothers further up the alphabet, here’s where you find the BMW 335i’s that have been so effective in Production Car racing for 15 years, winning Bathurst’s 12 and 6 Hour races.
KEY CARS: Holden Commodore SSV, BMW 335i
C IS FOR PERFORMANCE
HERE is a class of giant-killers, cars that on paper shouldn’t be as quick as they generally turn out to be. The likes of Jake Camilleri hustling his Mazda 3 MPS among the Mitsubishi’s and Mustangs make this spectacular viewing. In terms of Production Car ‘bang for your buck’, this is about the ultimate balance of power, price and performance.
KEY CARS: Mazda 3 MPS, Renault Megane RS, MINI Cooper S, VW Scirocco, HSV Astra
THE D SHOWROOM SHOWDOWN
JOKINGLY referred to as the ‘86 Cup’, Class D was revolutionised by the stunning two-door Sports Car co-developed by Toyota and Subaru, which at $40,000 remains a remarkably cheap way to get a Bathurst win. They’ve never lost the six-hour since first entering – though the recent challenges from the rotary Mazda RX8 Cup cars make this a fantastic class fight between affordable Sports Car brands.
KEY CARS: Toyota 86 GTS, Mazda RX-8, Honda Integra Type R
BABY CARS, BIG BATTLES
THE SMALLEST cars in the race, Class E might be the slowest and smallest cars in the race, but the little cars that could always put on a great race among themselves, while entertaining fans as they’re driven at 110% every lap for the entire race.
KEY CARS: Mazda 3 SP25.