What a sensational 3 day long weekend at the inaugural Ferrari Festival at Bathurst! The Ferrari Festival, arranged by Ferrari Australasia, was part of the Bathurst 12 Hour Race Weekend, an international endurance race for GT3, GT and production cars held in the first weekend of February each year.
The Bathurst 12 Hour Race
In the last few years there has been unprecedented domestic and international exposure for the event and it has grown to be an amazing occasion, with many spectators spending a long weekend at the Bathurst.
Supercar manufacturers globally now have this event cemented on their calendar, many with multiple race teams. Commentary is provided by the team from Radio Le Mans, with live TV coverage on Seven Network and 7mate, as well as internet based streaming globally.
This year Ferrari had two local teams, both using 458 GT3 cars, with several overseas Ferrari savvy drivers. The Maranello Motorsport team, sponsored by McDonalds, had 4 drivers: Mika Salo (Finland), Tony Vilander (Finland), Tony D'Alberto, and Grant Denyer. The Vicious Racing Team, sponsored by Defelice Homes, also had 4 drivers: Tony Defelice, Andrea Montermini (Italy), Benny Simonsen, and Renato Loberto (also a co-ordinator for the Ferrari Festival).
The 488 GT3 had not been homologated in time for the race but we are sure to see this significantly more powerful Ferrari in 2017. The Maranello Motorsport Team won the 2014 event in a Ferrari 458 GT3 with drivers John Bowe, Peter Edwards, Craig Lowndes and Mika Salo.
The main race is on Sunday from 6am to 6pm. Each team has 3 to 4 drivers. This long distance 12 hour race requires endurance, reliability, tactics, great driving and a very powerful car to climb the mountain!
Compared to the Bathurst 1000, the Bathurst 12 Hour is more exclusive. There are less crowds, less alcohol, and less hoons. The Harris Car Park is full of many exotic supercars and displays.
The Mount Panorama track
The Mount Panorama circuit is famous worldwide, with many international drivers believing it is a unique, highly challenging, fearsome track, due to the drastic and rapid elevation change of 174 metres with grades as steep as 1:6 (one nicknamed "The Dipper"), around very narrow and tight corners on the top of Mount Panorama.
The track is 6.2 km (4 miles) long, with the lap record of 2 minutes, is technically a street circuit since it is normally a public road. The very first race held at Mount Panorama was the 1938 Australian Grand Prix followed later by the 1947, 1952, 1958 GP.
Ferrari Festival activities
This first Ferrari Festival held at Bathurst for Ferrari road car owners proved an outstanding success and went like clockwork. Held over 3 days there was driving on the track, track tours, commentary, dinners, driving on the country roads, and socializing.
On Friday and Saturday, the Ferrari road cars had half hour sessions at midday on the track with passengers. This orientation session was vital because of the complexity of the track. Later in the afternoon on both days was another half hour session, without passengers, but at an almost unrestricted pace. A new 488 road car clocked 294 km/hr down Conrad Straight.
Driving this track is an amazing, unforgettable experience, and gives an incredible appreciation of the challenges of the race. Many things go through your mind, such as how do you pass on these steep sharp bends? How do you know what is ahead? After driving your own Ferrari at Bathurst it feels like you have conquered the myth that many people dream of and aspire to.
Ferrari had a number of tours during the weekend, explaining the pits, meeting support crews, and going to the top of the mountain to talk about how the race drivers make their way through this very challenging section of the circuit.
The Ferrari Suite, a VIP hospitality area, was the central point for the Ferrari owners. Drivers would visit to give commentary during the Sunday race, and briefings were held before each of the track sessions for the Ferrari owners. In addition, a "mini" Ferrari Suite was setup downstairs in the pits, between the two Ferrari race teams; here you could enjoy a drink, shade, TV coverage, and see the pit crews in action close up. Ferrari Australasia, and the local Ferrari Maserati Sydney dealer, did a great job of looking after everyone.
A secure Ferrari Car Park was setup in Harris Park which looked fabulous with the variety of road cars. Ferrari bought a number of demo cars including the latest stable of: 488 GTB, 488 Spider, F12, and California T. For many star of the car park was the Dino 246 GT.
The Hydro Majestic base camp
Accommodation for many Ferrari road car owners was the grand Hydro Majestic Hotel which spans over a kilometre atop of a breathtaking escarpment in Australia’s World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park.
The famous historic Hydro Majestic opened in 1904 and over recent decades fell into disrepair. It was reopened in October 2014 after a 6 year $30 million renovation. Today it's absolutely impressive, with lots of floor-to-ceiling windows, and the main white building with its beguiling blend of Victoria, Edwardian and Belle Epoch design, and heritage preservation of much of it's original features internally and externally. During dinner the German born hotel manager gave a short talk on the history of the hotel and his love of motorcars.
The Ferrari owners enjoyed breakfast and delicious dinners at the Hydro daily, and some spirited scenic drives to/from Bathurst via sweeping, empty country roads which made for some memorable driving. A few spouses, less interested in motor racing, spent the days exploring some of the many tourist attractions in the Blue Mountains.
February 2017 plans
Everyone who attended this year will try and make it back in 2017 because they really enjoyed the Ferrari Festival. So in 2017 Ferrari plan to cater for additional attendees at the Festival. There will also be much excitement with the new 488GT3 racing next year. So put a place marker in your calendar for the first weekend in February 2017.