Jenson Button & Craig Lowndes drive F1 car around Mount Panorama, Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

Today represented a once in a lifetime experience—the chance to witness a Formula One car lapping the legendary Mount Panorama circuit in Bathurst. It was a chance the AUSmotive Editor was unwilling to let slip.

Shortly after arriving at the track the 2008-spec McLaren MP4-23 showcar fired into life in its pit garage. It was a sign for me to go to the top of the mountain. The section from the Cutting to Forest Elbow is what makes Mount Panorama so special, and it was here I wanted to see the F1 car in anger.

The Esses proved to be one of the better vantage points and after a bit of a wait Jenson Button finally came out for a single installation lap. There was another slight delay of 10–15 minutes before he came back out to complete his flying laps. Button’s quickest time, recorded unofficially, was 1:48.3—some 18 seconds faster than the current V8 Supercar lap record, coincidentally held by Lowndes.

I felt the sensation of speed would be greater across the top of the Mountain at McPhillamy Park and moved there for the rest of the laps.

The tell-tale lifting front wheel entering the left-hander at McPhillamy indicated Lowndes was leaving little in the bank during his V8 Supercar laps. His fastest time was 2:11.

Button was more circumspect, but you could see his pace and confidence grow with each lap in the big V8. Reports suggest his best lap time was some 4-6 seconds behind Lowndes.

Last man out was Craig Lowndes in the F1 car. He too grew in confidence with every lap and posted a best time of 1:49.5.

The sound of the screaming 2.4 litre V8 on the climb up Mountain Straight, through the Cutting and Sulman Park was awe-inspiring. The F1 shrill continued down through The Esses, Forest Elbow and Conrod Straight. It’s a sound that won’t be forgotten easily.

The funny thing is, you get the feeling the F1 car still had a lot to give. Indeed, Button believes a sub 1:40 lap would be possible with more time and fine tuning.

Not too long after the serious action finished the track was re-opened for public use and I enjoyed a few laps before heading home. It was a perfect way to end the day.

I hope the series of pics and videos below offer you a small taste of what the experience was like.

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst

F1 car at Bathurst