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BATHURST 1978 The Pilgrimage


Friday night was drawing near and thousands of people in offices all over the country were packing up for the long weekend.
George had just had one of those weeks he'd rather forget, but at least it was the start of the long weekend.

His secretary had told him to go home to his wife; his boss had told him not to be too late on Tuesday and, to top it off, the afternoon papers were putting "Brocky" and the Torana into favouritism for the Hardie Ferodo 1000. "Ah, well," he thought as the five o'clock pips sent him scurrying towards the lift, "come Sunday, those motoring writers will not be so cocky."
Settling into the driving seat of the wife's Mini, he prepared to do battle with the peak-hour traffic.
Some character sliced across the Mini's nose into four feet of available space, causing George to fume "If I had the Falcon you wouldn't try that! "Yeah! If it wasn't for a petrol strike I would have shown him a thing or two about driving."
The petrol strike had been in progress for a couple of weeks, so George had been smart and had left the wife to take the bus to work while he used her car.
"Can't expect me to use the Falcon to go to work can you?" he grumbled to the wife. "I mean I've filled it up and we've got to save it so we can qo to Bathurst."
"At least today is Friday," he mumbled, waking from this reverie as the traffic started to inch forward again. At another place, at about the same time, John told his mates he was not going for the Friday-arvo drinks as it was a long weekend and he had things to do for Sunday. Leaving his friends, he ambled into the bottle shop and ordered a few dozen tinnies as well as a couple of mixers for his mate's wife. "I'll pick em up tomorrow." Next, it was a quick stop to check out the catering arrangements: "Two boxes of chips, a heap of beer nuts and I better get something to munch on while you're having a drink."
Well, that was the arrangements taken care of and he headed for home.

Don had the panel van loaded and picked up his bird from work before heading straight for the West and a long drive to Bathurst. "Everything we could possibly need," he mumbled to Vanessa, easing the car throuqh a set of lights. Throughout the nation preparations like these were taking place as one of the great gladiatorial spectacles of modern times geared up. George made it home in an hour and a half - a near record for the slowness of the journey.
His wife Mavis had what she considered a gourmet meal of pies and sauce waiting for him.
She washed the two kids and finished the packing while George wolfed the dinner down, nearly choking when he heard that Brock had taken pole position in the special qualifying runs that afternoon..

Now George had heard that there was no accommodation in Bathurst for the weekend, so he had been on the lookout for a suitable alternative.
This came in the form of a pop-up camper wich could be easily towed behind the Falcon.
He had hitcbed the camper up before going to work, so that all that was needed was to throw the kids in the back seat and Mum in the front, and he'd be off.
George was a strong Falcon supporter, so he had decaled his 3.3 litre, three on the tree, benched seat Falcon appropriately. His two Cobra decals, purloined from the guy at the local Ford Spare Parts, were neatly installed on the front guards, each facing the wrong way!
Then he was off in a flurry of crashed gears and carbon monoxide, for the Falcon hadn't had a run in over a week.
All went well for George - despite the children feeling woozy and one having a moment on Mount Victoria until the run from Lithgow to Bathurst.
A Torana SLR blasted past him on a divided section of road, catching him off guard and thus making it difficult for George to follow. He caught up when the Torana was baulked by a semi-trailer.
Both got by as the semi slowed to almost nothing climbing through a series of curving hills.
Unfortunately, the traffic kept George and his mentor nose to tail and enabled the now-lumbering cab-over Kenny to get right up on their taiI.
Heading down on to the flat drag before the restrictions of Bathurst, the inevitable happened.
Mavis had jammed as much as she could into the pop-top without actually throwing in the kitchen
sink.
The pressure of a couple of hundred kilometres of towing forced the camper to pop up just as the trio hit a sixty kilometre zone.
Well, the first thing that happened was that the increased wind drag reduced George's speed from 75 to 60, saving him from a radar trap (unlike his contemporary in the Torana who began to slow for the sign, searching for the $50 and his wallet!)
More unfortunately, he was immediately passed by a pillow doing 75 which was dutifully pulled up and booked for being unregistered, uninsured: and under-powered.
Behind this scene, all was not well for a sheet had wrapped itself right round the cab of the Kenny, causing the driver to mumble something about it being the thickest fog he'd ever seen, before reaching for his CB to warn his trucking friends.
After suitable explanations and apologies, George helped Mavis gather their belongings together, and he made his way to the circuit to settle-in for the weekend. Don arrived at the track around midnight, giving the van "one quick lap just to show you how the top drivers do it, Vanessa".
It didn't quite work out that way because a couple of fans with a little too much courage - in the form of a little too much "Courage" - had planted themselves into the Armco going down the mountain.
"They couldn't even drive a nail into wood," mumbles Don as his quick time is spoilt by the sight of several men in blue.
He retired to the mountain and set up a tent for his weekend.
"Have I ever told you the story about two Indians being warmer in one teepee?" he asks Vanessa, sliding the double sleeping bag through the doorway of his tent. "Frequently," she giggles; but grabs her handbag and heads for the tent anyway.
Sunday dawns foggy on the mountain as thousands of bleary-eyed spectators roll out into the cold morning air. Meanwhile, John rolls out of his bed, switching off the electric blanket, and heads for the kitchen to make breakfast.
Passing the TV, he switches on the set, but is disappointed to hear that fog at Mt. Panorama has delayed the start half an hour. "More time to get ready," he muses.
He'd just hopped into the shower when his mate Roger rolled up to the door with his wife Raelene.
John's wife scrambled out of bed - a picture of sartorial elegance in her Woolies nightie - and grabbed the front door before hurling abuse at Roger and inviting Raelene through.
Roger checked the telly, the fridge, and the food - in that order - before settling into a lounge chair for the pre- race paraphernalia.
After the pageantry of the start, and several tinnies, the allegiance of these supporters became very clear. Moffat took the lead to cheers and toasts, while the wives wondered if their husbands had gone completely mad or were just temporarily insane.
"I don't know how they can sit there all day and drink while they watch cars go round and round a track". said John's wife.
"Wash your mouth out with soap and water," came the cry from the lounge room. "These cars are not just going around and around," yelled Roger.
"Too bloody right," chimed in John, "they're out there to show the Toranas who's boss."
It was at this time that Allan Moffat pitted.
While being interviewed he uttered those fateful words which sent chills down the backs of John and Roger: "She's going like a 747". "No!" screamed John. "Every time he's said that in the past the bloody thing's blown up."
So it was, a short time later, Ickx pulled into the pits with no oil pressure and was forced to retire.
We all know the results of the race, and John and Roger nearly threw a couple of empty cans through the telly screen when Brock took the chequered flag. They promptly retired to the garden to console each other while drinking what was left of the beer.
"Men!" muttered their wives. George and Mavis had decided to wait until Monday before heading back to the city. On Monday morning the weather was fine, clear and sunny, so they quickly had breakfast and packed up for the return' journey.
George was not a happy man for his beloved Fords had been relegated to third and fifth places. At least it was Murray Carter who took third, and that wasn't at all bad.

On the way home, he comes across a Torana 1900 Automatic and decides that the occupants should be taught what really should have taken place on the mountain.
The Torana driver is not one to be put down easily and takes the bit between his teeth.
For miles they try to outdo each other with neither getting the upper hand. Finally, downhill with the wind behind it, the Torana "screams past the outraged Ford driver and there is
nothing he can do about it.
"George, will you stop discussing that guy's ancestry in front of the children," pleads Mavis as the Torana draws away.
"Mumble, grumble" replies George, unable to accept this final Ford defeat of the weekend.
A mile later, George's spirits lift as the Torana is pulled up on the side of the road receiving a ticket, from a radar trap - mounted appropriately on a two-door Falcon.
"Well, well," says George, "it wasn't such a bad weekend for Ford, after all."

By David Cratchley

   

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