THE largest ever grid for an endurance race at Mount Panorama - that is what Bathurst 6 Hour director Ken Collier is confident he will witness this Easter.
A grid-record had looked a sure thing for the Bathurst 6 Hour this time 12 months ago, with 68 entries having been accepted for the 2020 enduro. However, the COVID-19 pandemic did not see that milestone realised.
Event organisers Australian Racing Group then rescheduled the Bathurst 6 Hour from April to November, 2020, but once again COVID-19 meant any hopes of eclipsing the 64-car field which contested the 2017 race were again put on hold.
But a new year has brought with it fresh hope for a Bathurst 6 Hour that will be remembered for both the size of the grid and the competition created by those who buckle in for the enduro.
Already 51 entries have been received for the NSW Central Tablelands event and there are a further 12 having confirmed their intention to compete pending completion of the entry process.
Collier expects even more entries on top of that before the March 6 deadline.
"We are confident that both the size and also the quality of the 2021 grid will be the best the Bathurst 6 Hour has ever seen," Collier said.
"The reaction from the competitors to the 2021 Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour has been outstanding.
"[We had] 25 entrants rolled over their existing entry towards the 2021 race the moment it was confirmed that 2020 would not go ahead, while another large group of existing entrants have already re-entered, or confirmed that they will be back on the grid alongside several new entrants.
"That level of support for the event despite the challenges of the last 12 months has been incredible and has helped us to push the race forward to a new level.
"We have also seen new teams, drivers and vehicles being prepared for their debut this year which shows how important and significant this race is for the Production Car community."
IN OTHER NEWS:
While it remains to be seen if this year's event, which will run from April 2-4, does indeed attract a record grid, it has been confirmed that two former Bathurst 6 Hour winning teams will be vying for more glory at Mount Panorama.
The BMW M3 Competition outfit which dominated in 2019 with Orange native Tim Leahey and Beric Lynton behind the wheel, is amongst the confirmed entrants.
So too is the BMW M4 of brothers Grant and Iain Sherrin which won the 2018 edition of the enduro.
Those two teams give the German manufacturer a good chance of continuing their stranglehold on the Bathurst 6 Hour.
Since the inaugural edition a BMW has claimed the chequered flag each time - Chaz Mostert and Nathan Morcom having won the 2016 event in a 335i E92, while the 2017 winning entry of Paul Morris and Luke Searle was a BMW M135i Hatch F20.
However, that dominance is sure to be challenged by four Ford Mustangs, that model having become eligible for the Bathurst 6 Hour last year.
In total 12 different brands and more than 20 different models have been confirmed on the entry list for this Easter.
It makes for a tantalising battle come the Sunday, but the action before then will be hot too with a packed program of support category races.
Bathurst talent Brad Shiels will be on the grid as the TCR Series makes its Mount Panorama debut, while he also intends to contest the Radical Australia Cup round at the iconic circuit. He is the current Bathurst lap record holder in that category
Fellow local Brad Schumacher is set to race his new Audi in the GT World Challenge, while the National Trans Am Series, Bathurst Excel Challenge and the New South Wales Historic Touring Cars are part of the program as well.
Collier said it will "make this a weekend to remember at Mount Panorama."
Tickets, Camping and Corporate Hospitality packages remain on sale and are available via the Bathurst 6 Hour website - www.bathurst6hour.com.au