Kevin Bartlett believes that S5000 drivers will have a challenging but “magnificent” experience at Bathurst based on his own mileage at Mount Panorama in a Formula 5000 car.
The modern incarnation of F5000 is set to race on the mountain for the first time at November’s Bathurst International event, decades after Bartlett hoped to have the same opportunity.
The octogenarian starred in the Tasman Series and also twice won the Australian Drivers’ Championship, a title which has been bestowed upon S5000 ahead of its inaugural season proper.
However, Bartlett only ever got to conduct demonstrations in an F5000 at Bathurst, when he managed to exceed 300km/h in the days before The Chase.
“Back in 1976, Max Stewart and I did demonstration laps at Bathurst in our Lola T400s,” he recalled.
“We did 190mph on the old Conrod Straight! We were saying that we had to go back and race F5000s there but it never happened, and ever since I have hoped big open wheelers would one day race at Bathurst again.
“My memories of driving a big open wheeler at Bathurst were that you had to be highly alert, and tyre temperature and grip were a real factor in how hard you could push.
“The S5000 drivers will have to work really hard to build tyre ‘temp’ at the start of the lap.
“Hell Corner in an F5000 felt good, but then the tyres would cool down Mountain Straight and the run to Turn 2 so by the time you got to the Cutting they would be just coming up to temperature.
“Then by Reid Park you would feel the grip and down through the Esses the tyres were nice and warm.
“I have said to Garry Rogers and other people in the know that the S5000 drivers might experience the same thing and that they will have to be cautious, but an S5000 down Conrod Straight and through the Chase will be just magnificent.”
The modern day S5000 category is a spec formula with V8-powered cars capable of reaching a top speed of 300km/h.
Bartlett says that the level playing field and low-downforce aerodynamic package will make for a true test of drivers.
“You won’t keep me away from the box when they go racing again, and if there is an S5000 race near me I will be attending it,” he exclaimed.
“It is a brilliant concept, and the whole set-up is what we should have had in the F5000 days if it had been able to be implemented. A common sense approach with equal equipment and the like, and much more of a level playing field than F5000 was.
“The difference in S5000 will come from the drivers, as these are fast, serious racecars where you’ve got to be very good, precise and drive them properly to find the limits. Not every driver can do that.
“They are obviously a hell of a lot safer than what we drove, and I am an avid supporter of not putting too much aero on the cars – we don’t need it. The accident you have in a high ‘aero’ car where the car is glued and then gets unglued is much bigger than if a car is naturally loose.
“When a racecar doesn’t have the ‘glued to the road’ effect, you drive with a greater degree of caution but you also have to stay very alert to keep on top of the car.”