Craig Lowndes’s 888 car in heritage Brock-style livery

50 years of the “Great Race” from Bathurst. The race itself conjures up emotions in every Australian and thousands flock to the mid-western New South Wales town for that one weekend in October when the race teams descend and turn a publicly gazetted road into a track like nowhere else in the world.

Fans unable to make the pilgrimage know they’ve been able to watch the race on Channel 7 for most of those 50 years. Through the years the technology used to cover the race has developed dramatically, including the invention of in-car remote controlled cameras called “RaceCAM”. The coverage from Seven to celebrate the 50 years of the race noted this and the incredible change in access to teams and safety across the track as the speed of the cars has increased.

This year was always going to be special. Nostalgia flowing thick and fast; some teams completely re-painting/branding their cars as a nod to past race heroes like Brock and Johnson. The fans were always going to turn up, and that they did: 207,205 people attended this year’s race, up from 192,000 in 2006 (the year that modern racing lost a legend in Peter Brock). The event is made even moreso when they acknowledge the rich history of the race like this:

What is most critical for Ch7 this year (and last year) was that they ensured the race was broadcast LIVE to air, especially after the debacle of 2010 when, thanks to social media, it was discovered the network were pausing their broadcast of the race whenever they went to an ad break across the day, meaning the actual race finished nearly an hour ahead of the televised broadcast. As much as Ch7 did protest, they ensured it was live in 2011 to mend fences and prepare for as massive telecast in 2012. Now, If only we could get them to broadcast the race in HD… (that will come).

Broadcast anchor Matthew White has grown into the host role sitting alongside ex-driver Neil Crompton for the major part of the coverage, adding Mark Skaife to the mix this year. All three delivered insightful comment on the race and the specific events around it, ably supported by Mark Beretta in the pits, Mark Larkham offering engineering special commentary and Neil Kearney covering the colour of the mountain.

It’s a well-oiled machine delivering amazing coverage across Australia and the world. Ch7 & V8 Supercars should be proud with the end result as fans were pleased with the overall coverage – 99% of talk across social media channels was about the action within the race, not the coverage itself (other than to applaud the bodies involved).

In the future, what will become of this and the other V8 Supercar races? Massive changes introduce two new manufacturers to the game in 2013, making the 51st Bathurst possibly an even more contested one that what was seen yesterday. Will V8 Supercars start to adapt an owned media model, similar to that the NFL use, where they cover their own events and on-sell the footage to broadcast networks and direct to fans across the web? Can Motorsport survive a shrinking pool of advertisers capable of shelling out the necessary bucks to sponsor teams? It’s been an interesting 50 years of Bathurst and motor racing in Australia… and there’s a lot more interest to come.