National Motor Racing Museum - Bathurst
Showcasing Mount Panorama's Racing Heritage
Numerous motor racing circuits around the globe have installed a museum dedicated to the vehicles and people that have battled for the right to stand on the top step of the podium.
While all museums are worth a look, few offer the same opportunity as the National Motor Racing Museum at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama circuit. Visitors can submerge themselves in the circuit’s history, and then do laps of the track where that history was made.
Located inside Murrays Corner, the circuit’s final corner, the National Motor Racing Museum comes into view as you approach the 85-year-old racing icon. First, you spot the statue of touring car legend Peter Brock inside the large car park. Moments later, the impressive museum and gift shop comes into view, surrounded by a children’s playground, gas barbeques, and picnic tables, all in the shadow of the famous mountain with its name emblazoned in white across its face.
At this point, a decision is made, learn about the circuit’s rich history at the museum, or do a lap or two of the circuit. Don’t stress too much; there is plenty of time to do both. The circuit is open 24 hours a day (when not closed for racing), and the museum is open from 9am until 4:30pm every day - except Tuesdays.
Entering the museum, you first notice that a large chunk of the floor space - and walls - are dedicated to the decades of touring car racing that helped make Mount Panorama a household name- and rightly so. However, while motorcycles no longer battle for racing glory on the 6.2km circuit, the museum still celebrates their vital role in creating the Bathurst legend.
Museum Coordinator Brad Owen, a motor racing fanatic since childhood, had heard stories about how the two-wheeled brigade’s Easter Long Weekend event became the most prestigious meeting on the motorcycle-racing calendar, drawing leading riders from around the globe. However, it wasn’t until he took on the position of museum coordinator that he realised how rich that heritage was.
“Although the heyday of the Bathurst Easter meetings was a little before my time, and my knowledge of Australian motorcycle racing history was slightly lacking when I arrived at the Museum, the past five years have provided a steep learning curve,” Brad explained. “The Museum is incredibly fortunate to have the support of some fantastic lenders and passionate enthusiasts that live and breathe the history of our sport, and we hold so many of the machines that connect our visitors to this rich heritage. I’ve also been blown away by the supportive people generously sharing their knowledge to help us tell those stories.
Brad constantly looks into new ways to celebrate the halcyon days of two-wheeled racing when the bravest of riders tackled the fearsome Bathurst circuit and others around the country.
When asked to pinpoint which of the motorcycles on display is his favourite, Brad revealed it would be a tough decision. “It would be hard to pick just one,” he said. “There are so many great stories connected with every object in the museum, but I would have trouble going past Wayne Gardner’s 1987 500cc World Championship-winning bike. It’s the bike that brought top-class motorcycle racing into the Australian consciousness and paved the way for the incredible achievements of the riders that followed Wayne in 500cc and MotoGP competition.”
Today, the National Motor Racing Museum collection is regarded as the best in Australia, a diverse display of bikes, cars and memorabilia that is constantly evolving. Even those with only a passing interest in motor racing will find the museum fascinating and educational.