It was love at first sight when Tony Houghton went to the first Bathurst 1000 in 1977.
“When I get off the truck at 4am, I swear I’m crazy, the electricity goes on, the hair on the back of my neck rises, and I’m back,” he says.
Ford fanatics have been to Mount Panorama every year since then and are one of the first campers to always line up at the gate.
This year would have been his 44th position in those phyla, but the coronavirus ruled it out.
“Obviously, that was very disappointing. I’ve been there for 43 consecutive years,” says Tony.
Instead, Tony turned his humble western Sydney home into a supercar playground.
He sleeps for 10 days in the makeshift “Bathurst” backyard.
“I’m going to sleep here last weekend and I’m going to sleep until Monday morning. After the race, I’ll pack my luggage at Bathurst as usual.”
Tony has all the necessities. Kettles, beds, fridges, barbecues — and of course, every detail is Ford Blue.
“My bottle of tomato sauce is blue. When I sit on the bench, I see the Ford sticker. If I turn it the other way around, of course, the Ford logo must be displayed correctly.”
All PowerPoints have Ford stickers.
“My entire house is driven by Ford,” he says.
For over 40 years in Bathurst, his campsite with over 100 flags has become famous among fellow race participants.
A visit to “Flag Inn” is a must-see and has attracted the attention of racing drivers.
“John Bau and Dick Johnson called Bathurst’s camp every Saturday morning,” says Tony.
“Glen Seaton, Neil Crompton, David Parsons-all these drivers on the way to the truck come and sit behind my trailer, sign and take pictures for us-they Stopped every year without asking us, it’s pretty cool. “
Camping is banned this year and only 4,000 spectators can attend each day.
In a normal year, more than 200,000 fans participate in four days, but this year it has dropped to 16,000.
After the social media call, more than 800 die hards are doing the same thing as Tony.
“Many people just copy it to their chin, make the most of it like I do, and camp in the backyard,” he says.
“Friendship, all the people we meet there. Now that we meet in Bathurst, we have a lot of friends.”
Ford has long been his passion, but he is no longer manufacturing cars in Australia. He wants the following to stay alive:
“Obviously it’s very disappointing-I have a Falcon here which is the 2005 GT Falcon-to think it’s one of the last GTs-it’s over, no more, [it] It’s a shame. “
Is the Bathurst 1000 the same without the crowd?
Without the hustle and bustle of the mountains and the fence of thousands of screaming fans, Bathurst would look quite different.
Supercar Driver’s Championship Leader Scott McLaughlin isn’t too crazy about coming to the top of the mountain and seeing no one in the bank.
“No matter what it looks like to the fans, it’s still bathurst and still in its awe. It’s a very special place for all of us drivers,” says McLaughlin.
He’s right — Holden Ford’s competition is well and really alive in homes across the country, just ask Tony’s grandson Lucas.
“Speaking of H word [Holden] It’s timed out and we’re in really big trouble, “says Lucas Tohma.
The 9-year-old kid participated in the race last year and has become a tradition for grandfathers and grandchildren.
“100 percent, I love Bathurst because my pop loved Bathurst and he encouraged me to choose Bathurst,” Lucas says.
Fortunately, the caravan has room for a few more visitors. Because his four grandchildren are camping with him on the weekends.
And while the pandemic is postponing this year’s annual rally, panthers like Tony look forward to raising the flag in 2021.