Photo and video courtesy of V8 Supercars
If we ever needed proof that motorsport is a cruel, cruel sport, then this year’s V8 Supercars Bathurst 1000 more than stepped up to the plate. The race is the Australian series’ most iconic and important. It ranks alongside the Indy 500 or Daytona 500 for importance in Australia. Globally, drivers lust for a berth in this race as much as they long to drive the Monte Carlo Rally, the Le Mans 24 Hours or the Monaco Grand Prix.
For the uninitiated, it’s a 1000-km, seven-hour sprint race in V8-powered cars that share a common structural chassis but panels that mimic four-door family cars. It’s like a WRC car for a road-racing circuit. Mt. Panorama is a 6.2-km circuit with gradients as steep as six-in-one and ultra-close concrete walls. It’s shaving those walls that brought out much of the drama in this year’s edition.
Indeed, the carnage unfolded before real racing began, with Warren Luff and Craig Lowndes caught in a dramatic rollover that took out the car of Garth Tander and Luff for the remainder of the weekend. Bathurst is a long way to go to be out before the race even begins.
The real drama came late in the race though. First David Reynolds and Dean Canto’s Ford Falcon expired. The duo had excellent pace and were leading the pack on strategy before their car gave up the ghost. The third such retirement for Reynolds and Canto.
Then, Scott McLaughlin, a V8 Supercars rising star and crowd favourite found the wall. The Volvo driver had led much of the race and also showed incredible pace, but a minor error on a restart ended his day in a flood of tears.
That left crowd-favourite Shane van Gisbergen in the hot seat. His single-car squad had started from pole position and he was leading by a large margin when another monster crash triggered a safety car. ‘The Gis’ headed for his final pit stop, but stalled the car on the way out. His Holden Commodore wouldn’t restart – the starter motor was fried and the Kiwi stormed out the back in utter despair.
With three of the main contenders out of the hunt, Craig Lowndes took himself and Mark Winterbottom out of contention by punting the Ford driver off the track, leaving Jamie Whincup – who’d started second-last on the grid – leading from Chaz Mostert, who had started last.
With three laps to go Whincup set the track alight, ignoring the desperate pleas from his pit crew to save fuel. He finally acknowledged their calls for conservation on the penultimate lap, but it was too late. As he and Mostert climbed the hill for the final time, the Red Bull Racing car spluttered and coughed. Mostert took the lead on the run down the hill, and celebrated a historic win as Whincup crawled across the line in fifth.
Paul Morris, Mostert’s co-driver was elated, having had a history of horror luck on the famous mountain.
The Nissan of James Moffat and Taz Douglas claimed second on the second-last corner, the Holden of former winner Nick Percat and Tudor United ace Oliver Gavin claimed third on the very last corner.
Nobody had ever won from as far back as Mostert and Morris, who were 25th and last after a qualifying infringement saw them disqualified.