If there was any year to prove that the Bathurst 1000 is still the Great Race, it would be this year’s endurance classic. The race had it all: a massive green flag period, unexpected crashes and a controversial, yet nail-biting, finish. While one team set a new Bathurst record this year, others were left heartbroken and to lament what might have been.
- Will Davison and Jonathon Webb were the popular winners of this year’s 1000, coming from 17th on the grid to win the race, despite not even leading a lap and the STIX Darrell Lea Commodore coughing at the final corner. Davison had been seeking redemption after average form during most of this season, on a high after the #19’s podium at Sandown. Webb becomes the first person in Bathurst history to win the 1000 and 12 Hour in the same year, both as a driver and a team owner. TEKNO Autosports proved that it can punch above its weight, a force to be reckoned with in the future.
- Shane van Gisbergen and Alex Prémat Second place for van Gisbergen alongside co-driver Alex Prémat extends his championship lead over Whincup. Remarkably, this was a first podium for van Gisbergen in Supercars at the Mountain, but perhaps less surprising was the pressure he applied on Davison in the closing stages, losing out by just 0.14s in the narrowest victory in the race’s history. Co-driver Prémat again proved his doubters wrong producing a faultless stint to hand the car back over in one piece. With a decent points buffer in the championship going in to the Gold Coast, a track van Gisbergen has tasted success at, the Red Bull Racing duo will also be looking to overhaul TEKNO’s six-point lead in the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
- Nick Percat and Cameron McConville gave Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport a shock podium finish edging out the Waters/Le Brocq Prodrive car for third place. It was Percat’s third Bathurst podium, after cleverly driving the #222 throughout the day to bring it home. McConville initally wasn’t meant to drive the car with Oliver Gavin tipped to pair Percat again before a clash with the Brit’s Corvette Racing team meant McConville was drafted in. To secure sponsorship was a big step for the #222 though Percat confirmed after the race he won’t be with LDM next year.
- Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell have gained the unenviable accolade of losing the last three Bathurst 1000’s due to mistakes. Dumbrell yet again showed that he is the benchmark co-driver, playing an integral part of the #88 car’s domination of the opening 92 laps under the green flag. Whincup too was flawless over the weekend, set for Brock-like levels of domination throughout the four days and more importantly the race. His desperate mistake while attempting to overtake McLaughlin 11 laps from the end of the race landed him a 15 second penalty, meaning he was the first to cross the line but finished 11th. After their calamities in 2014, 2015 and now this year, you’ve got to wonder if the pressure is getting to the six-time champion’s head as he desperately tries to keep in touch with team-mate and points leader van Gisbergen.
- Garth Tander and Warren Luff were on track to nab at least a podium, possibly even the race win when their race came to an abrupt end on lap 150. Luff did everything that was asked of him, keeping the car on the black stuff and off the fence during his time behind the wheel. Tander was in contention for the victory when he tried to be an opportunist during the Whincup v McLaughlin stoush. Slowed by Whincup on the exit of the Chase, Tander moved right while McLaughlin was coming from the left. The contact took him out of the race and from a position where he was dominating his team-mate. That is the unfortunate heartbreak of racing.
- Scott McLaughlin and David Wall could have put in Volvo’s best Supercars result at Bathurst when yet more misfortune struck. Despite the doubt surrounding Wall’s co-driving abilities, his stint had no issues and the car was reliable (unlike the sister #34 car that put on a fireworks show half way up Mountain Straight). McLaughlin was obviously hungry for a strong finish, keeping Whincup and Tander behind him while still saving fuel. When he was tipped off the road by Whincup, he was perhaps a little too keen to get back on track, coming over too quickly. With Whincup attempting to redress after the shunt, McLaughlin’s speed led to the Volvo and Tander’s Holden Racing Team Commodore ploughing into the concrete wall. McLaughlin was given a 25 point penalty for his actions though the damage had already been done.
In the COTF generation, we have been spoilt with great Bathurst races. This year’s finish was the closest non-form finish in the race’s history (in part due to the winner running out of fuel crossing the line). While we have to wait another 12 months for the next 1000, the last race of the Enduro Cup is up next. The Gold Coast event has always been a great round, especially since it is the last chance for co-drivers to get their names out there for the next year.