TeamVodafone’s Jamie Whincup claimed his fourth Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 victory after coming through a nail biting final few laps in a grandstand finish to the 50th anniversary of the ‘Great Race’.
Whincup partnered by Paul Dumbrell led the majority of the 161 lap race at the famous Mount Panorama circuit, but in the end the 1000km battle came down to a final lap duel between him and The Bottle-O Racing Team’s David Reynolds. As the pair entered the final bend just three tenths of a second separated the top two, but Whincup just held on to deny Reynolds his maiden V8 Supercars triumph.
Four-time winner Whincup said: “It wasn’t over until the last corner of the last lap. I was trying to juggle tyres, petrol and conserve over the top – it was crazy stuff. I knew it was going to be a dogfight. PD got smashed in the press before Sandown and this weekend did an unbelievable job.
“It was a great team effort today. We had no weak links and this will take a while to sink in. Staying off the kerbs was the best way to look after the tyres. One was starting to go on my car at the end.”
The race began with pole sitters Tradingpost FPR pair Will Davison and John McIntyre holding on to their lead while a number of their rivals were plagued by tyre issues. Jack Daniel’s Racing’s Rick Kelly and Warren Luff, partnering Craig Lowndes in the #888 TeamVodafone car were the first of these, pitting on lap ten with a left rear issue and a left front issue respectively.
The Tekno Autosports Commodore in the hands of co-driver Jonny Reid was the first retirement of the race coming to a stop at the exit of the cutting on lap 21. This brought out the first safety car of the race and saw a flurry of activity in pit lane as the leaders and most of the field pitted.
McIntyre led the field away, with Luff overtaking SP Tools Racing’s Luke Youlden at Griffins Bend on lap 25 to move into second as the first hour came to a close. Youlden in third stayed in pursuit with Bottle-O Racing Team co-driver Dean Canto in fourth, Rick Kelly in fifth and last year’s winner Holden Racing Team’s Nick Percat in sixth. The top six stayed like this until lap 32 when Canto passed Youlden for third with a slick move coming into Murray’s.
The lead changed hands for the first time as the race entered lap 35 when leader McIntyre pitted, handing the advantage to Luff. McIntyre rejoined the race after a lengthy stop but crucially in front of Whincup, who had taken over driving duties from Dumbrell during the safety car stop.
There was then drama for Percat on lap 37 when he hit the wall just before the Dipper. Luckily, he managed to nurse his car back to the pits, rejoining 13 laps later at the back of the pack. Meanwhile, Whincup swooped past McIntyre at the cutting for the net lead as Percat’s incident brought out the safety car to clear debris from the track.
Whincup soon opened up a healthy lead with a queue of cars forming behind McIntyre, who just about managed to fend them off. Shortly after Whincup headed into the pits to hand over to Dumbrell to complete his minimum of 54 laps in the car and he had no trouble in maintaining the lead.
Elsewhere early race leader McIntyre hit trouble when he ran wide at Hell Corner losing several positions in the process. The safety car was introduced again when the event had its first major incident. Immediately after his pit stop Steve Owen in the VIP Petfoods Falcon slammed into the wall at Griffins Bend on lap 55 with brake problems following a pad change.
The majority of the field elected to pit under the safety car, but Lowndes was the big loser as he dropped to 13th after having to wait behind his race leader and team mate Whincup. IRWIN Tools Racing’s Craig Baird, partnering Lee Holdsworth, decided not to pit and he inherited the lead at the restart, but Andrew Thompson, partner to Tim Slade in the Lucky 7 Racing entry, wasted little time in passing him likewise did David Reynolds.
At the front Dumbrell managed to hold onto the lead once Thompson pitted from Reynolds and Fujitsu Racing GRM’s Michael Caruso with Holden Racing Team’s James Courtney moving up to fourth.
Lap 81 saw the leader Dumbrell pit and he was followed into the pit lane by fifth placed Orrcon Steel Racing’s Mark Winterbottom, TeamBOC’s Jason Bright, Pepsi Max Crew’s Greg Murphy and Supercheap Auto Racing co-driver Christian Klien, who were all in the top 10. Dumbrell stayed behind the wheel and rejoined the race while Reynolds, who inherited the lead, came into the pits a lap later along with second placed Caruso and Courtney who was third.
Following the pit stop shake up, SP Tools Racing’s Shane van Gisbergen emerged the new leader with Dumbrell rejoining in second ahead of Canto. He pitted from the lead handing over to Youlden and sacrificing the lead to Dumbrell. Canto’s strong run continued as he maintained second spot behind the Triple Eight Engineering racer.
Lap 91 saw the re-emergence of the safety car for a fourth time as David Besnard’s Lockwood Racing Falcon went off at Skyline becoming trapped in the gravel trap. Leader Dumbrell chose not to pit unlike second placed Canto and Luff, who were hoping to grab an advantage, which would prove crucial come the end of the race.
Racing resumed on lap 95 with Dumbrell leading but with a significantly slimmer advantage. The safety car was almost called upon again when Youlden made contact with McIntyre at the cutting, sending the FPR man into the barriers. Luckily, he was able to rejoin the race and prevent another stoppage.
Safety car number five of the race was called shortly after the fifth hour clocked by for the recovery of the TeamBOC Commodore of Andrew Jones. Most of the field again took advantage of the safety car period to pit.
After a driver change in the pits Whincup led the field away on the restart on lap 109. However, only a handful of laps later the field found themselves behind the safety car again after Besnard had an off at Murray’s Corner.
With less than 50 laps to go the margin between the top ten runners tightened, with only 2.5s between positions covering the top three as Reynolds and Courtney closed in on leader Whincup.
As the race entered its final quarter, Whincup was in the box seat but he was unable to coast with Reynolds hot on his heels just two seconds back.
The woes for polesitters Davison and McIntyre continued on lap 132 as brake failure saw Davison go off at The Chase. After a pit lane infringement and mistake by co driver McIntyre, Davison’s hopes of victory were well and truly shattered and he limped home to the pit lane.
Lap 135 saw the leader come into the pits along with Reynolds, Caruso and Tekno Autosports’ Jonathon Webb. This handed the lead briefly to Courtney before he came in lap later with Lowndes. The pair were unable to rejoin ahead of Whincup, with Alex Davison in the Team Norton DJR Tru Blu entry, the outright race leader on lap 137 before he pitted.
All eyes turned to the battle for the net lead between Reynolds and Whincup with the FPR man applying heaps of pressure on the Triple Eight driver. Courtney soon joined the fray for an epic dice around The Mountain. On lap 141 he managed to slide down the inside of Reynolds to grab second and he then went in search of Whincup. At the same time, Lowndes was also on charge moving into fifth spot.
Lap after lap just a few seconds separated the trio and on lap 149 Reynolds dived down the inside of Courtney for second at The Chase.
With just a handful of laps remaining, Whincup held a 1.2 second lead from Reynolds and Courtney, but the FPR man was closing in. Whincup had to conserve fuel which allowed Reynolds to edge closer and closer as the laps ticked off toward 161.
The gap reduced to just 0.3 seconds as Reynolds tried everything he could to forge a way into the lead. The battle went right to chequered flag with Whincup just holding off Reynolds to claim his fourth Bathurst victory.
Meanwhile, the Triple Eight and Holden fans had more to cheer, as Lowndes passed Caruso and Courtney to secure the final spot on the podium.
Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 Results Top 10:
01 J Whincup/P Dumbrell 161 Laps
02 D Reynolds/D Canto +0.313
03 C Lowndes/W Luff +8.789
04 J Courtney/C McConville +9.505
05 M Caruso/G Ritter +11.103
06 J Webb/S McLaughlin +18.186
07 T Slade/A Thompson +21.044
08 L Holdsworth/C Baird +27.676
09 R Ingall/C Klien +42.057
10 A Davison/J Moffat +44.778