Race of the Year: Bathurst 1000

What else could you ask for out of a race where the winning car was stuffed into the tire barrier a quarter of the way through, made thirteen pit stops and managed to lead only the last lap of the race after starting from dead last on the grid?

Does anybody honestly think Hollywood could have come up with that script?

The only things that could have made the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 crazier than it had already been would have been a massive rain shower and a wayward spectator walking onto the circuit to disrupt the race.

Australia’s biggest race started with Shane Van Gisbergen on pole but it was Scott McLaughlin in the Volvo S60 that led into turn one. McLaughlin and co-driver Alex Premat were able to hang on to the lead for a while in the early parts of the race. All the while, championship leader Jamie Whincup drove what was perhaps one of the greatest first stints in Bathurst histories he moved his way up from 23rd on the grid. Then the race got a bit more interesting.

Paul Morris, co-driving Chaz Mostert’s number 6 Ford Falcon, went off the track into the tire bar-rier at the second turn, while at the same time, Brad Jones Racing teammates Dale Wood and Andrew Jones hit each other under the safety car. The track was repaved before the race and the pavement started to separate and come off of the track in the second turn, requiring a red flag with 100 laps to go.

After a lengthy red flag, the race resumed and the lead got shuffled amongst a few drivers be-fore van Gisbergen and his co-driver, Jonathon Webb held the lead. Meanwhile, Whincup col-lided with Todd Kelly, causing a small accident exiting the chase only two laps after the race had been resumed.

The race then settled down a little bit until McLaughlin hit the wall coming out of The Cutting. The brush with the wall damaged his steering and he was out of contention, leaving the race for van Gisbergen to win.

Or would he?

Race strategy was starting to play a key factor in the later stages of the race. Van Gisbergen, Mostert and Craig Lowndes were all trying to push hard so when they made their last stops of the race, they would be ahead of the trailing Mark Winterbottom and Whincup.

However, Tim Blanchard’s run-in with the wall on the way to The Cutting meant that van Gis-bergen, Mostert and Lowndes would be able to pit with minimal damage to their race lead.

Or would it be?

Van Gisbergen’s work was done in the pits, but his car had stalled in the pits when he tried to exit. When he attempted to start the car, the starter motor had failed, relegating the late race leader out of contention for the victory.

After van Gisbergen’s situation, Whincup was in the lead but went off the track at Hell Corner, allowing Winterbottom to sneak on by into the lead with 11 laps to go.

The race went back to green flag conditions and Whincup got around Winterbottom. One corner later, Winterbottom’s bid for a victory was ended after he was spun by Lowndes. Despite Winterbottom getting his own car pointed in the right direction quickly, Lowndes received a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable accident.

Whincup was leading over the freshly-fueled Mostert but was in fuel trouble. Whincup ignored several radio messages telling him to back off so he could save some fuel for the last laps of the race. Whincup ignored these messages, pulling out a three second gap on Mostert before the message finally got through to him from the race team manager Mark Dutton.

“You’ve got enough fuel for one lap and you’ve got a lap and a half to do, copy that?”

Whincup understood the message and replied to his team after laps of radio silence from the five-time Bathurst winner. He slowed his pace to conserve some fuel while Mostert gained and was going to hound Whincup for every drop of fuel that the Holden had in its reserve fuel tank.

Around the last lap they went, Mostert harassing Whincup through The Cutting, around Quarry Corner, Frog Hollow and Sulman Park before attempting to go around the outside of Whincup at McPhillamy Park and then on the inside heading into Skyline. Through The Esses and The Dipper Mostert followed Whincup until finally, he seized his chance.

Coming into Forrest’s Elbow, Mostert went to the inside. Whincup guarded the inside but went wide on the exit after maybe a small amount of contact from Mostert. Whatever the case may be, Mostert went around Whincup on the last lap as Whincup proceeded to run out of fuel on the last lap of the race.

Meanwhile, Mostert became the 2014 Supercheap Auto 1000 winner with his co-driver Morris. James Moffatt and Taz Douglas shared the second-place car that had its fair share of damage after a couple of meetings with the tire barrier and Nick Percat shared the third-place car with Oliver Gavin. Whincup and Paul Dumbrell’s car finished fifth behind the Davison brothers, Will and Alex.

Mostert’s victory was the second in a row at The Mountain for Ford Performance Racing after Winterbottom’s triumph over Whincup in 2013.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.

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