Veterans Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards have scored a fairytale win in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia.
In his final 1000 as a full-time Supercars driver, Lowndes grabbed his seventh Bathurst win, and Richards his fifth, after their Holden Commodore took the lead late in the race in dramatic circumstances.
Up to that point the race had been dominated by the Erebus Motorsport Holden of David Reynolds and Luke Youlden. From pole position Reynolds sped away and led most of the race, until he was slowed by a severe cramp during his penultimate driving stint.
Then at his final pit stop, while taking on fluids, Reynolds slipped on the clutch and spun the rear wheels while his car was still on its jacks, which is against the rules. He had to serve a drive-through penalty for the transgression, and when he resumed, he found he could not carry on and had to pit again to hand over to Youlden, who drove to 13th place.
For Reynolds, there was no consolation prize.
“I mentally wasn’t there for the first 15 laps [of the stint],” he said. “I had the best car, I just can’t believe it…”
Lowndes, 44, and Richards, 46, struggled early in the race with a broken anti-roll bar.
“We can into this weekend with a lot of confidence and we didn’t have quite the speed at the start of the race,” said Lowndes.
“To have all the problems we had earlier in the week and then for us to bounce back as a team was really good. I couldn’t have asked for anything more to really have the track come to me at the end and for us it really was an incredible finish. I’ve never had such a big gap on the last lap to be able to enjoy it. Towards the end, your mind’s thinking anything can happen.
“I started to smell rubber and thought something could be wrong, but it was [Tim] Slade. The crowd was immense, but Richo [Steven Richards] did a fantastic job and what an amazing finish to a great race.”
“Unbelievable, words cannot describe what’s just happened,” echoed Richards. “I’m just stunned! We know at this place anything can happen, but we’ve had a tough weekend on our side of the garage and when it came to it the boys really dug deep.
“There’s been a lot of stress, but we just knuckled down and got on with it and this is an absolute credit to the Autobarn Lowndes Racing team. This win is really special to have the kids here. They thought it was a good luck charm not to have them here, so it’s fantastic that they can be here for this.”
Second was another Holden, with Scott Pye and Warren Luff rewarding a tough day for Walkinshaw Andretti United. Only four co-drivers started the race and Luff was one of them, making good ground from grid 16 until handing over to full-timer Pye. He seized third mid-race and while he could not make ground on the leaders, neither did he allow anyone behind to catch up.
“Luffy did another stellar job,” said Pye, who had the same result last year. “Two years in a row to come second is bittersweet but coming second to Lowndesy is not so bad.”
Third was the best of the Fords, the DJR Team Penske of Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat. The Frenchman took the lead during his first stint but ultimately their Falcon did not quite have the speed/economy mix to catch the Holdens.
“Well done to Craig,” said McLaughlin. “We will come back here faster with a Mustang [next year].”
Fourth was another Ford, the Tickford Racing entry of Chaz Mostert and James Moffat. The former looked to be in trouble when he tangled with teammate David Russell early in the race, sending the latter to the pits with broken steering. But the stewards determined no action was to be taken, allowing them to move through the field in the second half of the race.
For the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, the race was a disappointment. Both Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup were in contention to win the race, but fourth was the best ‘SVG’ could do. Aided by Bathurst 1000 rookie and current WEC Champion Earl Bamber, van Gisbergen went on to finish fifth to maintain his Supercars Championship points lead.
Whincup’s co-driver Paul Dumbrell had a nasty moment when his car lost a front wheel. He toured to the pits, where repairs put him a lap down, before Whincup got the car back onto the lead lap. But with no Safety Cars in the second half of the race, the best he could do was 10th.
The Supercars Championship now heads to the Gold Coast street circuit for two 300km (186-mile) races on October 20-21.
161 laps/1000km/620 miles
1. Craig Lowndes/Steven Richards (Triple 8/Autobarn Holden) 6h01m44.8637s
2. Warren Luff/Scott Pye (Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden) +6.2920s
3. Scott McLaughlin/Andre Premat (DJR Team Penske Ford) +9.4081s
4. Chaz Mostert/James Moffat (Tickford Racing Ford) +10.2530s
5. Shane van Gisbergen/Earl Bamber (Red Bull HRT Holden) +27.4209s
6. Garth Tander/Chris Pither (Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden) +30.0098s
7. Nick Percat/Macauley Jones (Brad Jones Racing Holden) +36.5424s
8. James Golding/Richard Muscat (Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden) +37.2325s
9. Tony D’Alberto/Fabian Coulthard (DJR Team Penske Ford) +47.1120s
10. Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell (Red Bull HRT Holden) +56.4334s
Fastest lap: David Reynolds (Holden) on lap 103, 2m06.1492s
Championship points: van Gisbergen 3276, McLaughlin 3257, Whincup 2872, Lowndes 2787, Reynolds 2567, Mostert 2288, Coulthard 2282, Kelly 2242, Pye 2182, Slade 1970.