BATHURST, New South Wales, Australia — Report by Race Chaser Online V8 Supercars Correspondent James Pike — Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images AsiaPac Photo —
Craig Lowndes and co-driver Steven Richards took a large step towards becoming two of the all-time greatest drivers at Mount Panorama by winning the 2015 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on Sunday.
It was a popular-as-ever victory for the “People’s Champion” of the sport. The fans below the podium could be heard cheering “Loooooooooow-ndesyyyyyyyyyyyy, Loooooooooow-ndesyyyyyyyyyyyy!” as the pair laid hands on the Peter Brock Memorial Trophy.
With the win, Richards claimed his fourth Bathurst 1000 victory. Lowndes, on the other hand, moved into a tie for third on the all-time Bathurst 1000 win list by claiming a sixth victory in the Great Race. Lowndes now only trails Steven’s father Jim and the late Peter Brock, who had nine victories in the event. Furthermore, Lowndes passed Brock with his record-breaking 13th podium at Bathurst.
“As the day went on, the car got better,” Lowndes said afterwards. “I had to make amends for last year — I buggered up turn one! We probably had a little bit of luck with Jamie’s penalty, but we had a fast car — we had a really rocket car towards the end!”
Though he could not repeat his performance in 2013 by winning this event, Mark Winterbottom finished second with co-driver Steve Owen. Winterbottom now holds a 399-point lead in the series standings and could clinch his first-ever V8 Supercars championship at Phillip Island if he maintains that margin.
Garth Tander and Warren Luff rounded out the podium with a third-place finish. The pair earned their spot with a daring move from Tander on lap 144. Fabian Coulthard attempted to pass David Reynolds on the entry into Hell Corner, but overdrove the car and sent both drivers toward the outside curb. This allowed a host of drivers to get underneath Coulthard and Reynolds, including Winterbottom, Scott McLaughlin and Tander. Tander weaved to the inside to pass Reynolds up the Mountain Straight, then came across to the other side of the track to set up a pass on the inside of both Coulthard and McLaughlin at Griffins Bend. Tander held on after he completed the pass to earn his first podium at Bathurst since his 2011 victory in this event.
“It was the last stint, so I figured I was gonna have a go,” Tander said. “(Fabian) had a go at Reynolds and didn’t quite get it right, so I got past them and got underneath Scott. It was one of those races where we would go to the front, go to the back, go to the front, go to the back, and I’m glad we ended up near the front!”
Compared to Bathurst 1000s of the past, this year’s edition was cleaner than most. Renee Gracie hit the wall on lap 16 in an entry with Simona de Silvestro, which put the Harvey Norman “Supergirls” entry behind the wall for repairs. After heavy damage to the right front of their machine, the team rebounded to get the ladies back out on track. They would eventually complete a remarkable return to the race, and were the last classified finishers in 21st.
More drama ensued on lap 33, when Macauley Jones drove through the Super Black Racing No. 111 of Ant Pedersen on the exit of Hell Corner, sending Pedersen into the inside wall. Jones was penalized for the infraction, but would finish 15th; Pedersen and primary driver Andre Heimgartner would fail to finish the event.
The first of two major shunts at the top of the mountain during this year’s event took place on lap 80, when Tim Blanchard found the wall at Sulman Park. Drivers also had to withstand a rain shower that arrived on lap 191, which sent all of the teams scrambling to stay ahead of the changing weather conditions.
However, it was on lap 138 that the pivotal Safety Car of the event arrived. Scott Pye broke a steering arm going through Sulman Park, sending the No. 17 XBOX Ford Falcon careening into the outside wall. In response, all of the leaders came down pit road — except Jamie Whincup, who stayed out to avoid double-stacking behind his Red Bull racing Australia teammate Lowndes.
Whincup continued to drive at full speed to catch up to the Safety Car — and went on to pass the Safety Car with the yellow flags waving and lights flashing. Whincup was subsequently slapped with a penalty for passing the Safety Car under yellow.
Whincup thought that the green light was still on when he reached the Safety Car. “I decided to stay out — I didn’t want to queue up behind Lowndesy, and I was planning on queuing up behind the Safety Car,” Whincup said. “I came over the hill, and I said, ‘oh, here we go, I got the green lights, happy days!’, so I drove past (the Safety Car).”
Whincup restarted second, blocked to give Lowndes a 1.5-second gap, and then brought the No. 1 down pit road to serve his pass-through penalty. The gap Whincup created was enough to secure Lowndes the win, as Lowndes drove off the front of the field for the final 15 laps of the race en route to a three-second margin of victory. Yet Whincup never recovered from the penalty and finished in 18th. Combined with Winterbottom’s second-place run, Whincup now sits 803 points behind the points-leading No. 5 machine in the standings. Should Whincup be more than 900 points behind Winterbottom leaving the next event at the Gold Coast, he will be mathematically eliminated from championship contention and the series will see only its third different champion in eight years.
The series will visit the Gold Coast for its next event, the Castrol EDGE Gold Coast 600. It is the last of three events in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, and will take place the weekend of Oct. 23-25.
RESULTS: V8 Supercars Championship; Race 25; Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000; Mount Panorama Circuit; October 11, 2015
- Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards
- SMark Winterbottom and Steve Owen
- Garth Tander and Warren Luff
- Fabian Coulthard and Luke Youlden
- Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat
- David Reynolds and Dean Canto
- Jason Bright and Andrew Jones
- Shane van Gisbergen and Jonathon Webb
- Lee Holdsworth and Sébastien Bourdais
- James Moffat and Taz Douglas
- Jack Perkins and Russell Ingall
- Will Davison and Alex Davison
- Michael Caruso and Dean Fiore
- Tim Slade and Tony D’Alberto
- Dale Wood and Macauley Jones
- Rick Kelly and David Russell
- Aaren Russell and Drew Russell
- Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell
- Nick Percat and Oliver Gavin
- Todd Kelly and Alex Buncombe
- Simona de Silvestro and Renee Gracie
- Scott Pye and Marcos Ambrose (DNF)
- Ash Walsh and Jack Le Brocq (DNF)
- tim Blanchard and Karl Reindler (DNF)
- Andre Heimgartner and Ant Pedersen (DNF)
- David Wall and Chris Pither (DNF)
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