BATHURST, N.S.W. – Will Davison fought off a fierce charge from Shane van Gisbergen to win the 56th edition of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 Sunday afternoon.
Davison’s .1434-second margin of victory was the closest in the history of the Great Race, and was his second career win on the Mountain.
Co-driver and team owner Jonathon Webb picked up his first win as a driver, and Sydney-based TEKNO Autosport won their first Bathurst 1000 in the process.
Davison was completely exhausted at the end of the race, and his words reflected the energy just spent more than they did the excitement of winning the most prestigious race in Australian motorsport.
“I’m honestly speechless. I’m not going to give much here (in victory lane) because that was so stressful,” he said. “I couldn’t have dreamed it any other way. We all want to be a part of this and win that trophy, so for this to finish like this… it’s goosebumps. This was just an absolutely phenomenal race. For it to go 90-some-odd laps without a safety car… and then for it to turn into a race like that, with all of us having to save fuel… it was wild.”
“I knew if I lifted to save any fuel at all that Shane would be in there. It actually coughed going into the last corner and ran out coming across the line. After starting 17th … Jonathon said he had a good feeling going into this week and I don’t know. I can’t believe the way that panned out. To do this, win Bathurst with such a little team in Tekno… it’s just phenomenal. It’s real special to cross that line (a winner).”
Webb echoed the sentiments of his teammate. “It’s amazing, it really is,” he said. “After we had the heartache in ’14… I was hanging out in the back of the truck because I didn’t want to know what was going on out there. This is just an amazing job by Will and all the boys at Tekno. Twice in one year; who would have thought? It’s just incredible.”
“Two years ago was heartbreak for both Shane and I, so to see the two of us going at it for the win in this one was really cool. I was trying to say calm, cool and collected at the end there, but inside I was going crazy. I can’t believe we actually won it.”
Davison was in the car for the final stint of the race, and held-off a hard-charging van Gisbergen in his Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore. Shane tried every maneuver possible to get around Davison, but was forced to settle for second in the end as the No. 19 coughed across the line as the winner.
van Gisbergen was happy to post his first career podium at Bathurst. “What an awesome race. We definitely had a go at it at the end, but we just came up a little bit short,” he said. “Congratulations to Tekno, though. It certainly made up for 2014 for them, but it was a good points day for us. Alex (Premat) drove great and we had the kind of day we needed to have. Just one spot short.”
Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport claimed a surprising third-place finish via 2011 Bathurst 1000 champion Nick Percat and 42-year-old Cameron McConville.
While the finish was incredible to watch, the biggest story from Mount Panorama regarding the championship hunt came from an incident that occurred with 11 laps to go.
Jamie Whincup was charging through the field in his No. 88 Holden Commodore and was racing Scott McLaughlin and his No. 33 Volvo for second when Whincup dove down to the inside at the Chase. Whincup made contact with Scott, sending the Volvo off the road and into the grass.
Per Supercars rules, Whincup attempted to redress and give McLaughlin the spot back, holding up Garth Tander and his No. 2 Holden Commodore in the process. McLaughlin, on the other hand, held his speed through the grass and came back on track. When he did, he made contact with Tander, sending both into the wall opposite the pit road entrance and ending both of their chances at the win.
Whincup believed that he was not in the wrong, because he attempted to give McLaughlin the spot back, and the rest happened behind him. “I don’t know what to say. I just went out there and raced hard,” he said. “(I) feel sorry for the result… I just went over to the Volvo and the HRT guys (to apologize) because you never want to see any wrecked race cars like that. I feel the move was on. He (McLaughlin) just squeezed me narrow and we had contact. I was happy to readdress, but there were two cars there as I was trying to readdress.”
“We tried hard, like we always do. We came out and enjoyed the pace of car (No.) 88 today and we’ll fight back in a fortnight’s time (at the Gold Coast).” These views were echoed by Whincup’s Race Engineer, Mark Dutton.
Tander, on the other hand, did not agree with Whincup’s assessment. “Whincup unloaded McLaughlin and then jumped on the brakes to start to readdress it, he said. “Scotty came back on and then there was contact. Whincup started it all, so they (the stewards) should probably take a look at that.”
“It’s a bit surreal. Obviously, we were saving a lot of fuel but we were way ahead of our target. Jamie was being pretty desperate. Scotty made a small mistake and Jamie decided to pounce, but it (Whincup’s move) wasn’t on.”
McLaughlin agreed with Tander and way well have been the most gutted of the three. “There were no worries about fuel (for me to finish); I would have been fine. All I had to do was keep doing the number I was doing and hold them off,” he said. “Man, he said the move was on, but you have to pull up to be able to make the move on and he didn’t.”
“I made a mistake coming back on. I didn’t realize that I was in such close proximity with them on the exit there … and I’m properly gutted. What do you say? I’m so gutted because it’s my last year at GRM and I really wanted to win it for Gazzy because he’s the guy who gave me my shot. I thought today was the day, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
As a result of the incident, Whincup was assessed a 15-second time penalty from the stewards and was effectively taken out of contention for the win. It was the fourth year in a row that Whincup had a shot at victory, only to find a way to lose it.
This year, it might have hurt more than most though, because Whincup dominated from the drop of the green flag.
In a stunning display, the opening 92 laps of the event went green without incident, as the tandem of Whincup and his co-driver Paul Dumbrell lead the entire way, save for the natural shuffling of the running order during green-flag pit stops.
However, a caution period brought out when Andrew Jones sent his BOC Holden Commodore into the wall hard on driver’s right at Sulman Park sent the field into pit lane and bunched the field back up for a restart with 66 laps to go, with everyone chasing the No. 88 Commodore.
Whincup got away from his teammate Shane van Gisbergen after the restart, but his lead was under a second compared to the 38-second gap he had at the lap 50 benchmark.
The Jones crash set up a string of incidents that changed the complexion of the event, which began when James Moffat’s Volvo blew a motor during the next run on lap 109. That incident sent the entire field down pit road once more.
A double-stack pit stop for the Red Bulls – combined with DJR Team Penske’s strategy play to leave Scott Pye on the race track – meant that Whincup restarted fourth when the green came out again on lap 113. van Gisbergen fell from second to 18th after he made a second stop during the yellow to top off his fuel tank.
Only one lap would be completed, though, before the yellow flag flew for the third time. This go-round, it was Andre Heimgartner’s stalled car at The Cutting that forced the slowdown, sending Pye to pit road and putting Whincup out front for the next restart on lap 117.
By that point, van Gisbergen had worked his way back up to third and only needed one more stop to make it to the finish, while Whincup and second-running Will Davison were destined for two stops with 49 laps to run.
That set up a stint where the six-time champion went all-out, setting the Bathurst race lap record of 2:06.813 on lap 119, resetting it to a 2:06.636 eight laps later and amassing a gap of 24 seconds over van Gisbergen as he prepared to make his first of two planned stops.
However, just before Whincup was due to pit, the caution flew for the fourth time and erased the split strategies of the field — as Mark Winterbottom lost rear brakes entering The Chase and ended up beached in the sand trap.
That incident put everyone back on the same strategy, but saw Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin stay out as the rest of the frontrunners topped off on a second stop in order to gain track position and lead the field back to green with 24 to go.
Coulthard quickly opened up a four-second gap over McLaughlin, while Garth Tander led Whincup in third after beating him out of pit lane under the final pit sequence.
But as the gap continued to grow, it became apparent that Coulthard wouldn’t be able to make it on fuel, meaning the effective battle for the win was between McLaughlin, Tander and Whincup.
Whincup was patient and crafty, finally powering past Tander for third exiting the final corner with 14 to go, immediately locking in behind McLaughlin to save fuel and grab onto the potential win. That set up the major incident on lap 150 which cleared the way for Davison and van Gisbergen to duel for the win.
As a result of the penalty, Whincup was officially scored as finishing in 11th. His seven-point gap to points leader van Gisbergen grew to a 139-point gap with Shane’s runner-up finish, as three rounds remain in the season.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship will resume on the weekend of Oct. 21-23 at the Castrol Gold Coast 600.
For more information on the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, visit www.supercars.com.au.
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