Fairy-tale and heartache: Craig Lowndes/Steve Richards win Bathurst 1000
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Craig Lowndes' final full-time season in Supercars is now guaranteed to be regarded as one of the best of his long career, after he and Steve Richards won today's memorable Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 — Lowndes' seventh and Richards' fifth.
The podium was filled by Walkinshaw Andretti United's Scott Pye and Warren Luff, and leading Kiwi Scott McLaughlin and Shell V-Power co-driver Alexandre Premat. McLaughlin's result, while relatively overshadowed next to Lowndes' fairy-tale result, was important in the scheme of the championship. With lead title rival Shane van Gisbergen finishing two spots back in fifth, McLaughlin's gap to van Gisbergen in the championship standings is just 19 points.
The win for Lowndes and Richards came after a surprise mechanical failure for Triple Eight stablemates Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell, and a devastating series of events for Erebus Motorsport — namely for the lead car of David Reynolds and Luke Youlden.
While firmly in the hunt for a win, Dumbrell had a unique and rare car failure on the front straight — his right-front wheel parting company with the car at full speed. Subsequent repairs put them a lap down, but the duo eventually recovered to finish 10th.
The defending race winners Reynolds and Luke Youlden, meanwhile, led most of the race; the car to beat for outright pace, with a strategy to match. And with the end in sight a fascinating grudge match emerged between Reynolds and Lowndes — both exchanging fastest laps and gapping the field.
However, Reynolds' hold on first cut suddenly short with less than 25 laps remaining, as he reported back to pit-lane that he was experiencing large cramps and fatigue. It forced Reynolds to immediately concede first place to Lowndes.
A pit stop followed, with his team attempting to cure the pain with an energy drink mix and a few other remedies. But with Reynolds triggering the rear wheels spinning in pit-lane, a black flag and pit-lane penalty unfortunately was the result.
And a few laps later, while still holding seventh position, the decision was made for Reynolds to pit and get out of the car. Co-driver Youlden hopped in, and eventually brought the car home in 13th position.
Salt in the wound came in the form of the second Erebus Motorsport Commodore of Anton de Pasquale and Will Brown crashing at McPhillamy Park at almost the same time, while in a position to fight for a top 10.
Pye and Luff's second place finish was one earned in the background. Having started down in 18th, the duo never had the finite pace to push for the win, but nonetheless they avoided incident — highlighted by a race car with almost no panel damage.
Third for McLaughlin and Premat told a similar story. The duo led portions of the race, but lacked the speed of Lowndes, Reynolds, and at certain points van Gisbergen. It was a similar story for the fourth-placed Falcon of Chaz Mostert and James Moffat.
The Supercheap Auto Falcon started in 11th place, but quickly drove deep into the top 10. They were involved in controversy early in the race, after Mostert spun Tickford teammate David Russell into the wall at Forest Elbow. Russell's co-driver Cameron Waters blew up later on.
“Pretty dumb, 30 laps into the race. Two years in a row, got taken out by Chaz," he said in a television interview.
“Sorry man, we just got f***ed up by our f***ing team-mate,” he told Russell, in audio captured by the Monster Energy Falcon's in-car recorders.
Van Gisbergen and co-driver Earl Bamber rounded out the top five finishers, after a topsy turvy day that saw the Red Bull fall out of contention in the final stints with balance issues. The result still sees van Gisbergen retain the lead of the championship, however.
The top 10 was rounded out by Garth Tander and Kiwi Chris Pither in sixth, Nick Percat and Macauley Jones in seventh, a superb performance from James Golding and Richard Muscat in eighth, Fabian Coulthard and Tony D'Alberto, and Whincup/Dumbrell in 10th.
The Kiwi contingent was rounded out by André Heimgartner and Richie Stanaway. With co-driver Aaren Russell, Heimgartner took 16th after battling pit-lane queuing woes and a string of off-track excursions at The Chase. Stanaway meanwhile finished 22nd, after the Rabble.Club Falcon he shared with Steve Owen battled numerous mechanical gremlins.
1. Craig Lowndes/Steve Richards 161 laps, 06:01:44.8637
2. Scott Pye/Warren Luff 06:01:51.1557
3. Scott McLaughlin/Alex Premat 06:01:54.2718
4. Chaz Mostert/James Moffat 06:01:55.1167
5. Shane van Gisbergen/Earl Bamber 06:02:12.2846
6. Garth Tander/Chris Pither 06:02:14.8735
7. Nick Percat/Macauley Jones 06:02:21.4061
8. James Golding/Richard Muscat 06:02:22.0962
9. Fabian Coulthard/Tony D'Alberto 06:02:31.9757
10. Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell 06:02:41.2971
11. Rick Kelly/Garry Jacobson 06:03:03.9376
12. Mark Winterbottom/Dean Canto 06:03:19.8730
13. David Reynolds/Luke Youlden 06:03:23.9683
14. Simona De Silvestro/Alex Rullo 06:03:32.6399
15. Jack Le Brocq/Jonathon Webb 06:03:37.2610
16. André Heimgartner/Aaren Russell 06:03:39.6871
17. Tim Slade/Ash Walsh 160 laps
18. Tim Blanchard/Dale Wood 159 laps
19. Will Davison/Alex Davison 159 laps
20. Todd Hazelwood/Bryce Fullwood 159 laps
21. Lee Holdsworth/Jason Bright 157 laps
22. Richie Stanaway/Steve Owen 152 laps
23. Cameron Waters/David Russell 148 laps
24. Anton de Pasquale/Will Brown 143 laps
DNF. Michael Caruso/Dean Fiore 69 laps
DNF. James Courtney/Jack Perkins 33 laps