Scott McLaughlin wins emotional, dramatic, unprecedented Bathurst 1000
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Scott McLaughlin and co-driver Alex Premat have claimed a remarkable Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 victory, leading home Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander and James Courtney/Jack Perkins. It's the first win at Mount Panorama for both McLaughlin and Premat and Team Penske, as well as the first Bathurst 1000 win for Dick Johnson Racing since the 1994 Tooheys 1000.
It's a race that will go down in history as one of the most dramatic and controversial Bathurst 1000s in recent history, with a conventional opening 100 laps trailed by a wild final 61 laps.
In the end, it boiled down to a four-car battle and an immense one-lap dash; McLaughlin and van Gisbergen stretching their fuel allocation to limp to the finish, while James Courtney and Jamie Whincup were pushing as hard as they could behind. A minor mistake from van Gisbergen at McPhillamy Park was enough to give McLaughlin the edge when it mattered, in a race decided by just six tenths of a second.
Race start was fragmented by a case of carbon dioxide poisoning for wildcard driver Brodie Kostecki on the pace lap, via a failed helmet fan. Then an immediate lap-one safety car prompted by a crash involving Tim Slade and Scott Pye.
McLaughlin and Premat dominated the race in the opening laps until a spirited exchange on lap 50 saw the lead get handed to Mostert. Premat had defended exceptionally well from full-time drivers Mostert, Waters, and Whincup. But after Waters lost second to Mostert, Premat's time at the front was temporary.
He locked his fronts at The Chase, ran wide, and lost the lead to Mostert and second to Whincup. Waters finally got by Premat on lap 52. The Frenchman lost more time thanks to a flat-spotted right-front tyre, which led to an earlier than desired pit-stop (with driver change).
van Gisbergen losing time with a door that didn't close, heimgartner making lots of time after a poor qualifying.
With the mid-race pit-cycle complete by lap 87, Lowndes led Premat by two seconds. Moffat had slipped back to third after stalling in the pits, with van Gisbergen heading Coulthard's co-driver Tony D'Alberto. Michael Caruso, Bryce Fullwood, Lee Holdsworth, Dale Wood, and Steve Richards were sixth to 10th.
A slight mistake at the last corner from Lowndes handed the lead back to Premat, which he held until lap 96 when he pitted to hand the car to McLaughlin. The stop kicked off a flurry of stops for others as various co-drivers met their minimum lap count.
It had been quite a straightforward race, but three quick-fire safety cars between laps 102 and 128 promptly turned the race on its head. The first was caused by a crash at Reid Park for Todd Hazelwood, and the last was caused by a stuck throttle for Anton de Pasquale after a trying day.
It was the middle safety car though that was the most incredible. Racing for third and fourth place, Tickford Mustang teammates Waters and Mostert had been instructed to save fuel. But, with 38 laps to go, Mostert lost control under brakes at The Chase while on Waters' outside. The duo locked wheels, and both spun in unison into the sandtrap where they got beached. Both of their fights for first were over, with Waters and co-driver Caruso's car retired shortly after.
What had looked like a race with a relatively established rhythm had been flipped onto its side. In the rapid melee pit strategy became a clear factor. Van Gisbergen had opted for an aggressive strategy, while the remainder of the leaders instead had to conserve for the run to the finish.
Whincup led following the de Pasquale safety car, over McLaughlin, Coulthard, a continually impressive Heimgartner, and youngster Golding in fifth. Van Gisbergen was buried at the bottom of the top 10, but was quickly carving through the pack. And, as the final stops loomed, the Red Bull-backed Kiwi had a shorter pit-stop than the leaders on the cards.
But, there was one last safety-car period (thrown for the beached Commodore of Alexander Rossi) set to further throw the race into chaos. And, compounding the safety car, was Coulthard slowing down the back straigtht. This impeded the rest of the field, and allowed Whincup and McLaughlin to take their stops with no risk of stacking for their teammates behind.
Coulthard's delaying had cost numerous cars dearly. Van Gisbergen's theoretical advantage was gone, and Heimgartner had lost spots to both Golding and Winterbottom. Pye, Reynolds, Holdsworth, and Coulthard completed the top 10. Although, Coulthard lost that top-10 slot, following an unsurprising drive-through penalty for the decision under safety car.
The race resumed on lap 137, with the question being whether anyone would be able to make it to the end of the race without another pit-stop. A 25-lap run to the flag was scheduled, with most of the best runs on a full tank of fuel being 23 laps. Some teams would push on to the finish, while others would pre-prepare for a 'splash and dash' in the dying moments.
Golding was the first driver to enter pit-lane for his last stop, peeling out of third and leaving Whincup and McLaughlin to push for first, with van Gisbergen and Heimgartner continuing in third and fourth.
Whincup and his crew committed to making a splash and dash stop with 20 laps to go, which saw him press on and push for quick lap-times with the idea of another pit-stop. Van Gisbergen and Heimgartner were on McLaughlin's wavelength, trying to run to the end of the race with no extra stop.
Heimgartner and Winterbottom were next to blink to stop again, but did so much later than Golding did on lap 147. But, Golding's shot at a remarkable win from nowhere was severed on lap 149 by a mechanical vibration that forced the 23-year-old to pit again. This, against the odds, moved Reynolds into the slot as the first driver able to get to the finish.
With 10 laps to go, another safety car came out for a crashed Garry Jacobson and Richie Stanaway. Whincup came in for a stop, while McLaughlin, van Gisbergen, and Courtney continued at the front. The crash set up a remarkable run to the flag, with McLaughlin and Whincup in the front struggling for fuel, and with Courtney and Whincup able to push to the flag. And they would all restart the race relatively close together.
It was a nail-biting final stanza. McLaughlin was holding off van Gisbergen, however van Gisbergen was also able to make use of McLaughlin's draft to help him save fuel. There was very little passing, but the top four remained spread out by a hovering two seconds as teams set themselves up for a fight in the final few laps.
But, there was one final safety car in the tail. Heimgartner, battling for seventh with Winterbottom, clipped the inside wall at Forest Elbow on lap 157 — plowing into the outside wall at speed. The scale of the crash meant that a long clean-up was certain, meaning the race was either going to finish under safety car or finish with a one-lap dash depending on how quickly the broken Nissan could be retrieved. Sure enough, an unprecedented one-lap green-flag run to the finish-line would come; the top four all nose to tail, with one car separating Whincup and Reynolds in fifth.
The two front-runners both got sharp starts, with McLaughlin far enough ahead to defend at Griffins Bend.Van Gisbergen's critical error was a wide run at McPhillamy Park, where he kicked up dust and lost precious ground to McLaughlin. And, that proved to be the difference at the end of the race — McLaughlin crossing the line with a skint six-tenth margin in hand. Van Gisbergen and Courtney completed an unlikely podium, ahead of Whincup, Reynolds, Coulthard, Winterbottom, Scott Pye, Rick Kelly, and Holdsworth in 10th.
McLaughlin's lead in the championship standings to well over 600 points over van Gisbergen, with three rounds to go in the series. The series now travels to Surfers Paradise for the Gold Coast 600 in two weeks' time.
2019 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, results
1. Scott McLaughlin/Alex Premat
2. Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander
3. James Courtney/Jack Perkins
4. Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes
5. David Reynolds/Luke Youlden
6. Fabian Coulthard/Tony D'Alberto
7. Mark Winterbottom/Steven Richards
8. Scott Pye/Warren Luff
9. Rick Kelly/Dale Wood
10. Lee Holdsworth/Thomas Randle
11. Will Davison/Alex Davison
12. James Golding/Richard Muscat
13. Richie Stanaway/Chris Pither
14. Simona De Silvestro/Alex Rullo
15. Nick Percat/Tim Blanchard
16. Chaz Mostert/James Moffat
17. Macauley Jones/Dean Canto
18. Jack Le Brocq/Jonathon Webb
19. Alexander Rossi/James Hinchcliffe
20. Garry Jacobson/Dean Fiore
21. Cameron Waters/Michael Caruso
DNF. Andre Heimgartner/Bryce Fullwood
DNF. Anton de Pasquale/Will Brown
DNF. Jake Kostecki/Brodie Kostecki
DNF. Todd Hazelwood/Jack Smith
DNF. Tim Slade/Ash Walsh