Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell may have crossed the finish line first, but victory at the SuperCheap Auto Bathurst 1000 has been provisionally awarded to TEKNO Autosport’s Will Davison and team owner/co-driver Jonathon Webb after Whincup was handed a 15-second time penalty in the closing stages of a thrilling race.
Whincup and Dumbrell had positively dominated proceedings and looked on course to cruise to victory in the 161-lap marathon race until Whincup tangled with Scott McLaughlin and Garth Tander with just over 10 laps to go. A subsequent Safety Car interruption – caused by the late retirement of Rick Kelly’s Nissan – ensured that he would not be able to build enough of a gap over second-placed Davison to render the penalty null and void.
Davison and Webb crossed the line as victors in a remarkable underdog story, despite not having led a single lap of the race. The pair had qualified well down the order after a disastrous showing in Friday’s provisional qualifying session, but as ever, success in Bathurst comes down to who keeps their head – and who doesn’t.
Their TEKNO Autosports Holden crossed the finish line with just a few drops of fuel left in the tank, edging out Whincup’s Red Bull Racing teammate Shane van Gisbergen and his co-driver Alexandre Prémat by just one-tenth of a second.
Van Gisbergen had the pace and the better fuel consumption to get ahead, but double-waved yellow flags at The Chase – the circuit’s best overtaking spot – put paid to him being able to get ahead of the car he drove last year.
Nick Percat – who has barely featured at the sharp end of the field since his fluke win in the wet at the season-opening Clipsal 500 – finished third alongside co-driver Cameron McConville for the underfunded LD Motorsport team to make it a Holden clean sweep of the podium.
The race had run almost without incident for its first half, with the first Safety Car interruption come well into the race’s fourth hour when Andrew Jones crashed Jason Bright’s BOC-liveried Holden hard at Sulman Park. The pair became the race’s second retirement, after CS Racing’s Lee Holdsworth and co-driver Karl Reindler retired early on with a rocker failure in their Holden’s engine.
The Bright/Jones crash did little to disturb the running order, which had been headlined by Whincup who had eased out to a lead of over half a minute by that stage.
The Safety Car, however, served to eliminate the lead the #88 Holden enjoyed, while also throwing open a range of strategic pit options for teams to explore over the race’s second half.
Quite how those strategies would pan out became evident in the final third of the race. Another Safety Car followed when the luckless James Moffat’s Volvo retired with an engine failure with forty laps to go.
The race now came down to how many pit stops everyone needed until the flag. The likes of Whincup/Dumbrell and Davison/Webb – the latter having steadily picked their way up the order – needed two more pit stops before the end of the race, while the likes of van Gisbergen, Tander, McLaughlin and defending champion Mark Winterbottom had enough fuel on board to only need one visit to the pits.
Knowing he needed to rebuild a gap in order to make his strategy work, Whincup put in a mega stint when the race resumed, breaking the lap record on multiple occasions as he tried to sprint ahead.
His lead again diminished when Winterbottom spun his Prodrive Racing Ford into the sand at The Chase after a brake failure, neutralising the race once again and allowing the two-stoppers to make a visit to the pits without losing too much ground.
With van Gisbergen also pitting and dropping down to eighth, Whincup found himself jumped by Sandown 500 winner Tander, whose Holden Racing Team pit crew turned him around with a rapid pit stop.
Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin bucked the trend and opted not to pit, putting themselves at the front of the field but needing another Safety Car before the end of the race in order to make their strategies work.
The race resumed on Lap 139, whereupon Coulthard, McLaughlin, Tander and Whincup staged an epic fight for the lead.
Whincup eventually got by Tander on Lap 147, but he botched his pass on McLaughlin three laps later and pitched the Volvo driver onto the grass at The Chase, triggering the incident that would bring three drivers’ races completely undone.
Whincup slowed to allow McLaughlin to rejoin and reclaim second place, but the six-time champion – either showing a complete lack of situational awareness or in a flagrant display of brake-testing – baulked the chasing Tander in the process.
As McLaughlin rejoined – rather too rashly, it would later be ruled by the Stewards, who handed the youngster a 25-point penalty – the three cars made contact, with McLaughlin and Tander sent spearing into the walls.
Whincup somehow emerged from the melee with barely a scratch, while Tander was an immediate retiree and a furious McLaughlin limped into the pits for repairs in the hope of salvaging a few points by rejoining to finish the race.
The Safety Car was briefly called to clean up the mess, allowing Coulthard to make the stop he was always going to need and ensuring Whincup moved back into top spot.
As the race was green-flagged once again, the race officials ruled that Whincup was at fault for the contact and handed him a 15-second time penalty to be added to his finishing time. He now needed to eke out a 15-second lead in a little more than 10 laps, and his quest was ended thanks to a fifth and final Safety Car interruption a few laps from home.
That left Davison to defend both van Gisbergen and his rapidly emptying fuel tank in the final sprint to the flag, with the pair registering the closest ever Bathurst finish in history.
The results remain provisional, however, with Whincup’s Triple Eight Engineering team quickly indicating it will protest the results.
Behind the top-three, Prodrive Racing rookie Cameron Waters and co-driver Jack Le Brocq finished in fourth place, ahead of the two DJR Penske Fords of Scott PYe / Tony D’Alberto and Fabian Coulthard / Luke Youlden.
Tim Slade and co-driver Ash Walsh staged an incredible recovery drive from an early brake fire to put their Brad Jones Racing Holden in seventh place, finishing ahead of the Nissan Motorsport’s Michael Caruso / Dean Fiore and Dale Wood / David Russell entries.
There was more celebration in the Nissan camp with the fourteenth-placed finish of the field’s wildcard ‘Supergirls’ entry, with Simona de Silvestro and Renee Gracie crossing the line in fourteenth place after a faultless race, finishing two laps adrift.
|2016 Australian Supercars SuperCheap Auto Bathurst 1000 – Provisional Classification (161 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Will Davison / Jonathon Webb||TEKNO Autosports||6:19:25.324|
|2.||Shane van Gisbergen / Alexandre Premat||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 0.143|
|3.||Nick Percat / Cameron McConville||LD Motorsport||+ 2.855|
|4.||Cameron Waters / Jack Le Brocq||Prodrive Racing||+ 3.235|
|5.||Scott Pye / Tony D’Alberto||DJR Team Penske||+ 3.821|
|6.||Fabian Coulthard / Luke Youlden||DJR Team Penske||+ 4.033|
|7.||Tim Slade / Ash Walsh||Brad Jones Racing||+ 4.196|
|8.||Michael Caruso / Dean Fiore||Nissan Motorsport||+ 6.088|
|9.||Dale Wood / David Russell||Nissan Motorsport||+ 8.383|
|10.||Tim Blanchard / Macauley Jones||Brad Jones Racing||+ 8.858|
|11.||Jamie Whincup / Paul Dumbrell*||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 9.721|
|12.||Chris Pither / Richie Stanaway||Super Black Racing||+ 16.444|
|13.||James Courtney / Jack Perkins||Holden Racing Team||+ 19.248|
|14.||Simona de Silvestro / Renee Gracie||Nissan Motorsport||+ 2 laps|
|15.||Scott McLaughlin / David Wall||Polestar GRM Volvo||+ 2 laps|
|16.||Craig Lowndes / Steven Richards||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 5 laps|
|17.||Shae Davies / Chris van der Drift||Erebus Motorsport||+ 5 laps|
|18.||David Reynolds / Craig Baird||Erebus Motorsport||+ 13 laps|
|19.||Chaz Mostert / Steve Owen||Rod Nash Racing||+ 14 laps|
|DNF.||Todd Kelly / Matt Campbell||Nissan Motorsport||Spin|
|DNF.||Rick Kelly / Russell Ingall||Nissan Motorsport||Accident|
|DNF.||Garth Tander / Warren Luff||Holden Racing Team||Collision|
|DNF.||Mark Winterbottom / Dean Canto||Prodrive Racing||Spin|
|DNF.||Andre Heimgartner / Aaren Russell||LD Motorsport||Mechanical|
|DNF.||James Moffat / James Golding||Polestar GRM Volvo||Engine|
|DNF.||Jason Bright / Andrew Jones||Brad Jones Racing||Accident|
|DNF.||Lee Holdsworth / Karl Reindler||CS Racing||Engine|
Images via Motorsport.com and Supercars Championship
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