The 2018 Bathurst 1000 was a thrilling story of age and experience winning out over youth and exuberance after Craig Lowndes and co-drover Steven Richards claimed an against-the-odds victory in the Supercars endurance classic.
The #888 Triple Eight Racing Holden had been a contender during much of the race and finally took the lead with less than 30 laps to go after Lowndes successfully hunted down long-time race leader David Reynolds who was overcome with leg cramps.
Defending Bathurst 1000 champions Reynolds and co-driver Luke Youlden had looked set to claim back-to-back victories, only for the Erebus Motorsport driver’s fitness to deny him at the most crucial of moments.
That paved the way for Lowndes and Richards to claim a fairytale win – the seventh Bathurst 1000 triumph for Lowndes and Richards’ fifth – in Lowndes’ last season of full-time racing in the Supercars Championship. The pair finished 6.2 seconds ahead of the Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden of Scott Pye and Warren Luff – who made superb progress through the field from 18th on the grid – while the DJR Team Penske Ford of Scott McLaughlin and co-driver Alexandre Prémat completed the podium.
Ther #55 Tickford Racing Ford of Chaz Mostert and James Moffat finished in fourth place, although their race was not without controversy after Moster had earlier tipped the sister #6 Ford of Cam Waters and David Russell into the wall at the exit of Forest’s Elbow. The Waters/Russell entry limped back to the pits with badly damaged steering, costing the duo a potential top-ten finish.
Championship leader Shane van Gisbergen and co-driver Earl Bamber finished fifth in the #97 Red Bull Holden Racing Team entry to consolidate the Kiwi’s lead over McLaughlin at the top of the points’ standings.
It was a positive rave for the Garry Rogers Motorsport Holdens of Garth Tander / Chris Pither and James Golding / Richard Muscat, who finished sixth and eighth respectively, sandwiching the #8 Brad Jones Racing Holden of Nick Percat and co-driver Macauley Jones.
Fabian Coulthard and co-driver Tony D’Alberto finished ninth in the #12 DJR Team Penske Ford ahead of the second #1 Red Bull Holden of defending champion Jamie Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell, who struck disaster early in the race.
The pair was in the mix at the front of the field until Lap 45 when, with Dumbrell driving the car shortly after a pit stop, the right-front wheel parted company with the car along the start/finish straight. Dumbrell was able to limp the car back to the pits on three wheels and lost a lap while the issue was fixed. The duo was eventually able to return to the lead lap thanks to a late Safety Car interruption and fight their way back to tenth place.
Heartbreak at Erebus Motorsport
It was a day to forget for the Erebus Motorsport team which was eyeing off back-to-back victories at the Moutain in 2018, however, fatigue denied their leading duo just that.
The day started well for both David Reynolds and Luke Youlden in the #9 entry starting from pole position as teammates and Bathurst rookies Anton De Pasquale and 19-year old prospect Will Brown started in an impressive third position.
The #9 Holden provisionally led all the way up until Lap 135, just shy of 200 kilometres from the finish when disaster struck with lead driver Reynolds suffering leg cramps while driving a triple stint on the way home to potentially a second straight victory at Mount Panorama.
Reynolds pushed so hard lap after lap he broke his own lap record, a 2:06.1493 throughout his monster final stint and created a comfortable gap to Craig Lowndes chasing behind.
Complaining of pain on the radio, his team asked if he was able to carry on. Reynolds assured he was still fine to drive and even took additional fluids in his final pit stop in a bid to keep his lead. Unfortunately, his final stop and fatigued state would cost him the victory as he was forced to return to pit lane moments later for spinning his wheels while the car was raised on its jacks during refuelling. It was a critical error not looked upon kindly by the stewards, who issued him a drive-through penalty.
“What a devastating day,” Reynolds summarised on Sunday night. “It was so incredible right up until that moment it all went wrong. We had such a fast car and we were faultless on and off the track.”
After serving the drive-through penalty, Reynolds finally conceded to his pain and brought the ZB Commodore back into the lane to hand over the driving duties to co-driver Luke Youlden. The 19-time Bathurst driver was able to heroically bring the car home in thirteenth position.
“Luke was the top performing co-driver,” furthered Reynolds, “and in hindsight, I should have opted for him to get in 20 laps earlier and let him take it home.
“I am gutted for the entire team, they did so well all weekend and I’m disappointed to not give them another result, they really deserve it.”
“It’s been a phenomenal weekend,” added Youlden. “It was pretty cool to lead a couple restarts and be able to pull away from the field, it’s a good feeling to see the competition disappear in your mirrors.
“We showed we had the fastest car and our dominance leading so many laps. The car was fast and we can look forward to getting back here and doing it again [next year].”
|2018 Australian Supercars Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 – Final Classification (161 laps)|
|Pos||Driver / Co-Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Craig Lowndes / Steven Richards||Autobarn Lowndes Racing||6:01:44.864|
|2.||Scott Pye / Warren Luff||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||+ 6.292|
|3.||Scott McLaughlin / Alexandre Prémat||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 9.408|
|4.||Chaz Mostert / James Moffat||Supercheap Auto Racing||+ 10.253|
|5.||Shane van Gisbergen / Earl Bamber||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 27.421|
|6.||Garth Tander / Chris Pither||Wilson Security Racing||+ 30.010|
|7.||Nick Percat / Macauley Jones||Repco Authorised Service||+ 36.542|
|8.||James Golding / Richard Muscat||Wilson Security Racing||+ 37.233|
|9.||Fabian Coulthard / Tony D’Alberto||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 47.112|
|10.||Jamie Whincup / Paul Dumbrell||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 56.433|
|11.||Rick Kelly / Garry Jacobson||Castrol Racing||+ 1:19.074|
|12.||Mark Winterbottom / Dean Canto||The Bottle-O Racing Team||+ 1:35.009|
|13.||David Reynolds / Luke Youlden||Erebus Penrite Racing||+ 1:39.105|
|14.||Simona de Silvestro / Alex Rullo||Team Harvey Norman||+ 1:47.776|
|15.||Jack Le Brocq / Jonathon Webb||Tekno Autosport||+ 1:52.397|
|16.||Andre Heimgartner / Aaren Russell||Castrol / Plus Fitness||+ 1:54.823|
|17.||Tim Slade / Ash Walsh||Freightliner Racing||+ 1 lap|
|18.||Tim Blanchard / Dale Wood||Team CoolDrive||+ 2 laps|
|19.||Will Davison / Alex Davison||Milwaukee Racing||+ 2 laps|
|20.||Todd Hazelwood / Bryce Fulwood||Bigmate Racing||+ 2 laps|
|21.||Lee Holdsworth / Jason Bright||Preston Hire Racing||+ 4 laps|
|22.||Richie Stanaway / Steve Owen||RABBLE.club Racing||+ 9 laps|
|23.||Cameron Waters / David Russell||Monster Energy Racing||+ 13 laps|
|24.||Anton de Pasquale / Will Brown||Erebus Penrite Racing||+ 18 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Reason|
|DNF.||Michael Caruso / Dean Fiore||Industrial Athlete Racing||Engine|
|DNF.||James Courtney / Jack Perkins||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||Oil Leak|
Contributing text by Luke McCullough. Images via Erebus Motorsport, Red Bull Content Pool