Eight things we learned from Bathurst

  • 14/10/2016
  • By Bruce Newton
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

1. The Great Democracy

Lost in the hubbub of an amazing finish – as many other things were – is the fact the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is a race where years of domination by a single crew is a thing of the past.

No pairing has successfully backed up since Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup three-peated between 2006 and 2008.

Anyone who argues the forced splitting of regular team drivers hasn’t been a good move for the entertainment value and unpredictability of the race is kidding themselves.

The win by Will Davison and Jonathon Webb for Tekno Autosports also broke the stranglehold held by Triple Eight, Prodrive (FPR) and Holden Racing Team on the top step of the podium dating back to 2004. That was when Greg Murphy and Rick Kelly completed their second consecutive win for Kmart Racing.

Even then, they were part of the Walkinshaw empire, alongside HRT. The last time another team won was 2000 when Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna scored for Garry Rogers Motorsport.

Mind you it all so nearly went pear-shaped for the Tekno crew as Davison dodged through the debris of the Whincup-Tander-McLaughlin brouhaha.

There’s no doubt Tekno deserved the win. In 2016 it has had a budget haircut, swapped drivers, lost its team boss after two races, had a mid-season data engineer shuffle and suffered some patchy form. But now it’s safe to say it’s been a great year.

Will Davison and Jonathon Webb of Tekno Autosports win the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000,  at the Mount Panorama Circuit, Bathurst, New South Wales, October 09, 2016.

2.      Whincup doesn’t win but…

If Jamie Whincup thought he got a lot of questions about his Bathurst behaviour leading into this year’s 1000 well just wait until 2017.

With his ill-fated lap 150 move on Scott McLaughlin the Red Bull Holden Commodore driver ensured he was the centre of controversy in the Great Race for the third consecutive year.

And that was even before the team decided to lodge an appeal against his 15 second time penalty…

Long after he leaves the category – and he was mulling that over publicly yet again last weekend – the legacy Whincup leaves behind in Supercars will be celebrated, debated and even puzzled over.

3. Worth a crack

Good on Whincup for having a crack at McLaughlin for the pass. The attempt was totally in-line with his mantra that winning is all that counts, especially at Bathurst. It’s not like he hasn’t demonstrated previously that he lives by this philosophy.

The aftermath of the passing move was where it all went to poop, because Whincup attempted to immediately redress. He did the right thing at the wrong time.

If he had waited until pit straight then the elimination of both the HRT Commodore and the GRM Volvo would have been most likely avoided.

But that’s an opinion framed after watching endless replays and mulling over the accident for days. This entire incident happened in split seconds and in those circumstances there’s no time for second thoughts or opportunity to retract an error.

Race 21

4. Tick tock…

Whatever your perspective on the accident, the penalty and the appeal, surely everyone agrees the resolution will simply take too long to achieve.

In an age of instant communications and 15 second attention spans it seems very mid-20th century to take days, let alone weeks, for an answer to be obtained.

After all folks, it’s only the result of the most important domestic motor race this country conducts each year that is at stake here.

And why is the hearing in-camera? If the AFL can allow the media into its tribunal hearings, surely CAMS can allow journalists to report from its Supercars Court of Appeal.

5. Examination time

Jamie Whincup of Red Bull Racing Australia during the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000,  at the Mount Panorama Circuit, Bathurst, New South Wales, October 09, 2016.

While Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell have been the winningest endurance race combination over the last four years, it’s scary to think how dominant they would have been if they weren’t so mistake prone.

The duo has delivered one Bathurst win (2012), two Sandown 500s (2013 and 2014) and one leg of one Gold Coast 600 (2014). They have also won the 2014 Pirtek Enduro Cup together.

But a run-off by Dumbrell in 2013 was a key reason they didn’t win Bathurst that year and Whincup’s misadventures at the mountain have been well documented in 2014, ’15 and ’16. At Sandown this year there was Dumbrell’s safety harness misfire and in 2015 a pit stop mishap that resulted in a puncture. In 2012 Whincup made uncharacteristic driving errors at the same race, handing the win to team-mate Craig Lowndes.

In both 2013 and 2015 on the Gold Coast Dumbrell was involved in incidents in races, while in 2015 Whincup also made practice and qualifying mistakes.

Just for the record, since 2012, other drivers to win multiple endurance races include Mark Winterbottom (2), Craig Lowndes (3), Steven Richards (2), Shane van Gisbergen (2), Jonathon Webb (3), Warren Luff (3), Will Davison (2).

Whincup also won a race at the Gold Coast in 2012 with international co-driver Seb Bourdais.

6. Moving on…

Well done Shane van Gisbergen and Alex Premat for their second consecutive faultless drive and second place after also finishing runner-up at Sandown last month. Their combined losing margin across the two races? About half-a-second!

Pending appeals, the New Zealander has a 139-point driver’s championship lead over team-mate Whincup with 900 points left to fight over. It’s a 249-point swing since the Ipswich Supercar outing and indicative of the consistently fast form SvG has displayed of late.

Van Gisbergen shines at the three remaining tracks – Gold Coast, Pukekohe and Sydney Olympic Park – so he is going to be hard to beat.

Sadly, the various disasters struck by Craig Lowndes, Scott McLaughlin and Mark Winterbottom mean they have either little (Lowndes) or no chance (the other two) of getting back into the title fight.

And unless Whincup gets his act together starting on the Gold Coast, van Gisbergen is going to win his first Supercars drivers’ championship running away.

during the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, in Bathurst, Australia, October 09, 2016.

7. Well done

Many congratulations to Nick Percat, Cameron McConville and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport for a fantastic third place at Bathurst. For many, many reasons this is an extraordinary result worthy of enormous praise.

And the same goes to the fourth place-finishing young guns Cam Waters and Jack Le Brocq, who kept their heads when all around were losing theirs.

Fifth and sixth place for DJR Team Penske was a great result in front of the Captain, Roger Penske, mainly because both cars were on the pace all week and contenders for victory.

Now the team has to make the next step and retain that cutting edge pace when the swap is made back from the Dunlop hard tyre to the soft tyre on the Gold Coast.

8. Not so well done

In their pantheon of Bathurst hard luck stories and near misses Brad and Kim Jones will no doubt look back on 2016 with an extra dose of pain.

BJR has come to the mountain in recent years with fast qualifying cars that haven’t quite stood up in the race. But this year the Tim Slade/Ash Walsh Freightliner Commodore was the complete package.

One of the highlights of the first half of the 1000 was watching Walsh duel with Paul Dumbrell tenth for tenth on the timing monitor. For the car’s chances to be lost because of a fumbled brake pad change and fire was awful, infuriating and unacceptable.

The fightback to seventh was laudable but should never have had to be attempted.

Of course, BJR’s weekend then took a further trip into the dunny with the Team BOC Commodore’s heavy lap 90 impact with the wall. Thankfully the Tim Blanchard/Macauley Jones CoolDrive Commodore staged its own epic fightback to 10th after being nearly two laps down.

Tim Slade of Brad Jones Racing during the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000,  at the Mount Panorama Circuit, Bathurst, New South Wales, October 09, 2016.

And the ninth item…

So who else was drifting off by the 89th lap of the race? Go on be honest… we should never have doubted Mount Panorama to always deliver.

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