V8 things we learned at Bathurst

  • 14/10/2015
  • By Bruce Newton
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

Lowndes can still keep it clean

As far as Craig Lowndes is concerned, he lost the 2014 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. When he punted Mark Winterbottom into a late-race spin the inevitable drive-through penalty killed his chances. But up until that point he was sitting pretty ahead of Chaz Mostert and in the box seat to pass team-mate Whincup for the win. Since then Lowndes' driving hasn't been blemish free either. But come race-day 2015 he showed just how good he still can be with a clean, fast and controlling drive in a car that was clearly working beautifully. Co-driver Steven Richards wasn't too bad either. Can Lowndes go on now and win three more times to match his mentor Peter Brock? It's a nice thought, but competition is much tougher these days than when Peter Perfect was at his peak.

Whincup is a racer

For the second year in a row Jamie Whincup's Bathurst ended in controversy after he chose to follow his instinct rather than team instructions. In both cases he knew that to do what he was told to do would end any chance of victory, but in both cases his punt has also not paid off and he has been heavily criticised. But do we want our drivers to be automatons? Whincup is a smart, fast racer - emphasis on racer - who despite his ability to rack up points as well as wins really only lusts after the latter. It would be a shame if one of the greatest champions the category is defined by his Bathurst indiscretions in 2014 and 2015 rather than his four (so far) wins.

Frosty won't crack

There's been plenty of commentary this year on championship leader Mark Winterbottom's ability to resist pressure. But you'd have to argue he's the one driver at the top of the field who hasn't cracked under the pressure, and shows no sign of doing so. Yep, Sydney Motorsport Park a little while ago wasn't a great result, but Frosty and Steve Owen are dominating the Pirtek Enduro Cup with their Wilson Security Sandown 500 win and second place at Bathurst. Winterbottom drove without instruments in one stint because of an electrical failure, copped a 15 second pitlane penalty and then made the call to be first back on to slicks after the mid-race rain. He drove brilliantly to the front chasing the win all the way and deserved none of the boos he copped from the Holden faithful on the podium.

Could Coulthard and Pye be a super team?

Based on their front-running pace at Bathurst Fabian Coulthard and Scott Pye shape as a pretty cool combination as DJR Team Penske expands to two cars in 2016. Fabs was blisteringly quick at Mount Panorama for the second year in a row, while Pye took his best form - and clearly the best car he had riven all year - consistently to the front of the field in practice and qualifying. He couldn't have picked a better time to do it either, with Roger Penske green-lighting an unexpected expansion of the team partly on the basis of his hot form. And who isn't already be excited about Penske v Triple Eight v PRA next year? Bring it on!

Crashes and bashes

Of course Pye's weekend ended in the wall at the top of the mountain when the steering failed. Just this afternoon, he announced one broken rib, which he does not believe will keep him out of the car for the Gold Coast. Tim Blanchard whacked the wall without serious personal consequence during the race. Sadly, Chaz Mostert can't say the same. His Friday impact was awful - the in-car footage showed it in all its brutality - and underlined just how high the stakes the drivers are dealing with nowadays such is the pace at Bathurst. We all love watching the V8 Supercars negotiate Australia's greatest race track, but there is an underlying sense of tension before every session and relief afterwards when everyone comes back okay.

Get well soon Chaz

That Mostert's accident meant he couldn't defend his Bathurst 1000 titles and that his championship chances were over, are only minor considerations compared to the common despair felt at his injuries and relief they were not worse. At home in Queensland under the good care of Eddie and Anne can there be any doubt he will make strong recovery and be back amongst the front-runners in 2016? We'll miss him on-track for the rest of the year. But there's also going to be the fascinating prospect of seeing how Cam Waters goes when he takes over the car in at least some of the upcoming sprint races.

The Harvey Norman Supergirls

As a public relations exercise the entry of wildcard all-female team Renee Gracie and Simona De Silvestro worked very well. They certainly did their bit and handled the unsavoury comments which came their way with class. That Gracie ended up in the wall after 15 laps was unfortunate and not her fault, arriving first at Forrest's Elbow after oil was dumped by an exploding Volvo. But it was not a complete surprise that the car was caught up in an incident - it's a tough race to survive for experienced teams let alone a wildcard crewed by two rookie racers. So it's good this is a two year deal, no doubt both Gracie and the impressive De Silvestro learned a lot.

Who is going to stand up against Triple Eight and PRA?

It's about time someone other than Triple Eight Race Engineering or Prodrive Racing Australia won the Bathurst 1000. Yep, we expect DJR Team Penske to be up and about in 2016, but the pressure really has to go on the Holden Racing Team especially and, to some extent, Brad Jones Racing. Yep, HRT lost ace James Courtney beforehand in bizarre circumstances and Garth Tander put in his usual Sunday charge to claim third with able support from Warren Luff. But the once dominant factory Holden team needs to go from scrapping its way on to the bottom step to being a bonafide contender from lap one to lap 161. BJR? It was close but no cigar again in 2015. No doubt Brad and Kim Jones will identify the weaknesses and do their best to eliminate them as they seek that first win at the mountain. But the departure of Fabian Coulthard and ace engineer Phil Keed means maintaining the current level of performance will be darn enough.

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