Chaz Mostert’s bid for victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour has ended in a multi-car incident at Forrest’s Elbow.
The 25-year-old was running fifth with two-and-a-half hours remaining when disaster struck for the pole-winning Schnitzer BMW.
Having returned to the car in 10th place just under an hour earlier, Mostert was charging, eventually catching the fight for third between Steven Kane (Bentley) and Kevin Estre (Porsche).
Unable to find a way through, Mostert took a chance as the trio approached two backmarkers, ranging down the outside of both Estre and Kane at Forrest’s Elbow.
The BMW and Estre’s Porsche made minor side-to-side contact on the exit, which shot Mostert into both the Bentley and the lapped On-Track Motorsport Porsche.
Mostert’s hit on the Bentley and a subsequent clash with the inside concrete wall were both substantial, leaving the 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner to limp his M6 back to the garage.
It was a sad end to a campaign that included Mostert taking pole on Saturday before proving a runaway leader in the race’s early stages.
“I was really struggling to get past the Porsche and the Bentley there,” Mostert said.
“Our car was mega-quick all race, but the only way past them was to take advantage of lapped traffic.
“I had a big crack around the outside of Forrest’s Elbow and then coming off the Elbow, it went from a space for me to no space and I unfortunately made contact with the Bentley and the B Class Porsche and hurt all three of our races.
“It’s an absolute shame. To have Schnitzer Motorsport out here from Germany and not finish the race is disappointing.
“But we’ve got a lot of positives to take away from this weekend and we’ll see if I get an invite back next year.
“It’s disappointing, two years in a row I haven’t finished the race, so maybe third time lucky.”
Kane’s co-driver Guy Smith slammed Mostert’s impatience in the lead-up to and during the Forrest’s Elbow incident.
“It was horrendous. It was terrible driving by Mostert,” said the Brit, whose Bentley also went to the garage with damage, losing six laps while repairs were made.
“He was hitting Estre coming down the hill, I don't know why, then he hit Steven coming out of the corner onto the straight.
“It put his car out of the race with three hours to go. I don't know what he was thinking.”
Estre, whose Porsche escaped damage in the clash, felt Mostert had become frustrated while following the two cars.
“I was a bit stuck behind the Bentley and the BMW behind me got frustrated, he tried to push me,” he said.
“Somehow I think he touches the [On-Track] Porsche, he came to me, then he touched the Bentley.
“Somehow I got through - a lot of luck. I think he took a bit too much risk there.”
Mostert’s co-driver Marco Wittmann said rising ambient temperatures meant the BMW had struggled for straightline speed as the race progressed, contributing to the incident.
The car had run towards the back of the top 10 for most of the race after a restart infringement from Wittmann in his first stint resulted in a drive-through penalty.
“That's kind of a racing incident. Chaz tried, he was pushing for it,” he said.
“When the heat came out we struggled a bit for pace and lost ground, especially on top speed.
“We had to find somewhere to make our move, somewhere not in a straight line. He tried it, that happened. It's racing.
“It's a shame we have to stop the race now. We were in good shape, still looking for a podium, and with two hours to go anything could have happened.”
Schnitzer boss Charlie Lamm echoed Wittmann's comments about lacking straight-line speed, adding that Mostert "had to attack" in the second sector.
"Over the course of the race we fell back a bit, perhaps we lost some pace due to the rising temperature," he said.
"We also got stuck in traffic and couldn't move forward on the straights as we'd hoped.
"Chaz had to attack in the second sector and he was looking for his chance.
"There was a chain reaction and Chaz was involved. The damage was bad enough that we had to retire the car."
Mostert’s incident is the latest blow in a tough race for the Supercars drivers.
Garth Tander’s Audi was running second when co-driver Kelvin van der Linde crashed nearing the end of the eighth hour, while the Craig Lowndes/Shane van Gisbergen McLaren was out of contention early with overheating trouble.
Jamie Whincup is the top Supercars driver with just over two hours remaining, sitting third in the SunEnergy1 Mercedes.