SVG, Whincup battle highlights opening hours at Bathurst

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 05/02/2017
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

A thrilling battle for the lead between Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup highlighted an action packed opening half of the Bathurst 12 Hour.

In a race of attrition, the Van Gisbergen/Maro Engel/Craig Baird STM Mercedes and Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes/Toni Vilander Ferrari have asserted their authority.

Regularly team-mates in Supercars, Van Gisbergen and Whincup did each other no favours as they traded paint down Conrod during an epic duel during the sixth hour.

Van Gisbergen, in a Mercedes that lacks the straightline speed of its rival, eventually got the better of Whincup, whose Ferrari is being run by a Triple Eight-assisted Maranello crew.

The fight between the two cars briefly turned ugly in the fourth hour when Baird turned around race leader Lowndes on a Safety Car restart.

Baird, seemingly unaware that no overlapping is allowed prior to the control line, dived to the inside of Lowndes at Murray’s Corner, spinning the Ferrari into the gravel.

Critically, Lowndes was dragged out of the sand without going a lap down, while Baird also remained on the lead lap despite a 10 second stop-go penalty.

The Maranello Ferrari had recovered from a drive-through of its own in the opening hours following a Safety Car restart infringement from Toni Vilander.

Keeping a watching brief on the Whincup/Van Gisbergen battle was the Ice Break Porsche, which is being co-driven by Van Gisbergen’s Pirtek Enduro Cup partner Matt Campbell.

The Porsche sat third at halfway behind Van Gisbergen and Lowndes, who took over from Whincup at the sixth pitstop.

Van Gisbergen and Whincup during their battle in the fifth hour of the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour.

Todd Kelly’s Nissan GT-R sits fourth after six hours, with the GT debutant having earlier held out Whincup during a stint in the lead during the fifth hour.

Team-mate Michael Caruso’s chances were dashed within minutes of the race getting underway, co-driver Alex Buncombe pitting with a vibration.

The #23 GT-R, which was among the pre-race favourites, later underwent a gearbox and diffuser change and has spent the last three hours in the garage.

Prodrive team-mates Chaz Mostert and Mark Winterbottom are also enduring tough days in their respective MARC and BMW Team SRM M6s.

Mostert led the bulk of the race’s opening stint before handing over to Max Twigg, who subsequent tagged the wall in The Esses, dropping the car well down the order.

Winterbottom’s BMW meanwhile runs three laps down in 13th place after struggles with power steering issues required a trip to the garage.

Garth Tander’s #75 Audi also suffered misfortune, tagged into a spin by the Ice Break Porsche on a restart at the end of the third hour.

The Audi, which had Chris Mies at the wheel, was subsequently collected by the MARC Mazda of Garth’s wife Leanne, causing significant damage to both cars.

Of the Pro-Am entries, David Reynolds had the #61 Mercedes in the top 10 before striking mechanical trouble during the sixth hour.

Lee Holdsworth’s #9 Audi sits 12th while the #11 McLaren co-driven by Tim Slade is 39th after suffering electrical issues.

Former Supercars champions Mark Skaife and Russell Ingall are meanwhile out of the race following a crash for the latter at The Dipper deep in the sixth hour.

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