They don’t call it the Great Race for nothing.
The week’s wild weather was matched by some wild racing — both good and bad, it must be said — when the lights finally went out on the first full-house Bathurst 1000 in three years.
It took mere seconds for the first safety car to be called, and some drivers could count on one hand the number of laps they lasted in the championship’s only endurance race.
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Chaos and confusion abounded, and even a course car managed to get in the way of the action at one point as the race reached its late crunch.
It’s a mark of the season Shane van Gisbergen is enjoying that he emerged from it all on the top step anyway, Mount Panorama veteran Garth Tander alongside him.
It was a fitting way for Holden to end its long association with the Mountain, its modern leading man taking honours with one of its historical greats.
But it’s only a fairytale ending for those lucky enough to be the story’s protagonists. You only win at Bathurst or your lose, and there’ll be plenty of teams and drivers engaging in some reflection on why this wasn’t to be their year between now and next October.
WINNERS: THE TRIPLE EIGHT JUGGERNAUT
Shane van Gisbergen is a multiple Bathurst 1000 winner and Garth Tander is a five-time Mount Panorama champion after the duo perfectly chartered a course the chequered flag in six hours and 41 minutes.
It’s the second time this duo has claimed honours at the Mountain, having done so for the first time in 2020.
In the context of the broader Supercars season, this was Van Gisbergen’s 19th win of the campaign, breaking the record set by compatriot Scott McLaughlin in 2019. It’s enough for a 567-point advantage, just 33 points shy of the championship he’ll surely win at the next round on the Gold Coast.
“It makes me feel like as a team we have done such a good job, and I feel like we are not the best in qualifying and we are not the fastest car, but in the races we seem to execute it,” Van Gisbergen said.
“Working with Andrew [Edwards, engineer] this year — he’s been fantastic, and when we’re under pressure when things aren’t so good, the way he tunes the car up and goes about it, along with the rest of the engineering group, I think we’re in a pretty special place at the moment.”
Full dramatic Bathurst 1000 highlights! | 02:12
It also makes Triple Eight the equal most successful team at Bathurst, matching the Holden Deal Team’s record nine wins.
Tander was less modest about Van Gisbergen’s feats on the track.
“I said to Shane after the Pukekohe result that I’d never blow wind up his arse, but he’s going okay right now,” he said.
“I mean, as we were walking here I just said to him, ‘Reasonable week for you, really, when you think about it’. He scored points in WRC, he finished inside the top 10 in a WRC event and then seven days later he delivered what he delivered today.
“I feel very privileged to be able to get close, see the data, see the vision, work with him and see how he goes about it.”
But it was a landmark result for Tander too. He’s tied with Steven Richards on five Bathurst wins; only five drivers in all of Australian Touring Car Championship history have won at the Mountain more than he has.
“I have never really been emotional after a race, but that was pretty emotional,” he said. Just the realisation that five’s a pretty serious number.
“I knew that the car and Shane and the team were going to be exceptional this week, and I was determined not to be the weakest link in the team this year, so I worked really, really hard in the lead up to this one, and I was pretty satisfied.
“Five’s a pretty serious number, but I probably won’t realise that until much, much later.”
A victory at Bathurst is always meaningful, but this one had just a little extra something.
SVG cuts interview short to throw up | 00:48
LOSER: CAM WATERS, THE FOREVER BATHURST BRIDESMAID
Cam Waters has been competitive at Bathurst from the moment he made his full-time main-game debut at the Mountain in 2016. But competitiveness is one thing; winning is another.
Two second-place podiums in succession, in 2020 and 2021, marked him out as one of the favourites for victory along with co-driver James Moffat, and the pair was determined to take the final step to the summit of the podium.
“To be honest, I’m a bit sick of being asked about coming second,” he said ahead of the race.
“The best way to stop being asked about it is to go win the thing, so that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Pole position was a valuable weapon at his disposal — won on Friday and confirmed on Saturday when the shootout was cancelled — but starting from the front row kept the pair in contention only until lap 46, when a crash between Moffat and early victory rival Brodie Kostecki undid the races of both cars at the Cutting.
“It was probably going okay for us until Brodie just drove like a dickhead,” Moffat said, having been spun around and dumped to 21st by an attempted move on his position on the inside.
Kostecki argued that Moffat shouldn’t have turned in on him. The stewards penalised neither driver for the collision in the post-safety car freneticism.
But what happened next was arguably more anguishing.
Safety car drama! Was Kostecki blocked? | 02:05
Waters and Moffat fought back valiantly. From 21st after the spin, the brilliantly tuned Mustang made progress voraciously until at the penultimate safety car restart Waters was fifth, from where a couple of decisive passes put him back onto the podium.
From 21st to third certainly sounds like victory-contending pace.
Tickford boss Tim Edwards had no doubt about it.
“Unfortunately a bloody buffoon took us out,” he told Motorsport Network. “We had to use every cunning thing we could do, every chip we had, because we lost 15 places. That gave us nothing left to manoeuvre with.
“That was a race of track position at the end. If we had the track position, which we did when Brodie turned us around, we would have had a good chance of winning the race.”
Erebus boss Barry Ryan was quick to return serve.
“As James Moffat does in everything he drives, he had tunnel vision or is just stupid and turned in on Brodie,” he said. “Ask anyone he races.
“For James and Tim to label Brodie a dickhead and imbecile publicly when it was clear Brodie made a racing move on an amateur driver is completely unfair.”
The bottom line was both squandered their victory chances — and unfortunately for Waters, it means another year of being asked about finishing on the podiums without winning the race.
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‘ABSOLUTE LOSERS’: VIRTUALLY EVERY CO-DRIVER ON THE FIRST LAP
Should co-drivers be allowed to start the Bathurst 1000?
This year’s Bathurst has thrown up a couple of interesting questions about the power dynamics and relationships between full-time drivers and their counterparts.
The weekend started with Will Davison reminiscing about the days full-time drivers could buddy up — even if he wasn’t calling for a return to old ways.
Then in qualifying Jamie Whincup took the reins from Broc Feeney given the wet-weather conditions despite playing second fiddle to the teenager only to put the car outside the top 10 — though Whincup, as Triple Eight’s regular team principal and having only recently retired after one of the sport’s best-ever career, is admittedly a little more than your average co-driver.
But the weekend ended ignominiously for several other co-drivers just as the race got going.
The opening laps of this year’s Bathurst 1000 were carnage. Despite the generally good weather on Sunday, there was still some standing water on the track and the run-off areas more resembled swamps than traditional grass and gravel, and several of the part-timers didn’t seem willing to driver to the conditions.
Zane Goddard most notably cleaned up two cars after keeping his foot down when running off track at the Chase. He rejoined out of control and collected Dale Wood and Matt Campbell, triggering a safety car. Mark Winterbottom only just avoided getting caught up at the scene of the accident.
It came mere minutes after the chaotic first lap in which bunch of co-drivers found themselves in a spin on the run to turn 2, taking some out of victory contention on the spot.
Driver sheds tear after being eliminated | 01:24
Andre Heimgartner, Wood’s Bathurst partner, was scathing in the aftermath.
“Some of these people don’t realise this is 161 laps,” he said. “They’re driving like absolute losers.
“It’s just not what anyone needs and we’re only on lap bloody [five].”
Team boss Brad Jones said it was time the sport considered regulating who could start Bathurst in the interests of getting the race started cleanly.
“l guess the elephant in the room is starting [co-drivers],” he said. ”It‘s a 161-lap race, it goes for six and half hours or something. I just don’t know what’s going on.
“This is a very, very long race, and to win it you have got to be there at the end, so some of the stuff that is going on at the moment is just I think a bit unnecessary.”
With Bathurst the only round left of a previously more expansive endurance season, co-drivers are getting less Supercars seat time in real racing conditions. Addressing this gap might be the place to start to avoid future races at Bathurst being defined by such clumsy incidents.
‘Driving like absolute losers’ | 01:27
WINNER: HOLDEN FOR ITS ALMOST PERFECT SEND-OFF
Much was made of Holden’s last appearance at Bathurst — even if really Holden is already long gone from Australia — and the brand completed its final Great Race the only way it knows how: by winning.
Bathurst and Holden just go together. The lion had won the race 35 times prior to this year, more than half the total of Australian Touring Car Championship races ever held there, and Holden icon Peter Brock’s nine victories at the Mountain only strengthens the inseparable bond between the brand and the Great Race.
So it only made sense when Shane van Gisbergen took the chequered flag ahead of Chaz Mostert in the Walkinshaw Andretti United Commodore.
Only Cam Waters in third — and having got pole, albeit without the top-10 shootout, sealing the blue oval’s historical one-lap supremacy at 26-24 — spoiled what was an otherwise perfect send-off. In Holden’s final Bathurst appearance seven of the top 10 cars bore the lion badge
The Chevrolet Camaro will replace the Holden Commodore next season for an all-American Supercars duel, continuing General Motors’s involvement in the sport, but neither will ever be able to accumulate the cultural cache of a Holden climbing the Mountain at Bathurst.
LOSER: DICK JOHNSON RACING ON ITS 1000TH ENTRY
If there was going to be a story that came close to the gravity of Holden’s final run at Bathurst, it would’ve been Dick Johnson Racing taking the start of a race for an unprecedented 1000th time.
The racing icon laid down the gauntlet early, promising his pair of Mustang cars were out to rain on Holden’s final parade.
But it wasn’t to be after a performance that only perpetuates the idea that Bathurst has become a DJR bogey track.
The team last won the Great Race in 2019 at the height of Scott McLaughlin’s domination — and, to be specific, in the Penske era. Its only other wins came in 1981, 1989 and 1994, all with Dick Johnson himself at the wheel.
It hasn’t been for a total lack of pace that the team hasn’t managed to string together so much as a podium in three years.
Will and Alex Davison were fifth on the grid, ahead of Anton de Pasquale and Tony D’Alberto in a decent 11th.
The Davison car also topped two practice sessions and the warm-up.
The fraternal pair, tipped as among the favourites given Will’s sizzling form in recent months, lost momentum when Alex came close to beaching the car early, and the day ended with Will in the barriers.
Cruel end for Davidson’s Bathurst | 01:00
The sister car, running the special number 100 to celebrate the 1000-race milestone, managed to avoid the early-race chaos but had the pace for only seventh.
“Maybe just missing something late in the race when everyone really needs to step it up,” team principal Ben Croke told Speedcafe. “We’ll go back, dissect and move on.”
“I think it was pretty chaotic. Lap 1, we’re in the garage, and then how many laps later we were parked in the mud and stuff, so I don’t think we really gave ourselves the best shot at probably doing very well today with the dramas that were going on.
“I think the race pace at the end — the cars that were in front just had a bit more race pace on us right at the end there.
“[The reason is] yet to be determined. We’ll go back, look hard at it and see what we can improve on for the next one.”
DJR is still the second most powerful force in the championship overall — albeit now a long way behind Triple Eight and with its drivers third and fifth in the standings — but the points scored at Bathurst can make or break a close campaign.
It’ll need to prove Bathurst is no bogey in the coming seasons if it wants to tackle the might of Triple Eight.