Will Davison and Jonathon Webb win an incident-packed Bathurst 1000 by a whisker
Will Davison and Jonathon Webb won their first ever Bathurst 1000, even though the Triple Eight car of Jamie Whincup crossed the line first but was given a 15-second penalty for his part an incident which saw the Holden and Volvo of Garth Tander and Scott McLaughlin taken out of the race.
Davison just needed to keep the other Triple Eight Holden of Shane van Gisbergen behind during the final laps to score the small Tekno Autosports team their first Bathurst 1000, on the heels of their Bathurst 12hr victory earlier in the year, after Whincup was relegated after having had the ultimate pace throughout the entire race.
24 of the main drivers opted to take the start in the 27-car field, with Jamie Whincup leading the way from pole ahead of the Volvo of Scott McLaughlin, while Garth Tander made a strong start to move up to fifth by the first corner in the HRT Holden.
Van Gisbergen quickly made his way up from seventh to fifth over the first two laps, passing Michael Caruso’s Nissan Altima on the opening lap and then passed Tander’s Holden at The Chase on lap two. The New Zealander then moved up to third during the first pit stop cycle when he handed his car over to co-driver Alexandre Prémat.
Prémat made a daring pass for second on the #33 Volvo, now driven by David Wall, at Forrest’s Elbow on lap 31, while team-mate Craig Lowndes’ hope of a sixth Bathurst win ended early after a broken gear-link on the #888 Vortex-backed entry while Steven Richards was at the wheel.
Up front, the #88 Whincup and Dumbrell car dominated the first half of the race, building a healthy margin while the #18 Schwerkolt Holden was the only retirement in the first 500km with a broken engine valve.
The race was ignited when three safety cars were called within 20 laps from lap 95. First, Andrew Jones crashed out the #8 Brad Jones Racing Holden Commodore at Reid Park, which closed up the field and saw Whincup/Dumbrell’s 35-second lead to team-mate Van Gisbergen & Prémat wiped out.
Soon after the restart, the engine on the #34 Volvo S60 of James Moffat expired, bringing out another safety car which saw a scramble into the pits, but Triple Eight and Prodrive drivers Van Gisbergen and Cameron Waters lost track position as they were forced to double-stack behind team-mates Whincup and Winterbottom respectively.
Their races were saved when Andre Heimgartner stopped in the Lucas Dumbrell Holden just as the race resumed on lap 114, with another flurry of stops shuffling them up the order, while Whincup stayed out in front with Tekno Autosports’ Will Davison cycling up to second.
When the race restarted, Whincup needed to rebuild his lead knowing he had to stop twice, while team-mate Van Gisbergen, now up to third, was conserving fuel to try to make it to the end on one stop.
The five-time champion produced lap record after lap record to build a ten second lead over Davison’s Holden, and was almost 25 seconds clear of Van Gisbergen before the safety car was out again when reigning champion Mark Winterbottom went off at The Chase in the Prodrive Ford Falcon. The Ford driver had developed a steering issue after clipping the wall at Forrest’s Elbow on the way down towards the Conrod Straight.
Whincup dived straight into the pits, with the majority of the field opting to pit again which synchronised the pit stop strategy, with everyone needing to stop at least once more.
Van Gisbergen was again forced to double-stack, albeit briefly, and restarted the race outside of the top ten and was forced to work his way forward at the restart.
Whincup pitted again during the same safety car deployment while on the edge of the fuel window, which triggered a copycat response from the bulk of the field, with only Fabian Coulthard in the DJR Penske Ford and the GRM Volvo of Scott McLaughlin opting to stay out.
HRT’s Garth Tander got the jump on Whincup in the pits and rejoined third on the road, and was fighting to hold the Triple Eight driver behind as Coulthard managed to break away from the lead at the restart, while McLaughlin focussed on conserving fuel in second.
Van Gisbergen was carving his way through the field and had worked his way up to sixth when Whincup reclaimed third from Tander on lap 147 at Murrays Corner with a late lunge up the inside.
The race took another dramatic turn as Whincup tried to pass McLaughlin at The Chase on lap 150, making contact with the Volvo and knocking him wide. Whincup backed off to redress to avoid the inevitable penalty, but with Tander right behind, disaster ensued as the HRT driver was held up by Whincup and was then collected when McLaughlin rejoined the circuit, with both cars heavily damaged, with the safety car deployed again.
Coulthard dived in to the pits to make his final stop from the lead, handing the spot to Whincup ahead of Davison and Van Gisbergen, however Whincup was swiftly handed a 15-second penalty by the race officials for his part in the incident, effectively ruling out any chance of victory.
Davison was now second on the road and fighting to keep Van Gisbergen behind, while another short safety car period followed when Rick Kelly crashed his Nissan at Forrest’s Elbow, but was able to bring the damaged car back into the pits.
The battle resumed at the restart after one lap behind the safety car, while Todd Kelly was the next casualty when he was knocked off at The Chase by HRT’s James Courtney, with double-waved yellows taking out one of the overtaking spots to protect the stranded Nissan.
Van Gisbergen made one last move to try and pass Davison down the inside at the Elbow on the penultimate lap, nudging the Holden driver but couldn’t make the move stick. The Kiwi wasn’t able to get close enough to try again on the final lap, and crossed the line just over a tenth of a second behind Davison and Webb, who win theirs and the team’s first Bathurst 1000.
Van Gisbergen extends his championship lead to 139 points over Whincup, after the 15-second penalty dropped him to 11th.
“I’m speechless,” said Davison. “That was so stressful. I knew if I lifted to save any more fuel I knew Shane would be in there, and it coughed into the last corner and I ran out of fuel as I crossed the line.
“(My co-driver) Jono Webb said he had a good feeling this weekend…I can’t believe the way it’s panned out. To do it with such a little team it’s incredible.”
“It’s amazing it really is,” added Webb. “We’ve won it, an amazing job by Will and all the boys at Tekno.”
Whincup was unrepentant about the move on McLaughlin after the race, although he’d apologised to both Tander and McLaughlin, he still felt the pass was legitimate.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Whincup. “I feel sorry for the result. You don’t want to see any wrecked cars, but I felt the move was on. He squeezed me and we made contact, I was happy to redress, but then there weren’t two cars there to redress.”
McLaughlin felt his last opportunity to win the Bathurst 1000 for GRM was taken away today, though the New Zealander is also under investigation for an unsafe rejoin when he came back on track and collected Tander’s Commodore.
“All I had to do was hold them off,” said McLaughlin. “(Whincup) says the move was on, but you’ve got to pull it up to make the move and he didn’t, but I made a mistake coming back on, and I’m proper gutted.”
The next round of the championship is the Gold Coast 600 at Surfers Paradise in two weeks’ time, and is the last of the three endurance rounds of the Supercars Championship season.