Feature: The Greatest Race – Five years on from the 2014 Bathurst 1000 – Part Two
We continue our look back to the 2014 Bathurst 1000 on the five-year anniversary of the October classic, regarded as one of the best editions of the Great Race in the Supercars era.
With practice and qualifying all done, the field took to the grid on Sunday morning ahead of the race start at 11am with 25 cars on the grid, one missing thanks to the withdrawal of the Garth Tander/Warren Luff #2 Holden Racing Team entry after a practice crash on Saturday.
As the clock edged closer to 11, only a handful of co-drivers were put in their respective cars to start the race; Steven Richards (#888 Triple Eight, 9th), Tony D’Alberto (#10 Walkinshaw Racing, 19th), Greg Ritter (#34 Garry Rogers Motorsport, 20th), Dean Canto (#55 Rod Nash/Ford Performance Racing, 25th) and Paul Morris (#6 Ford Performance Racing) starting last.
The field gridded up after the formation lap, all prepared to take on the next 161 laps under a hot October sun, with Shane van Gisbergen on pole and in prime position to start the race well for Tekno Autosports.
As the lights went out, van Gisbergen and Mark Winterbottom alongside him in the FPR Falcon bogged down, getting off the line evenly but becoming vulnerable to a fast-starting Scott McLaughlin from third in the Garry Rogers Motorsport Volvo S60.
The young Kiwi jammed the Volvo down the inside of Winterbottom and against the pit wall, getting the best run off the line and grabbing the lead into Hell Corner, leading up Mountain Straight on the opening lap of the Bathurst 1000.
As the field followed him on the first lap, McLaughlin started to pull a gap on his pursuers, getting well clear of them all while Richards came close to ending the #888 car’s day early, going off the road over the top of the mountain at McPhillamy Park, recovering to keep fighting for the next 160 laps.
Further back, the other Triple Eight entry was like a bullet out of a gun with Jamie Whincup getting the perfect start (so perfect that he was under investigation for jumping the start) in the #1 car from 23rd on the gird, making up five spots on the opening lap.
McLaughlin led the field around to complete the first of 161 laps, edging out a gap over the field. The Volvo driver continued to gain a margin over his immediate rivals, pulling Winterbottom and van Gisbergen with him as the trio checked out from everyone behind them.
Further back, Whincup was driving like a man possessed, man-handling the Triple Eight Commodore and slicing through the field, getting up into the top ten within the opening 10 laps.
Apart from Whincup’s heroics, the first stint of the day was otherwise quiet with McLaughlin leading the way and enjoying a comfortable lead in the Volvo as the co-drivers such as Richards did their part to keep the cars straight for the main drivers.
Despite Richards being the defending Bathurst champion, the speed difference between main drivers and co-drivers as evident when Whincup passed his team-mate at the end of the first stint, despite starting 14 spots lower on the grid.
The race’s first safety car came on lap 26 after Luke Youlden, driving the #14 entry for Brad Jones Racing, went off the road at The Chase, ending up buried in the gravel trap.
While Youlden got back on the road, albeit a lap down, the safety car triggered a round of pit stops with the order remaining largely unchanged as the race resumed.
A second safety car was nearly called thanks to an incident on lap 34 as Taz Douglas put the #360 Norton Hornets Nissan Altima into the wall at Turn 2, being helped after contact from Cam Waters.
Stint two of the race further showed the pace of the #1 machine with Paul Dumbrell now behind the wheel, fighting for second place after Whincup had started the car from the second last row of the grid some 40 laps earlier.
Griffin’s Bend Break-up
Though it had already been a hot spot for incidents throughout the weekend, Sunday’s higher temperatures started to show a problem at Turn 2 with the road breaking up just off the racing line, making the outside line a dangerous place to venture.
Within a handful of laps, Dumbrell, Robert Dahlgren in the #34 Volvo and Alex Buncombe’s Nissan Altima nearly all ended up in the outside wall after getting off the racing line and into the marbles.
The second safety car of the race was deployed on lap 45 when a kangaroo outsmarted the newly installed animal fencing around the circuit, ironically finding more trouble getting off the track than getting onto it.
Despite the race being under control of the safety car, two incidents happened nearly simultaneously at different parts of the track.
On cold tyres out of the pits, Paul Morris went into Turn 2 with too much pace, ending up wide and putting the #6 FPR car into the tyre barrier, eventually getting out but with cosmetic damage to the front of the Falcon.
At the top of the mountain on the approach to McPhillamy Park the BJR cars of Andrew Jones and Dale Wood were trying to catch the pack at full speed and arrived on the tail of Nick Percat. While Jones reacted and got on the brakes, Wood didn’t pull up in time and drilled the back of his team mate, effectively taking both cars out of the race in crash.
With the mess cleared, racing resumed though not for long as James Moffat’s #360 Altima and Scott Pye in the #16 Dick Johnson Racing Falcon found the wall at Turn 2, further illustrating the issues at Griffins Bend throughout the day.
The safety car was sent out again but the race was red flagged shortly after for only the third time in the history of the Bathurst 1000 and the first time in the Supercars era.
The Race That Stopped The Nation and Itself
While course officials and track workers surveyed and tried to repair the broken road, teams were allowed to work on their cars which were parked on the pit straight, effectively giving everyone just under an hour to fix any issues.
All eyes were on the #1 car as Whincup and Dumbrell had reported a tailshaft vibration throughout the day and the Triple Eight crew were keen to fix it but protests from other teams in the confusion of the stoppage meant the work wasn’t carried out on the car.
After almost an hour had passed the field set off again under the control of the safety car but one car was nearly lost before racing resumed with the #22 HRT car of James Courtney unable to fire up on the grid. The Commodore had been suffering electrical gremlins all day and had to rely on a bump start from the #33 Volvo behind to get going.
With a few laps to get everything back up to temperature under the safety car, racing resumed and David Russell nearly wiped himself out in the #15 Nissan Altima from the lead when he went into the patched up Turn 2 with too much pace, narrowly avoiding the wall on the outside.
A tough lap for the Nissan Altima’s was bookended when Todd Kelly was spun at the exit of The Chase after Jamie Whincup fumbled a pass on the exit. A puncture and pit lane penalty for the #1 car put Whincup and Dumbrell a lap down, seemingly out of contention for the race with the halfway point not yet being reached.
Steven Johnson inherited the lead in the #17 Dick Johnson Racing car, running a retro livery to throw back to the team’s last Bathurst win in 1994. Though fans of DJR rejoiced when they saw the #17 in the lead, the mountain struck again shortly after.
As Johnson climbed out of The Cutting and into Reid Park, the Falcon’s transaxle failed and locked up, sending him into a spin and then the wall, ending the brief run for the #17 at the front of the order.
After the race’s fourth safety car period, the fifth occurred only a few tours later on lap 71 when Pye’s right rear Dunlop tyre exploded at 250km/h on Conrod Straight, pitching him into the wall and taking the second DJR car out of the race in only a handful of laps.
500 Down, 500 to Go
With the race finally reaching half distance, the battle at the front heated up between the #97 Tekno Autosports entry and the #33 GRM Volvo, swapping positions for the lead as Premat got the S60 past Webb’s Commodore.
Further back, Whincup was again on a charge, trying to get back on the lead lap and into contention. He was aided by a crash for Tim Slade when the Walkinshaw Racing driver went into the wall at the same spot as Johnson, triggering a sixth safety car.
As the #1 car got back onto the lead lap, Whincup jumped out to have a rest before the final stint of the race, giving the wheel to Dumbrell to fight against a mix of co-drivers and the full-time fighters when the lap count ticked over 100.
Yet again, it didn’t take long for the safety car to clock up some more kilometres for the day, this time for Dahlgren who drifted wide onto the marbles on the outside of the climb out of The Cutting, wiping the right side of the Volvo down the wall and taking the car out of contention.
With Reynolds leading the field under the safety car, everything was looking good for the #55 FPR machine which was on the strongest strategy of the leaders, sitting in prime position to control the race to the end.
That was until lap 118 when fate dealt the 2012 runner-up a cruel hand; an alternator failure had been draining the battery and while crawling up Mountain Straight, the lights went out on the Falcon. Reynolds and Canto were out from the race lead with just over 40 laps to run.
Restarting on the 119th tour of the circuit, an opportune and fair pass from down the inside van Gisbergen on McLaughlin at The Cutting pushed his fellow Kiwi wide, hitting the wall at the same point as his Volvo team-mate Dahlgren had done only minutes before.
McLaughlin limped back to the pits but was out of the fight for a Bathurst win, breaking down in tears while his team fought to send the #33 back out on track. The quickest car of the day and the one which had led the most laps was out of the running.
With the Volvo safely getting back to the Garry Rogers Motorsport garage, the race stayed green and racing went on until the critical lap number was in sight and teams were preparing their drivers to come in for the final hit of fuel and tyres until the end.
A frustrated Russell Ingall found himself in a battle between the #7 Nissan and Lee Holdworth’s Erebus E63 AMG, misjudging his braking marker into Turn 2 and going three wide up the inside of the pair going into the corner.
Just as Ingall was about to fire up the inside in the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Commodore, Holdsworth turned into the corner, not seeing the missile that was approaching. Hard contact sent the Erebus driver backwards into the wall, rolling gently onto his roof as Ingall carried on.
On the Run Home
With marshals recovering the stricken Mercedes, the safety car made its ninth appearance on lap 133, triggering a raft of pit stops as the field filled up to try and make the end despite being only a couple of laps short of the critical lap number to make it home safely.
Being cruelled all day by safety cars, the #1 Triple Eight car of Whincup had to again stack behind the Lowndes’ #888 which was in front on track and received priority service, as did Mostert over Winterbottom who was 13th in the queue when the green flag came out at the start of lap 137.
Uncertainty over who could make it to the finish on fuel created two different lines of thinking; do you conserve and lose time but have a better chance of getting by without a stop or push like hell and take the gamble that a safety car will cover a pit stop.
As 16 laps remained, van Gisbergen, Lowndes and Mostert in the first three spots all went below the race lap record while Whincup and Winterbottom in fourth and fifth behind them were on the conservative strategy, losing upwards of a second per lap to the blazing top three.
Lap 150 and the safety car made its tenth and final appearance of the day as Tim Blanchard suffered a jammed throttle running up to The Cutting, taking the LDM car out of the race and forcing drivers and their teams to prove the worth of their strategic calls.
Coming in from the lead, van Gisbergen stopped in the Tekno box for a quick splash of fuel as Lowndes and Mostert passed him in the lane to get to their garages further up the road. As the #97 dropped from the hydraulic jacks, the pole sitter stalled the car, trying to refire the Commodore, all the while losing time to his rivals.
Seconds went by and still no signs of life for the engine of the Commodore, the starter motor failing and unable to turn over the V8 motor. van Gisbergen stormed out of the car as Lowndes and Mostert left the pit lane, behind Winterbottom and Whincup.
Whincup held the lead crossing the line but in hot pursuit of the safety car, he went too hot into Hell Corner, running wide and out onto the gravel trap, losing the lead to Winterbottom who then led the pack to the final restart of the day.
The Final Sprint to the Flag
Restarting on lap 153, Winterbottom led from a hard-charging Whincup, Lowndes and Mostert, being hounded by the #1 car on the first lap under green flags until the defending series champion made his move at Murray’s Corner, going down the inside to take the lead.
An attempt at a criss-cross move by Winterbottom didn’t work and heading straight into the setting sun at Hell Corner, the FPR driver ran wide on the corner exit. Behind him, Lowndes didn’t see the slowly-exiting Falcon, tagging the rear and spinning the #5, dropping Winterbottom down the order and elevating Mostert to second behind Whincup.
Arguably the most popular driver in the field, Lowndes was hit with a drive-through penalty for the incident but it didn’t matter as both he and Winterbottom were out of the fight for the race win.
Mostert went into full attack mode, having taken on fuel in his splash-and-dash under the safety car but Whincup was going harder out front in the lead, putting in some of his fastest laps of the race despite being dangerously close to coming up short of fuel to the end.
As Triple Eight started to get on the radio to tell Whincup that the numbers were getting critical, Mostert dragged the #6 FPR car around the track to set the fastest race lap to that point at Mount Panorama, sniffing that the leader may not be playing the long game.
With just over three laps to go, the lead was out to three seconds but Triple Eight was getting desperate, repeatedly on the radio to Whincup, telling him to slow down and save fuel despite stretching more of a lead over Mostert.
As Whincup wasn’t listening to his engineer David Cauchi, team leader Mark Duttom finally stood up to his driver, affirming at they only had one lap’s worth of E85 in the tank with a lap and a half to run.
Finally acknowledging the message with his mouth and right foot, Whincup backed off and by the end of the lap, his lead had evaporated with Mostert right under the Commodore’s wing as they started the 161st and final lap of Mount Panorama.
Biding his time, Mostert stayed behind on the run up the hill, getting close and pushing Whincup to try and force his opponent to use more fuel and get closer to running dry. The Falcon was tucked right under the rear bumper of the #1 car going across the top, coming within millimetres of making contact.
Backing up Mostert, Whincup went slow into McPhillamy Park and the FPR driver went to pounce around the outside but couldn’t get alongside. He then showed the nose heading to Brock’s Skyline but again struggled to move into a position to cleanly get past.
With a single line heading down to Forrest Elbow, there was no hope for the young gun until Whincup moved to block a pass at the tight hairpin, just a little too late as Mostert had already committed to go down the inside.
A tap of the Commodore’s rear bumper was all that was needed and the Falcon squeezed through, into the lead coming into the last sector and with enough fuel to go at full speed to the finish flag.
Mostert left daylight between he and Whincup, sliding out of The Chase and rounding Murray’s Corner to come home in first after 1000 kilometres of racing and 161 laps of fighting up from last on the grid in a car which had been buried in the tyre wall at Griffin’s Bend earlier in the day.
Though all eyes were on Mostert, further back Whincup was losing time and spots after running out of fuel coming to The Chase. James Moffat, who had fought from having his car in the fence twice, got past the #1 car and into second spot, claiming a maiden podium for himself and co-driver Taz Douglas and the only Bathurst podium to date for the Nissan Altima.
Avoiding being rear-ended in the BJR pile-up earlier in the race, Nick Percat made it onto the final spot on the rostrum with British ace Oliver Gavin, featuring on the podium in his first Supercars appearance at Bathurst and Nick’s first appearance in the top three after winning the 2011 race as a rookie with Garth Tander.
Whincup lost one final spot as he coasted out of the final corner, losing out to his mate Will Davison to give the AMG Customer Sport team of Erebus their best Supercars finish at Bathurst of fourth after winning the 12 Hour earlier that year.
After the earlier spin, Winterbottom finished in sixth, proving that it was possible to get home on fuel given he and Whincup came in for their last stops on the same lap. The loss of points meant that Whincup was able to seal his sixth championship that year a few weeks later at the penultimate round at Phillip Island, Winterbottom again the bridesmaid but taking his maiden title in 2015.
The Come-Down and Debrief
When Chaz Mostert and Paul Morris started the day, neither could have thought from 25th on the grid that they would be standing atop the podium some eight hours later. The win was Mostert’s third in his career in only his second ever Bathurst 1000 start, having made a spectacular debut the year prior when he nearly wrote off the DJR #17 car in practice.
For Morris, it was his first in the 1000km classic after making his first start in 1991, winning on the road in 1997 in the Super Touring race before being disqualified thanks to team-mate Craig Baird exceeding his maximum time in the car.
2014 was also Morris’ last start in the Great Race, hanging up his helmet in Australia’s top tier category after the next round at the Gold Coast. A win in the 2017 Bathurst 6 Hour race for production cars saw Morris become the first winner of all three major events at Mount Panorama thanks to a win in the 2007 12 Hour, then held in production machines.
Though 2019 has been a one-sided season for those running the Ford Mustang, with Scott McLaughlin enjoying a 586 point championship lead thanks to 17 race wins so far, a raft of aerodynamic changes in the lead up to this year’s Great Race may see last year’s race time record broken and the six hour mark threatened.
The weekend begins on Thursday the 10th of October with three practice sessions, leading up to more practice and qualifying on Friday with the top ten shootout getting underway on Saturday afternoon.
Everything culminates in the 161 lap, 1000km feature on Sunday, this year being pushed to a later start time of 1130 local time thanks to the race going faster year-on-year.
TouringCarTimes will be on-site to provide coverage of Australia’s biggest race.