Further cautions set up sprint for Bathurst glory
Having started hour five of the Bathurst 1000 under caution, two further Safety Car periods ensured that the fight for victory at Mount Panorama would become a sprint to the flag, with Chaz Mostert looking to see off Shane van Gisbergen for top honours.
With the Echidna that had managed to get onto the circuit making its way to safety and the lapped cars out of the equation, the action resumed on lap 110 with Shane van Gisbergen ahead of Chaz Mostert and Jamie Whincup.
Van Gisbergen held the lead heading up Mountain Straight on the restart with the leading three cars nose-to-tail into Quarry Bend, with multiple bouts of contact in the pack in the field as cars backed up into each other heading up the mountain.
Mostert tried to make a move for the lead around the outside on Quarry Bend on the second lap after the restart, but van Gisbergen was able to force Mostert onto the wrong part of the circuit to give Whincup the chance to steal second on the run to The Cutting.
Despite being on the outside, Whincup slipped ahead and Mostert then found himself back in fourth as Anton De Pasquale nipped ahead heading through Griffin’s Mount. Behind the top four, Brodie Kostecki in the #99 Holden had been aggressive on the restart to charge through to fifth – forcing his way ahead of Bryce Fullwood and then Cam Waters.
Now at the front, the two Triple Eight cars put in their fastest laps of the race on lap 112 as Mostert reclaimed third from De Pasquale going into Murray’s before the safety car came back out for a third time with Jayden Ojeda putting the #35 car into the wall through the Esses.
The leaders all dived straight in which meant Triple Eight would double stack its cars, with Mostert also needing to take on less fuel that the two cars that had come into the pits ahead.
It meant he rejoined ahead of van Gisbergen, with Kostecki also able to jump ahead of the #888 in the pits, whilst Whincup would drop outside the top ten having been forced to wait whilst van Gisbergen was serviced – and then made contact with Will Davison leaving the pits when the DJR Mustang was released in front of him. Davison would then be hit with a five second penalty for an unsafe release.
The field would circulate behind the safety car with David Reynolds leading the way having elected not to stop in the #26 Kelly Grove Racing Ford before the action resumed on lap 116.
Reynolds held the lead on the restart but all eyes were on the three cars behind, with Mostert ahead of Kostecki and van Gisbergen, with Nick Percat and Waters rounding out the top six.
With the timing of the third safety car leaving drivers needing to make just one more stop, the race became something of a cat and mouse battle, with Mostert electing to hold station behind Reynolds rather than going on the attack.
Behind however, van Gisbergen wasn’t keen on staying behind Kostecki and grabbed third, which was enough to give Mostert the hurry up and he jumped Reynolds at The Chase on the following lap.
Further down the top ten, De Pasquale was the loser in a four-car fight for position after a touch from Fullwood and dropped down outside the top ten as team-mate Davison and Whincup took advantage to get ahead.
De Pasquale would then pit at the end of lap 121 seconds as the safety car was called for a fourth time, with Jake Kostecki nosing into the tyres at Forrest’s Elbow.
Although Kostecki was able to get the car moving, the caution period backed up the field, with Mostert ahead of van Gisbergen, Brodie Kostecki, Percat, Waters and Fullwood after Reynolds came in to serve the seventh stop for the #26.
Mostert led the field to the restart on lap 125 and he was able to get the jump on van Gisbergen at the front to retain the lead – building an advantage of nearly a second within a lap.
Kostecki held on to third but Percat’s hold on fourth would only lap a lap as Waters got up the inside into Quarry Bend to grab fourth on lap 126.
With the pace hotting up at the front, Mostert banged in the fastest lap of the race on the same lap as van Gisbergen also set a new personal best and the leader then went faster still on the next tour to extend his advantage at the front to 1.5s.
The pace of the leading pair saw them easing away from Kostecki in third, with the Erebus driver gradually being reeled in by Waters in the fight for third.
As the clock hit the five hour mark – and with a single stop remaining – Mostert had opened his lead up to two and a half seconds at the front ahead of van Gisbergen, with Kostecki less than a second clear of Waters for third, and Percat and Fullwood rounding out the top six.