THE GREAT RACE lived up to everything we were promised, with a flat-out and dramatic Sunday afternoon on the Mountain.
WORDS: The Race Torque Team, Social Media contributions
IMAGES: Mark Walker
IT WAS a massive weekend on the Mountain with so many amazing stories, as ever; but there was also some stuff that needed to go under the microscope and there’s no better platform than The Race Torque Power Rankings.
Thanks to our wide array of social media contributors for their input as well as the broad TRT team – and friends – for putting their thoughts together!
1. CAR 17 & TEAM
THE FIRST Great Race winner from pole position since 2009 this was as close to perfection as a weekend can get. Save for a flat spot towards the end of his early double stint, Alex Premat rose to the occasion against the full-timers.
McLaughlin was awesome as ever in qualifying and then his final lap was perhaps the best he’s ever driven under searing pressure. Rolled the dice on fuel at the end and won that, too. Only blot on the copybook was a small amount of damage to the rear bar, which they also managed. Of course it’s never as easy as it looks, but the best won it this year.
MUCH MALIGNED all year it was hard to fault the technical balance of Supercars at Mount Panorama. At a circuit that has everything – high speed, slow speed, aero and straights – there was little between the Commodore, Mustang and Altima.
While Triple Eight was comfortably the fastest Holden team, that they got two cars within a shot of winning at the end spoke volumes. Nissan was the surprise; while they ultimately engineered or crashed themselves out of a stronger result, their race pace – especially that of car 7 – was about as good as anyone. Hopefully it remains a non-issue for the remaining rounds.
3. WALKINSHAW ANDRETTI UNITED
SMASHED all year by all comers, Bathurst was always a target for WAU this year and boy, didn’t they deliver. Strong strategy, decent race pace and four accomplished, experienced drivers ensured that this team engineered themselves their third-straight Bathurst 1000 podium and got two cars into the top-10.
Since 2010, this team in its various iterations has won once, scored five additional podiums and scored two fourth places as well. Perkins first podium was great while Courtney has been up there (without winning) four times. Car 2 pitted every time there was a yellow so they were good for Fuel at the end. This will be a massive result for the team, especially with Zak Brown and Michael Andretti in the house, given their horror season.
4. DICK JOHNSON AND ROGER PENSKE ON THE PODIUM
SPECIAL PERMISSION had to be sought to get two team representatives onto the Bathurst podium, but how could they say no to the Captain and one of Bathurst’s true legends? Roger Penske rarely shows overt emotion but it seems even he is not immune to a Bathurst podium.
Meanwhile, Dick Johnson received a rapturous response from the faithful who hadn’t seen him up there since he and John Bowe won in 1994. This was special for both and a great addition to an already great podium celebration.
5. MOUNT PANORAMA
NEVER lets us down, does it? In fact, it keeps getting better. The precinct has never looked better than it did last weekend. The new Conrod Straight camp ground was full and this year there was reportedly more than 35,000 camping across the long weekend. Even little touches like the fact the main pedestrian bridge across the circuit has been removed and restored show that the place continues to evolve, but never gets any less special.
6. RACE PACE
AT HALF-RACE distance this was comfortably going to be the fastest ever 1000, probably closer to 5 hours 30 minutes than six hours. Even three years ago you’d never had dreamed that a good race pace would be in the 6’s – but this year you had to be in the 5’s to be in the mix. Even though Safety Cars slowed things in the last 60 laps, the raw pace of this motor race was relentless and enormously competitive.
7. TV COVERAGE
WE’VE ALREADY Reported on the TV ratings, which were huge, but the coverage itself was special this year and the first in some time that showcased the Mountain in a new light.
Several new camera angles worked superbly: the Crane camera at McPhillamy showed the elevation change, while several new angles at the Chase – including Cable Cam – were magic. Bathurst has long led the motorsport TV world in innovations and this year added new shots we’ve not seen before but that we hope become a staple moving forward.
THE MASSIVE crowd was always going to add vibe, but this year was special – Sunday especially. The race build-up was tremendous, the best in years with new tweaks like having the Screaming Jets play in front of the McPhillamy Park gates at the top before running down to do the Anthem afterwards.
The anticipation for the one-lap dash at the end was great and then the podium celebrations.. wow. As large a hero as Craig Lowndes is, this year’s post-race party under the podium was louder, larger and longer than that.
THIS follows on from No. 8, but this was the best representation from the Blue Oval on the Mountain in a decade. Good off-track activations, the launch of a new special-edition Mustang and lots of Merchandise backed up the fact their six cars in the race itself were contenders.
Won in Super2 and TCM as well just to add to it – and then the first Great Race win for the brand since 2014 sent results-starved Blue Oval fans wild. As an aside, in terms of Merchandise the Shell V-Power Racing Team are now what the Holden Racing Team was in the 1990s. Shirts, Jackets and Hats in bright red, everywhere.
10. TEAM OWNER PRESSER
THERE’S BEEN some big names on the Mountain over the years but the gathering of Roger Penske, Zak Brown, Michael Andretti (and Roland) showed the international relevance of the championship and the Bathurst 1000.
Heavy hitters, all, who ‘get’ the Great Race and how important it is to succeed there for their respective race teams. Penske throwing banter at Roland Dane, about a potential Triple-Eight Indy 500 Wildcard, was a crack-up. If anything shows the global relevance and influence of Bathurst, this press conference was it in a nutshell.
1. KELLY RACING
PROPERLY fast cars for the first time in years and Car 7, in particular, was outstanding with Heimgartner and Fullwood doing great things to keep them in the hunt all day.
Should’ve been in the top six, but ballsed it up on strategy at the end when they pitted when they shouldn’t have, then crashed. Kelly and Wood were solid and the other two cars anonymous but should’ve, could’ve been better.
2. NO LEAD IN
DID the lack of the Sandown 500 warm-up change the Great Race? It was the talk of the town in the build up to the event but in the end it was a completely non-topic on Sunday.
Did not rate a mention nor did it change the race even slightly. Great for tradition, but most of these teams and drivers are professionals and did a fine job without it.
3. LATE START TIME
LIKE the lap of a warm-up race, did nothing to change the outcome of the Bathurst 1000. We’d concede that it may get dark at the end should we get a wet race in the future, but in reality the fact the race ran past 6PM only served to boost TV ratings so the side-effects were only positive.
4. TRIPLE EIGHT
SECOND AND FOURTH may not seem like a lukewarm performance, but when you look at that team and their drivers they did exactly what they should have done – except for winning the race.
This was Triple Eight at its best, fighting all day and getting two cars in with a shot of winning. It’s not ‘HOT’, because we expect nothing less of this team and that they haven’t been doing it with regularity this year has been a big story.
5. RACING WITH HIGH DOWNFORCE
LIKE THE lack of a Bathurst warm-up event or the later start time, this also turned out to be a nothing story. The racing was fine, there was plenty of overtaking and if anything the slipstream effect down Conrod was bigger than ever before.
We’re stoked Supercars is trimming aero for racing everywhere else, but we’d be fine to keep this package on the Mountain so we can still see these cars doing 2m03s. Non event in our eyes because the racing was fine.
1. SAFETY CAR GO SLOW
GOES without saying that this would be Number One. Would every single team in pit lane, should they have been in the same position, have made the same call? But irrespective of what happened, it wasn’t a great look for anyone involved and generated negative post-event media that should have been centered on the stunning victory and the show on Sunday.
There are so many contributing factors to why it occurred; the necessity for track position in the race, the fact that no-one wants to stack in pit lane and how even the battle was between DJRTP and T8 at the end. Coulthard was penalised on the day and the stewards will go to work to determine if there was any breech of team order regulations between now and the Gold Coast but it’s added an unsavoury tone to an otherwise remarkable Sunday that is no surprise at all, but also that the show didn’t need anyway.
IT ALMOST felt inevitable, didn’t it? Waters and Mostert racing nose-to-tail before crashing out at the Chase in arguably the moment of the motor race. How does this keep happening? Drivers be drivers, sure, but there’s a broader issue here from within the team that has failed to stop these things occurring, especially between these two.
Poor driving, poor management or otherwise, the bottom line is this: Of the five or six best cars in the race, Tickford had two of them and without question nor shadow of doubt would have had at least one in the fight at the end. As a result of the Chase crash, Tickford’s best car finished 10th on a day where they can blame no one other than themselves.
3. EREBUS PENRITE RACING
FIFTH position in the biggest race of the year wouldn’t ordinarily deserve a ‘NOT’ – in fact, a comeback to that position from 22nd on the grid and an early weekend crash was a great recovery for Car 9.
But the bottom line is that the team that has arguably been the best at Bathurst for the last two years had an absolute Barry. Luke Youlden made several unforced errors early in the race while both drivers in 99 had really messy races. Were supposed to be a contender with two cars but weren’t even in the hunt with one and that’s a shame for this team.
4. BRAD JONES RACING
BJR have been perennials on the ‘HOT’ list this year but were MIA on Sunday. Getting two cars in the shootout was outstanding but also a false economy because while their cars were good in the wet they were slow in the dry.
Slade in the wall on lap one summed up his season, while Car 8 tumbled down the order during the race and finished 15th, a lap down. Worst weekend since their Darwin Disaster from a team that was rivalling Erebus for ‘next-best’ in the Holden camp.
5. #888 LATE PIT CALL
THE QUESTION of whether it was worth rolling the dice in a fuel race or not will rumble around the heads of Triple Eight’s strategists for a long time. There was a call to make – conserve, like 17 and 97 did – or go for broke and put fuel in so you could run rich to the end. Ultimately, pitting Car 888 proved to be their undoing because the late Safety Car saved the others on fuel and pitting 888 cost them track position in a race that thrived on it.
888 was fast, but even full-rich they wouldn’t have had car speed enough to pass McLaughlin, let alone Courtney. Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, but had they not stopped Lowndes would be celebrating No. 8 and Whincup his fifth..
6. GARRY ROGERS MOTORSPORT
THIS was a hard one because this team could have been very, very high up the ‘HOT’ list had things gone to plan. Ultimately, GRM make the list because they should have and could have been better but didn’t seal the deal.
At one point a large number of people looked at the Golding / Muscat car as a potential wildcard podium finisher given they were supposedly good to go on fuel before the vibration caused them to pit. Frustratingly the two cars ended up 12th and 13th.
Bieber and Muscat were solid, we didn’t see much of the ever-smiling Pither because the #33 had a quiet day, though the Stanaway-versus-Jacobsen thing near the end was just silly from both. Compounded by the outspoken nature of their major sponsor, the Boost Mobile cars didn’t get a season-boosting Bathurst result this year which is sad.
7. QUALIFYING WEATHER
WHAT A SHAME it rained during the Friday qualifying session, because there’s every chance it could have been a breathtaking session, with some predicting that cars could have been in the two’s by the end of it.
The rain ultimately elevated some cars into the shootout that shouldn’t have been there and probably denied us even more drama than what we got on Saturday afternoon. In isolation it was a good session but in the broader context we wish it had have been dry on Friday evening.
WHEN the Kostecki car crashed on lap 113 the field dived in to pit lane and even though Bathurst’s pit lane is the widest and longest on the tour, it still made things tight.
Tense moments when Car 17 clipped a tyre leaving his bay due to the fact the 97 was parked directly in front. Hurt Rick Kelly’s track position and those of several other drivers, too. Could’ve been more dramatic but once again stacking causes drama it doesn’t need to; there has to be a way around it, surely.
PROVED HOW tough the Great Race is. No one expected either car to contend for a podium but man, Sunday was tough for both of them.
The Kostecki lads battled after their warm-up lap dramas but ended in the wall while the WAU car ended up in the gravel at the final corner. Good to have them in the field, but if anything both of the wildcards showed how challenging the Great Race really is.
10. SUPER 2
THIS WAS a frustrating race. The depth of the field means the Great Race can get away with a 26 car grid but 15 cars in Super 2 does not a good race make – the fact that the guy who crossed the line first was not the guy who ultimately won the race didn’t help things either, nor did the messy fuel stops that looked terrible with litres of Shell V-Power’s finest leaking everywhere. The pointy end of S2 is good – Fullwood and Randle showed that on Sunday – but this was not a great race with the concept of the 250km race needing a rethink unless the series grows next year.
The fact it’s 12 Months until we have a TV channel that is only, totally, purely dedicated to Bathurst. Sad.