Feature Insight News Richard CraillRichard Craill October 19, 2020 (Comments off) (19)

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BATHURST 2020

IT WAS quite the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 last weekend! DALE RODGERS looks back on the Great Race and picks up on some of the storylines that emerged during the weekend and in the washup since.

WORDS: Dale Rodgers IMAGES: Mark Horsburgh / Supercars

MANY YEARS ago, the end of the race at Bathurst signaled party time.

The transporters and the garages, still full of gear, were locked. Some with trophies and some with badly broken race cars.

Bathurst came alive with regularly booked pubs hosting Holden and Ford after parties. But it was the Bathurst Leagues club that saw most after midnight action. A large upstairs function room and bar was the scene where drivers, crew, officials and media let their hair down before departing to various ports on Monday.

Many drivers have looked very seedy for their early Monday morning media call in the Pit Lane back at Mt Panorama after a night at the Club. Craig Lowndes and Greg Murphy way back in in 1996 spring to mind!  

For crews it was a great pressure relief after the tireless work of the week, regardless of the result.

Twenty years ago, two first time winners from GRM, Jason Bargwanna and Garth Tander were shouldered into the room and onto the stage to wild applause and cheering. Garry Rogers of course was in a great mood and happy to shout a few rounds!

Fast forward to 2020, and the FOX Sports Supercar coverage showed last night crews in hi vis vests packing up the enormous amount of gear that comes with the cars soon after the flag had dropped.

The other reason that the pack up was so critical in previous years was that the Gold Coast 600 was only two weeks away and teams could not afford to be late onto the road by dawn on Monday.

However, in 2020, while a night out with the team and the Pit Lane was inviting, the Victorian squads only had one thing really on their minds.

Going home.

For over 100 days, all the Victorian based teams have not seen a loved one, had a hug from one of their kids and slept in their own bed. It was fitting that the Triple Eight Boss Roland Dane acklnowledged this as he stood on the podium with the wining team’s trophy. So too, Scott Mclaughlin as he received the Barry Sheene medal.

And it was heartfelt. Without the sacrifice of the Victorian Supercars teams, there would not have been a Bathurst 1000, let alone a 2020 Supercars Championship.

Bathurst, as always, played out to the dreams and whims of the scriptwriters. How they keep doing this nobody knows. Perhaps it is The Mountain itself exerting some extra-terrestrial force on the race it hosts.  

In The Race Torque’s Co-driver review, we rated Garth Tander, Will Davison and Warren Luff as HOT. They all made the podium. Only two other drivers secured this rating, James Moffat and Craig Lowndes. Hard to argue they both did not do a good job, but other factors prevailed on their ultimate results.

For Garth Tander it was a long way from that GRM victory in 2000 and he again drove a brilliant race. Take nothing away from Shane Van Gisbergen, but the back-up, the speed and brilliance of Tander was a key factor in this win.

So too, Will Davison and Warren Luff. They both played enormous roles in getting their respective teams on the podium.

Away from the spotlight there were plenty of back stories.

The ambitious assault by GRM with two rookies in the Valvoline Commodore ZB was rewarded with a finish, albeit last. The work that Jayden Ojeda gave this crew over the four days was mammoth, add in his Super 2 altercation, and he may well have a record for the most crashes at Bathurst in a single event.

Jake Kostecki and his Super Lite teammate Zane Goddard also found the wall on more than one occasion, with Zane setting up the final Safety Car of the day. It was hard to understand why Team Boss Matt Stone had arranged his own shootout in Practice 6 on Saturday to see who would qualify the #34 entry. Talk about pressure!

Staying with the rookies and young chargers, Jordan Boys made it hard work in the fancied #14 Todd Hazelwood entry. An ‘all by himself crash’ exiting Murrays Corner on Lap 31 was enough to retire the car, having also put the Club Cadet Commodore in the fence during Practice 4. Todd was left to just wonder what could have been.

The 2020 season was so bizarre that it left all these young guys with a lack of mileage in the lead up.

Sure, many were doing the Super 2/3 race but all those critical things such as Practice Zero sessions at some tracks for Co Drivers and Rookies, Drive Days and an actual test day prior to Bathurst were all wiped off the slate this year.

But, make no mistake, the pace of this race was Hot. Had it not been for the late Safety Cars to recover #4 of Jack Smith and the #34 of Goddard, the race would have been run in record time.

There were some honourable mentions which deserve credit and flew under the radar and TV coverage such was the intensity of the battle at the front.

The Team Sydney #19 of Alex Davison was a legitimate Top 15 contender in nearly every session and the race itself. A 12th place finish was a great reward for the elder Davo and team owner Webb.

Although the Cool Drive entry suffered two 15 second time penalties and a recurrent door close mechanism which did not want to stay shut over the weekend, Tim Blanchard’s run in the mid race rain shower was impressive. He moved up 6 spots after the Safety Car period let them loose on the wet track. With all cars running line astern this was a very strong effort. Unfortunately, the team had little to show by the end of the day.           

Over at MSR an emotional Garry Jacobson lamented the demise of the #35 Yellow Cover Racing Commodore on TV. However, one of the real surprises was the speed of his co-driver David Russell. His performance in Co Drivers Practice 6 finishing in P5 was impressive after banking 2:05 in Practice 4.

At BJR, the team would only have had one thing on their mind: Get out of there! Failed door locks, steering pump problems, and finally on the fancied #8 Percat / Randle car, a change of coils and injectors all during the race. 

Brad summed it up saying, “I can’t wait to get home and get everything all sorted out,” he told Auto Action after the race.

“We have got a long time to prepare for it and tomorrow is really the start of getting ready for the 2021 season.”

And what of 2020 Champion Scott McLaughlin?

Very early in 2020 DJR Team Penske anointed Tim Slade as Scott’s new partner and either way there was going to be immense pressure on Slade. If Scott had not wrapped up the Series, he would need to play the strategy perfectly, if, as it transpired, he had, then it was a flat out attempt at winning.

The fact McLaughlin started the car with a sea of co-drivers around him and then Slade was caught out by a Safety Car just two laps shy of his mandated 54 laps, all pointed to compromise in the way the #17 attacked the race. In the end, despite late Safety Cars, they were just not able to challenge for the win.

Finally, two of the Victorian teams with very different stories. For Team 18, they can pack up knowing that they have completed the season in fine style. Both cars inside the Top 10 at Bathurst and both in the Top 10 in the Supercars Championship, netting Charlie enough points to place him in front of WAU, BJR and Kelly Racing. An impressive performance.

Over at Erebus there will be some head scratching. David Reynolds never threatened at any stage over the weekend and Anton de Pasquale fought very hard for a spot just inside the Top 10. This cannot be considered a good result for the Penrite crew. One highlight was Brodie ‘Bush’ Kostecki duking it out with the best of the main game drivers and ultimately being a factor in the demise of one of the hot favourites, Jamie Whincup.

The lasting memory of Bathurst 2020 however will be a red Holden flag flying proudly out of Shane Van Gisbergen’s driver’s door. A fitting end and a timeless image.

Another Great Race.

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