Insight Dale Rodgers October 20, 2022 (Comments off) (579)

Great Race Storylines Run Deep

Every year the Bathurst 1000 writes a unique chapter into Australian motorsport history, and almost every year it is for a different reason.

Way back in 1979 it was Peter Brock winning by six laps in his HDT Torana A9X, in 1981, it was a victorious Dick Johnson returning to the Mountain that had bitten him so hard just a year before when he hit ‘The Rock’, and so it goes.

In more recent times, 2014 saw an eight-hour marathon won by a car that led only one lap for the whole day, with Chaz Mostert’s victorious Falcon starting from last place.

2022 will be remembered not only for Holden’s last hurrah (and win) at Mount Panorama, but also as one of the wettest lead-ups to the Sunday event in history, so wet that the Top-Ten Shootout was cancelled for the first time.

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, Fabian Coulthard and James Moffat as A-grade pilots. They all made the podium, showing the strength of the main players and combinations.

For Garth Tander it was win number five, placing him among the true greats who have won this race. Take nothing away from Shane Van Gisbergen, but the backup, the speed and brilliance of Tander was a key factor in this win.

So too, Coulthard and Moffat. In the #25 Optus Commodore, Coulthard was a perfect replacement for Lee Holdsworth and as he told The Race Torque at Sandown in September his integration into the team was without equal.

James Moffat continued and added to his fine Bathurst record. An ugly move at the Cutting on Lap 45, when he was turned around by Brodie Kostecki, put the Monster Mustang on the back foot and arguably compromised their race strategy for the remaining 115 odd laps.

Of interest and to underline the dominance of the drivers standing on the podium, these three cars were the only ones to post a 2:06sec lap during the race.

But what of the teams and drivers who flew under the radar?

All twenty-eight teams headed home with their own tale of success and woes, and for some badly-damaged cars.

Away from the spotlight and TV Cameras, there were plenty of backstories. These are just a few of those stories…

Starting dead last after a series of practice and qualifying woes, the CoolDrive Mustang of Tim Slade and Tim Blanchard was the biggest mover in the early stages. Avoiding all the chaos of the first four laps, Slade found himself running strongly in P9 when he pitted with the whole field under yellow on Lap 17. Blanchard took over and maintained a position around P13 until he was divebombed by Nick Percat at Forest Elbow on Lap 40 and sent into the tyre bundles. The charge was over, and the Mustang took every Lucky Dog on offer until the end, but could only get back to P18 at the finish.

Two other Ford Mustang teams would have probably swapped with the CoolDrive boys as they were done and dusted by Lap 4.

The Castrol Tickford Mustang was out after less than one kilometre of the one thousand on offer as Zak Best clipped a spinning Jack Perkins, and found the Mountain Straight wall. A devastated Thomas Randle did not even get into the car.

So too the #26 Penrite Mustang of David Reynolds/Matt Campbell and the second Tickford Mustang of James Courtney and Zane Goddard. This was a pile-up that immediately eliminated three fancied combinations as Goddard speared across the sodden infield at The Chase and arrived like a bowling ball into the hapless car of Matt Campbell and the #8 RJ Batteries BJR Commodore of Dale Wood and Andre Heimgartner. The Kiwi driver was another front-runner who would not sit in his car that day.

By Lap 4, the Ford assault on the race had lost three of its nine entries.

On the other side of the Penrite garage, Kiwi Matt Payne was seeing out his apprenticeship for a full-time drive in 2023 in fine style. Any doubts about this young driver were dashed as he kept a very level head and handled the conditions with maturity. He kept the #10 Penrite Mustang in the hunt for the retiring Lee Holdsworth and rightly celebrated the sixth-place finish.

We have already mentioned the demise of the lead #8 BJR Commodore, but the other team cars also caused team boss Brad Jones much pain. Jaxon Evans was caught up in the Lap 1 fracas and after recovering lead driver Jack Smith binned it at McPhillamy on Lap 138. Meanwhile, the #96 car of Macca Jones and Jordan Boys scored lots of TV time for all the wrong reasons. Two practice crashes and various offs during the race gave the sponsors plenty of airtime, but somehow they ended up in P 13.

The #14 Middy’s car was the only highlight for BJR, Dean Fiore doing another great job in partnering Bryce Fulwood to a top-ten result.

Matt Stone Racing had two Commodores running around that would have looked more at home at the Bathurst Speedway Demo Derby, such was the amount of one-hundred-mile-an-hour tape on the cars. A big job awaits the crew ahead of the Gold Coast round for the Yatala team.

Down at the Winton end of the pits, the Caltex duo of Matt Charda and Jaylyn Robotham did exactly what a pair of rookies should do. They treated the Mountain with great respect, and did not over drive and for them an 18th place was like a win. An excellent effort and well worth a review of The Race Torque’s diary on this little Albury-based team.

Craig Lowndes’ tutoring of Declan Fraser in the #888 Super Cheap Commodore was all class. The wet conditions in the lead-up probably saw Lowndes do the heavy lifting, but Fraser drove sensibly, and they came home in P8. Another rookie doing an outstanding job in the Great Race.

Finally, the #51 Boost Commodore of Richie Stanaway and Greg Murphy. The Kiwi senior started after a stunning qualifying by Stanaway and dropped back somewhat, commenting to FOX Sports later that it was utter madness in the opening laps. Their day unfolded well even after Murph got spun by the Kostecki Mustang and the pair came home in P11.

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