WA Retro: Beware Davo the Underdog
Will Davison is kind of handy in Western Australia when his back is up against the wall.
The two-time Bathurst champion is a former winner out West, with some big results to his credit following some tough races, and following a tough opening to the season for the DJR driver, an form reversal simply isn’t out of the question next weekend.
In 2012, Davison claimed a pair of race wins at the West Australian circuit, including the epic “Get ‘em or have ‘em off” finish, where he held on from FPR teammate Mark Winterbottom and Triple Eight’s Jamie Whincup following a final lap all-in brawl.
Key to that victory was nursing his tyres home over an extended 35-lap stint.
Fast forward to 2015, and Davison was an underdog once more.
Switching across to Erebus Motorsport for the start of the previous season, and armed with a Mercedes AMG E63, Davison had a year of relatively slim pickings in his first tour with the German marque.
A lone podium finish in Townsville supported by 15 other top-tens, and fourth at that year’s infamous Bathurst 1000 with his brother Alex riding shotgun resulted.
Overall, his Erebus stablemate Lee Holdsworth was less consistent throughout, and suffered a terrible run home with big wrecks at Sandown and Bathurst, although he did breakthrough for the team’s first win at Winton.
Come the fourth round of the 2015 season at Barbagallo Raceway, the usual suspects had flexed their muscles at the front of the field.
Whincup, Fabian Coulthard and James Courtney were victors from the three-part Adelaide 500, Winterbottom swept the Albert Park F1 supports, while Craig Lowndes and Whincup locked out the top step of the Symmons Plains podium for Triple Eight.
The WA weekend started strongly for Prodrive Racing Australia once again, with Winterbottom sealing the opening two race wins.
For the finale, it was Winterbottom again leading the field away from grid position two, jumping past teammate Chaz Mostert, who became momentarily tangled with Garth Tander on the run to the first turn.
Whincup, meanwhile, had a shocker, with his race including a tour of the Kolb Corner sand trap, which played a part in relegating him to 19th at the chequered flag.
Later, Ash Walsh, Davison’s Erebus teammate, visited the same beach, however, he was unable to extract himself, bringing out a safety car on lap 48 of 83.
With hard and soft compound tyres coming into play, strategy and tyre conservation were pivotal in determining the race’s outcome.
Lowndes forged his way into the lead, as he typically did whenever the Supercars circus went west, although things didn’t all go his way, with Davison finding more life from his tyres, claiming the lead at Kolb Corner on the 79th circuit.
The victory was a drought breaker for Davison, his first win since Townsville 2013, with the success following on from a controversial clash with James Courtney at the previous round in Tasmania, when he was otherwise set for a strong finish.
The late lead change also denied Lowndes his 100th Championship race win.
“I don’t really know what to say,” Davison said.
“I think a podium would have been an incredible effort because we have certainly had a dry spell.
“We had a good car but after the disappointment of Tasmania I really would have just been happy with a top-five – I just wanted a clean weekend.
“I know CL’s on number 99, I knew how much he wanted it – but it’s been a while for me and for Erebus … the team has worked so hard and I always said it would be sweeter than ever with this team.”
“And it was for Betty and the whole team at Erebus.
“The whole team has worked so hard for this and I have always said this win would come – I knew this team could be a great team and I am certainly going to enjoy this.”
Ultimately, Lowndes would claim his 100th win five races later at Hidden Valley Raceway.
For Davison, his time at Erebus would peter out in the remaining rounds of 2015, with only five further top-ten results, and none in the last 14 races of the season.
Erebus would switch to Holden Commodores at the end of the season, with Davison and Walsh replaced by David Reynolds and Aaren Russell.
Davison, meanwhile, transferred to Tekno Autosports, where a highlight was victory alongside Jonathon Webb in the 2016 Bathurst 1000.
That success then led to another extended winless streak, which was ultimately beaten last year, of course in WA.
It’s a track he clearly excels, a win for Davison this weekend would not be as surprising as his victory out West in an unloved Merc.