Oct 122008
 

1012162215 After five-and-a-half hours of racing, and nary a stutter in their planning, Triple Eight Racing/Team Vodafone car 888, Craig Lowndes at the wheel, has won the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

With over half of the racetime passing without major incident, or a safety car period being instigated, from lap 87 onwards the race was interrupted eight times as cars and drivers failed to meet the challenge of the Mountain. Thankfully, none were serious or life threatening. Most simply the result of brain fade or tired machinery.

During the telecast, Greg Murphy made a comment which implied that a lap one incident between he and Craig Lowndes on the approach to turn two was something the rule makers ought to have ruled in his favour on. I dare say deep down in his unforgiving kiwi heart, he believes but for that bump, he and Jason Richards would have stood on the top step of this afternoon’s podium. Well, as the classics clearly state, winners are grinners and losers can please themselves.

As a race, the annual speed-fest at the Mountain had it all. There was emotion – Mark Winterbottom’s tears as he realised a race win, or even a podium position was slipping away, just as car #6 was slip-sliding across the top of the Mountain in the final five laps. There was aggression – Greg Murphy ignoring his crew’s pleas to give the car clean air as he chased the FPR Falcon down for third spot, then roaring unintelligible acknowledgement as he finally had to agree that engine temperature had spiked uncontrollably. As fate had it, Murphy passed Steven Richards a half lap later and the Sprint Gas Commodore suddenly had all the clean, cool air it needed. There was despair, especially for HRT and Holden fans, as Garth Tander found a soggy clutch when the lights went out, leaving the pole-sitting car in last place when Tander finally managed to get car #1 to move. There was also that ever present sense of c`est la vie, as the second of the HRT cars, on lap 147, suffered the exuberance, aggression or maybe ineptitude of drivers around it, slamming into the tyre barriers on the outside of turn two. Craig Baird was aboard at the time, but Glen Seton – the perennial bridesmaid at Bathurst – was sitting in pitlane. No fairytale win again this year for Seton.

There was one fairytale which almost came off, and I dare say, but for the consistency of the the cars in front of it, the Team BOC/Brad Jones Racing Commodore Car #14 would have been further up the field by race end than the very creditable 5th spot they finished with. The Panelbeaters round review podcast should be a very, very interesting listen.

Of the 26 cars that started, twenty  finished. Eleven only on the lead lap. As every 1000 kilometer event proves, nothing is ever carved in stone, and anything can happen, to any team, at any time. Congratulations to Triple Eight Racing, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup for a superb display of teamwork, preparation and race craft. Commiserations to FPR, HRT, Sprint Gas Racing, Brad Jones Racing and everyone else whose dream of joining the Mountain Kings was dashed for another year. Shit, as they say, happens. Here’s the final placings:

finish_list

With the unfolding of events on Mount Panorama today, the V8 Supercar championship changes radically. Tander drops to third on the ladder with Whincup jumping to first spot. Winterbottom remains in second position. No-one else is in the running at this stage in the season. In two weeks time, the circus rolls up to Surfers Paradise for round 11, and the tricky, dangerous Indy Car street track around the Gold Coast high rises. We’re into the meaty part of the season. When the championship lead changes hands from race, to race, to race. We have four rounds to go, one in a far flung land – Bahrain, which I’m buggered if I understand the rationale of – and anything can happen from this point onwards. I’m not at all keen on nominating a possible 2008 champion at this stage. The game is still wide open, at least for the top three runners. Besides, I never write off Team Red.

Here’s the standings in the championship after today. 1012_105604_ 1506_0001 Tander now has to recoup 82 points to regain the lead, but as we’ve already seen this year, at the Hamilton round, a DNS when you’re in the championship lead doesn’t do much for title chances. At least Jamie Whincup had his disaster early in the season. With any luck, he’ll not have another. FPR’s Mark Winterbottom is also in the hunt, and winningly so. 82 points for Tander isn’t hard to overcome, if HRT can get the Commodores to fire over the last four rounds. The Fords have proven to be fragile this season too, the the competition is now really on. It’s off to Surfers Paradise.