IT WAS the final Holden-versus-Ford duel at the Mountain, and it was arguably the best.
Jamie Whincup used all his guile to hold off a hard-charging David Reynolds by just three-tenths of a second. That makes it the second-closest competitive finish in the race’s history, and the closest between a Holden and a Ford.
In typical Bathurst fashion, the race developed into a two-man duel in the final 10 laps. Whincup was in front but was being pressured to save fuel by his crew, while Reynolds was stalking him from behind with his team urging him to use as much fuel as he wanted.
In the end Whincup’s greater experience paid off and he joined an elite group of Bathurst legends as a four-time winner of the Great Race; Allan Moffat and Greg Murphy.
It also lifts him ahead of Dick Johnson and it was that legend’s criticisms during the week that Whincup says spurred him on during the closing stages.
”What came into my head was Dick’s comments during the week, saying I didn’t have the mental capacity to win this race,” Whincup said.
Despite taking the glory by driving the final stint of the race, Whincup was adamant his co-driver Paul Dumbrell deserved just as much credit for the victory. The two have been mates since school days and Whincup was instrumental in bringing Dumbrell into the powerhouse Triple Eight team for this year’s endurance races.
Dumbrell decided to retire from full-time driving at the end of last year after admitting he wasn’t good enough to compete at the front of the field on a regular basis. And he says his friend and the Triple Eight team took a risk hiring him for the two biggest races of the season.
”I haven’t had the best record for being consistent and bringing the car back in one-piece and trouble-free,” Dumbrell admitted. ”[Triple Eight team boss] Roland [Dane] and the team worked hard to make sure my head was on straight.”
And he also wasn’t afraid to admit that the pressure to not let down his best mate was beginning to get to him in the build-up to the race.
”I woke up last night in a cold sweat because I had a dream that I threw it away for Jamie,” Dumbrell said.
Reynolds may have lost the race but he had the last laugh – literally. He laughed and joked his way through the post-race media conference with a smile; clearly happy with scoring his best V8 result to date, even if it wasn’t the win.
”I always said if I get on the podium I’d make it a good one and second at Bathurst isn’t bad,” Reynolds said.
”I always thought that if it came down to the last few stints, I’d drive my absolute brains out, and I did.
”It would have been life-changing if I’d won the race, but I wasn’t brave enough on the last lap. I was brave, but not …”
Reynolds’ co-driver Dean Canto was also making his first visit to the Bathurst podium. And he believed his partner had what it took to win the race if they hadn’t been held up during their last pit stop.
Reynolds lost four seconds because he was unable to get away from his pit stop when Lee Holdsworth’s Stone Brothers Racing Ford blocked him in. Canto believes if Reynolds had got away cleanly, he would have taken the lead off Whincup and could have held it to the end.
Third place went to the second Triple Eight Holden driven by Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff. The pre-race favourites managed to fight back from an unscheduled pit stop on only the 10th lap because of a damaged tyre.
In the end, Lowndes, a five-time Bathurst winner, produced another great Mount Panorama performance to storm from outside the top 10 to third place and claim the final podium spot.
It was Lowndes’ eighth podium finish in the past 10 years at this race, further strengthening his claim as Peter Brock’s heir as the King of the Mountain.
Former series champion James Courtney and co-driver Cameron McConville took fourth place for the Holden Racing Team. Their teammates, and defending race winners, Garth Tander and Nick Percat endured a disappointing day when the latter hit the wall on lap 37 and knocked them out of contention.
One of the outstanding results of the day was the sixth place of Jonathan Webb and rookie Scott McLaughlin. Webb runs his own team and has struggled this year to attract a full-time major sponsor.
But the pair simply kept their noses clean and stayed quick and consistent throughout the day to embarrass some of the big budget operations.
One of those bigger teams that suffered a nightmare day was the factory-backed Ford Performance Racing team.
The race started well with polesitter Will Davison taking the lead at the start and pulling out a comfortable lead during the opening stages.
But things soon began to go wrong. Davison’s co-driver John McIntyre pitted for a suspected tyre problem. He then struggled for pace and spun under safety car conditions, dropping back in the field. He was then knocked into a spin that damaged the rear suspension.
They eventually finished 24th; second last.
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