The 2015 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 saw a strong showing from the Kiwi drivers with Fabian Coulthard finishing fourth, Scott McLaughlin fifth and Shane van Gisbergen eighth. V8 Supercars veteran Craig Lowndes has confirmed his status as one of the all-time greats of the sport by winning his sixth Bathurst.
The 41-year old’s win equals Mark Skaife and Larry Perkins – and takes him to 13 podiums which breaks his mentor Peter Brock’s record for top three finishes in Australia’s greatest motor race.
The thrilling finish at Mount Panorama this afternoon means Red Bull Racing Australia co-driver Steven Richards, 43, takes his total to four Bathurst wins, after a solid drive at Australia’s most challenging circuit.
The win also moves Lowndes into second in the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship and clinches his 101st race win after clocking up the century in Darwin.
“Quite amazing,” Lowndes said.
“As the day went on the car got better – Richo did an amazing job.
“I had to make up for last year… thanks to all the boys from Red Bull and this man here (Richards) has been sensational.”
It was a nervous wait for Richards in the garage as he watched Lowndes build a 1.36 second lead over Mark Winterbottom (paired with Steve Owen).
“You’re never out of the game, I knew we had a good race car … to finish that way was incredible after the day – I can’t believe it,” Richards said.
Lowndes held off Ford rival Winterbottom in the closing stages, after both started the race in positions 15 and 14 respectively, with Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander (with Warren Luff) fighting to third on the podium.
Fuel strategy was a big factor in the final stages of the race, with Winterbottom and stablemate David Reynolds ahead of Lowndes and teammate Jamie Whincup when the Safety Car was called for a major crash from Scott Pye. It was a tough end to a strong run for DJR Team Penske and returning star Marcos Ambrose.
The Bulls looked set for a one-two finish until questions were raised about Whincup’s safety car procedure and the six-time champ was issued a drive-through penalty, taking him out of the race, to his team boss Roland Dane’s displeasure.
“He chose to stay out, we didn’t,” Dane said sharply when questioned of Whincup’s decision to overtake the safety car and not pit behind his teammate.
The car had suffered from a sensor issue early but showed no lack of pace while the team looked to fix it.
Lowndes controlled the safety car restart and a dive from Fabian Coulthard sent Reynolds wide and allowed a flurry of passes that saw Winterbottom and Tander push for the podium.
Both fought through the day with Winterbottom and co-driver Steve Owen suffering from an electrical issue and being forced to pay a 15-second stop penalty for no brake lights.
Tander came through from qualifying 22nd with co-driver Warren Luff.
Coulthard (Luke Youlden) and Scott McLaughlin (Alex Premat) completed the top five.
Starting from 9th after a rained out shootout, Coulthard (Youlden) moved up, constantly at the front of the field. The car was faultless, fast through traffic and was able to get away from the pack when needed. After safety cars, rain (no kangaroos this year) they found themselves at the final 20 laps all bunched up again under safety car conditions. When the race went green it was game on. Coulthard was making a move on David Reynolds to claim that podium finish when the close knit battle pack all erupted on each other, shuffling Coulthard to 4th position. He remained within a second of the 3rd place getter Garth Tander for the final laps. So close to being on the podium, so narrowly missing out.
Wet weather hit the Mountain just past the mid-point of the race, changing pit and co-driver strategy.
It was a big moment on lap 80 when Tim Blanchard smashed up his CoolDrive Commodore – and he wasn’t the first, with Renee Gracie in the Supergirls entry slipping on oil early and was in the wall at Forrest’s Elbow. The team powered on and fixed the Falcon to get international Simona De Silvestro out on track just in time to qualifying as a finisher. They came home 21st. The oil was from David Wall’s Volvo, the first car out on lap 16.
Winterbottom continues to lead the Championship by 399 points over Lowndes – with Chaz Mostert out of the race after his major shunt on Friday, leaving him with a broken leg and out for the season.