The level of driving skill in these conditions was immense and as described by Crompton, the race was now going to replace the physical exertion normally required in the dry with massive mental focus 24/7…..and how well these drivers did. Bathurst would normally serve up a good few crashes in the dry, quite consistent with the happenings at Panorama….in the wet we were pretty well set on the fact that there would be even more rain induced crashes…but no…. No safety cars caused by a prang until the 142nd lap of 161 in the semi dry…but…. three safety cars caused by a rock, a kangaroo and a valve respectively.
The rock found its way onto the track around the 60th lap…. first safety car, the all-conquering top ten V power McLaughlin Falcon lunched its engine with a broken valve on lap 75 at the cutting, one of the worst spots for this to happen …second safety car, and lastly Skippy the kangeroo decided to zip up mountain straight on lap 88 ….third safety car.
Throughout this period the consistency of Waters/Stanaway in the Prodrive Falcon, winners at Sandown, proved ominous. Reynolds was in the same league in the Holden, never being far from the front with Mostert in a second Prodrive car taking the lead as the various pit stop strategies played out.. Nothing spectacular happened until the 144th lap…. except for the fact that Car 88 the Wincup Holden also gobbled a valve on lap 127. Our racing lives are filled with ironies…. how’s this:
The McLaughlin Falcon, at the time leading the Virgin Australia Supercar Championship, broke a valve on lap 75. The Wincup Holden second in the championship also broke a valve…. But managed to be classified as a finisher by completing two laps at the end, in order to do so. The competitive nature of this series then kicked in, with Coultard in the second V Power Falcon moving to 1st in the championship with a third place finish in the race. So, with Five races to go the top three contenders most likely to take the championship are but a few numbers apart and anyone can do it.
Coultard Ford Falcon – Leading
Wincup Holden Commodore –81
McLaughlin Ford Falcon –87
The chase to the finish resulted in three safety cars in that period with the top 12 Cars nose to tail at each restart on those last laps. The track had dried out on the racing line allowing the train to approach full dry lap times….if on the line…. and making overtaking really tricky on the damp portions. The result was that overtaking moves by many resulted in visits to the sand traps. The restart on lap resulted in the first multiple car incident at hells corner eliminating a few podium contenders. I was particularly disappointed that the very consistent Waters/Stanaway Falcon was involved in this and lost the rear wing, making his subsequent run down Conrod faster than it should have been….luckily, not knowing the wing had gone, he sussed out what had happened and slowed before The Chase. The bumping and barging at hells corner largely affected the Falcons with Waters, Mostert and Winterbottom all losing critical spots in the final run to the flag.
From then it was flat out to the flag and Reynolds in the Erebus Holden had the legs on everyone, here was our privateer showing the big boys how to do it. The team unkindly considered by some to be a group of misfits were doing the job tidily and in my opinion the only man capable of shutting him down was a flying Van Gisbergen…who should have been more patient. His wild entry into The Chase, off the racing line, attempting an overtake, shot him into the sand trap and a flat tyre…straight into the pits, he recovered to finish a charging 5th.
But it was Holden, Holden, Ford, Holden, Holden for the top five….a result I did not expect…this is the one time I thought Ford had the firepower to knock this one over.