Jamie Whincup admits he ignored instructions to save fuel in the closing stages of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, which ultimately saw the Red Bull Holden run dry on the final lap.
Whincup’s car slowed at the exit of Forrest’s Elbow on the last lap, dropping the five-time V8 Supercars champion from the lead to an eventual fifth place.
Engineer David Cauchi had been instructing Whincup to save fuel throughout his 28 lap final stint; an equation that had been set-up by the fall of earlier Safety Cars.
The team committed to the fuel-saving strategy as the leading trio – Shane van Gisbergen, Chaz Mostert and Craig Lowndes – elected to sprint away and make a splash-and-dash final stop.
Gaining track position over the trio when they headed to pitlane under the final Safety Car with 11 laps remaining, Whincup briefly dropped behind Mark Winterbottom with an off-track excursion before regaining the lead on the restart.
Calls from Cauchi to save fuel became increasingly urgent during the sprint to the flag as Whincup stretched his lead to more than three seconds over the pursuing Mostert with two laps to run.
The continued pace triggered a direct instruction over the radio from team manager Mark Dutton, who engineered Whincup to his five titles and four Bathurst wins before moving into the management role this season.
A stern “seriously mate, we’re not going to make it” eventually saw Whincup slow in the closing stages of the penultimate lap, allowing the Ford driver to quickly close in.
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“There was plenty of communication but I did my thing like I always do,” Whincup told Speedcafe.com in the Bathurst paddock post-race.
“I did my absolute best. We could have conserved fuel and ran second but we went for the win and that’s what I’m so proud about.
“We could have conserved and run second or pitted and come home in fifth but we went for the win and put it all on the line on the biggest day of the year for us and we ran fifth.
“I’m so proud of everyone’s efforts we gave it everything and thats all we had.”
The late drama came after a tumultuous race for Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell that started with Whincup – who had crashed in Friday qualifying – carving through from 23rd on the grid to the lead in little over 20 laps.
Whincup subsequently tangled with Todd Kelly’s Nissan shortly after the resumption from the lap 61 red flag, sending the Commodore to the garage for repairs and dropping it from the lead lap.
Strong stints from both Whincup and Dumbrell, as well as the timing of the frequent Safety Car periods, saw the car vault back into contention before the run to the flag.
“Its been one of the most unbelievable and mentally draining weeks I’ve ever been involved in,” surmised Whincup.
“It was a roller-coaster it was up and down like you wouldn’t believe. I crashed into the wall, had a slow car, had a fast car, ran first, ran last, led on the last lap and ran out of fuel.
“We will look back and laugh about it but at the moment we are a little disappointed because we led the last lap and didn’t get the win.
“It was just as nuts inside the car as it was outside. There were a lot of mistakes made understandably because was there was so much going on.
“Whoever got through today without a mistake is not human. It was full on.”
With team-mates Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards coming home 10th after a late penalty, today marks just the second time in 10 years that Triple Eight has failed to achieve a podium finish in the Bathurst 1000.