The Bathurst 1000 Report Card
In a new regular review, Speedcafe.com’s resident hard-marker Mark Fogarty grades the stand-outs and the slackers of the big races.
Here are Foges’ assessments of the meritorious and mediocre performances in the ultimate test of the year, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Top of the Class: David Reynolds/Luke Youlden
The Class Clown and the perennial Repeat Student knuckled down and applied their abilities with long-awaited distinction.
Reynolds proved the joker is not a choker, combining his exceptional speed with race-winning serenity under pressure.
Youlden employed his vast experience with aplomb in the most trying conditions to reward his years of toil at the Mountain.
Teacher’s Pet: Warren Luff
Consistently excels as a high-achiever when called upon to deliver results, finishing on the most prestigious podium in Australian racing for the fourth time in six years.
Anchored Scott Pye’s redemptive runner-up result by slithering from 20th to sixth in the treacherous opening stint. Stakes a strong claim to being Supercars’ Super Co-driver.
English Expression: David Reynolds
Not always eloquent, but always amusing, the new King of the Mountain’s post-victory comments weren’t quite as colourful as normal.
But his eccentric one-liners were still humourous enough and borderline inappropriate enough to remind us that ‘Crazy Dave’ is alive and well as by far the most characterful driver in Supercars.
Over Achiever: Erebus Motorsport
Once an expensive laughing stock, this unconventional operation upstaged the superteams on a fraction of their budget and personnel.
They out-raced, out-lasted and out-thought the best in the worst conditions. This tightknit band of dedicated dreamers is doing wonders, embracing their unruly star driver and giving him an unfeasibly fast low-cost car.
To underline the team’s new maturity, Dale Wood and Chris Pither were impressively consistent near the front to finish a fine fourth.
Under Achiever: Prodrive Racing Australia
Had a big result in their grasp and let at least a podium slip with a messy performance.
All four PRA entries had enough speed to be there or thereabouts at the end, but it all came to nought because of costly – and mostly unnecessary – errors.
Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen squandered their pace; Richie Stanaway starred in the wet as Cam Waters seemed to struggle; Mark Winterbottom threw away an otherwise dogged effort underpinned by Dean Canto’s solid stints; and an untimely miscue by Jason Bright blunted a strong run bolstered by rain-master rookie Garry Jacobson. As it was, amid the attrition, Bright/Jacobson still managed to finish as PRA’s top combination.
Must Do Better: Triple Eight Race Engineering
It’s been a relative struggle all season so far for this yardstick operation and it seemed more at sea than ever at the event where it usually shines.
The three-car super-squad was uncharacteristically chasing its tail all weekend, struggling for speed throughout.
A rare engine failure ended Jamie Whincup’s and Paul Dumbrell’s hopes as Shane van Gisbergen and Matt Campbell nullified their potentially race-winning speed with regular excursions down escape roads.
Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards were simply never a factor.
Not the best effort expected of this powerhouse outfit.
Can Do Better: DJR Team Penske
While Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto salvaged a championship-critical third place, it was far from the anticipated dominant performance by the team that has raised the bar this year.
Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat appeared to comfortably have the pace to contend for victory until their Falcon’s normally bullet-proof engine suffered a fatal loss of oil pressure.
Coulthard and D’Alberto were solid but never frighteningly fast, with their slim chance of a strategic win scuppered by the late Safety Cars.
There’ll be hard questions from Detroit about how it all went awry.
Individual Excellence: Scott McLaughlin
His pole-winning lap amid the pressure of the most important shootout lap of the year was awesome in the true sense of the word.
McLaughlin’s commitment produced a lap of the ages, if not the new ‘Lap of the Gods’.
It was an extraordinary exhibition of skill and speed, yet somehow failed to create the euphoria of Greg Murphy’s all-time effort in 2003.
McLaughlin deserves every accolade for putting it all on the line to emphatically confirm his status as the qualifying king.
Bottom of the Class: Shane van Gisbergen
The former honour student let himself down with elementary errors.
Van Gisbergen painstakingly honed his Red Bull HRT machine into the one to beat in the difficult and changing conditions, only to have to keep fighting back from mistakes.
Near the end, on a drying but still slippery surface of the sort on which he is usually supreme, he threw away a victory that was there for the taking by firing down the final turn escape road at a critical restart.
It wasn’t his or co-driver Campbell’s first off of the long day and van Gisbergen wasn’t the only ace to get it wrong.
But his rashness was reminiscent of the inconsistency we all thought he’d overcome with his measured drives to the championship last year.
Extra Homework: Simona de Silvestro
OK, the conditions were tough, but to throw away an historic result with an apparently basic error was a maddening lapse after such a promising effort.
Aided by David Russell’s skilled support, de Silvestro was in ninth place and on course for the best Great Race finish ever by a female in the Supercars era when she lost it by getting up on the kerb out of the final turn.
It looked like a rookie error not worthy of the progress she had made since her 14th place last year, undoing all the improvement that got her into the position to score an especially significant top 10 finish on merit.
It was a very big result that got away unnecessarily. De Silvestro is better than that and must reflect on what might have been as the persistence of Michael Caruso/Dean Fiore and Todd Kelly/Jack Le Brocq paid off in the frenetic final stages.