Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards have won the 2018 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 after David Reynolds cramped up while leading with 30 laps remaining.
Reynolds’ shot at going back to back unravelled in devastating fashion when a fairly stable lead of around 1.4s evaporated in five laps.
He ceded the lead to Lowndes without a fight at Griffins Bend on Lap 135, literally seconds after he informed the team on the radio as they dropped off the Mountain Straight hump that he had a cramp.
“Mate I’ve got the world’s f###ing biggest cramp in my leg of my life,” was the call back to the Erebus Motorsport crew.
Lowndes gapped the #9 Penrite ZB Commodore by almost two seconds before they reached the control line again, leading to several minutes of deliberation as to whether or not co-driver Luke Youlden would have to get back in.
Lowndes took his final pit stop before a decision was made to keep Reynolds in the car and provide him with electrolytes when he arrived in the lane.
That pit stop, however, only precipitated the final blow when Reynolds spun the rear wheels as a result of the cramps.
“So sorry man, my leg cramped on the clutch,” was the explanation back to the garage from Reynolds.
Having been hit with a drive-through penalty, the race was over as a contest but for the possibility of a Safety Car.
In his final Bathurst as a full-time driver, Lowndes brought the #888 Autobarn ZB Commodore home for a 6.29s win.
The 6:01:44.8637s victory, the seventh for himself and fifth for co-driver Steven Richards, broke a five-year-old race record and had Lowndes comparing it to the emotion of his 2006 triumph in the wake of Peter Brock’s death.
“(This means) A lot,” said an emotional Lowndes.
“It’s almost like the ‘06 back again.
“I think that these guys have been doing a hell of a job.
“We’ve had troubles all weekend with the steering. To pull it all together… I didn’t have air or anything, I didn’t have a cool suit, didn’t have any air in my helmet in my last few stints. I’m a little tired, but look it’s a credit to these guys.
“Absolutely,” he added in response to the question of whether or not the win was a dream come true.
“Richo and I came into this weekend with a lot of confidence on the back of Sandown, but you never know.
“We didn’t have quite the speed at the beginning on Friday, but we were hoping it would develop and the track would come to us.
“It’s a pity to Reynolds, Dave and all his guys; they were sort of the benchmark all weekend, so not sure what happened to him.
“When we got the lead, we didn’t want to give it up.”
Scott Pye/Warren Luff were runners-up for the second year straight in the #2 Boost Mobile ZB Commodore while Scott McLaughlin finished on the podium for the first time in the #17 Shell V-Power FGX Falcon which he shared with Alexandre Premat.
Youlden did eventually take over Car #9 with 16 laps remaining and brought it home in 13th.
The race until that point had been almost trouble-free for Erebus’ lead car (CLICK HERE for halfway report), with a run wide at Hell Corner for Youlden the only obvious blemish.
He was in control of the motor race at the halfway mark as he held a 1.93s lead over Tony D’Alberto with 81 laps down and 80 to go.
D’Alberto was slightly off-sequence in Fabian Coulthard’s #12 DJR Team Penske FGX Falcon but a Safety Car called on Lap 94, midway through a pit stop cycle, put everyone back together save for co-driver laps completed.
Reynolds led from Lowndes, Pye, Chaz Mostert (#55 Supercheap Auto FGX Falcon), and Shane van Gisbergen (#97 Red Bull HRT ZB Commodore), the latter of whom had co-driver Earl Bamber to thank for an impressive recovery stint after a very slow rotor change had dropped them into the midfield.
The Safety Car, called after Bryce Fullwood spun and beached the #35 Bigmate VF Commodore (Todd Hazelwood), also allowed Car #1 of Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell to get back onto the lead lap.
The Triple Eight ZB Commodore, which had thrown a wheel off 54 laps earlier, came in a second time while covered by yellows to replace the front anti-roll bar and Whincup restarted a minute back in 20th.
Reynolds came under pressure from Lowndes early in the stint before he broke his two-year-old lap record with a 2:06.1492s on Lap 103.
Lowndes scraped the wall exiting Forrest’s Elbow on the same lap and while he survived, he drifted to as far as a touch over three seconds adrift in the next 10 laps.
Mostert was pressuring Pye for third as isolated light rain fell again, and nabbed the position when the 2017 race runner-up ran wide at Hell Corner on Lap 107.
Coulthard and McLaughlin had circulated in sixth and seventh since the restart but the former stepped aside to let his team-mate past on Lap 111.
Reynolds was the only driver who could lap in the sixes for a period of time but Lowndes got the lead back under two seconds before he pitted with 44 laps remaining.
The rest came in within a lap either side and once Reynolds was up to speed on warm tyres, he was around 1.4s ahead of Lowndes, who resumed second.
Pye managed to pass McLaughlin on the latter’s out lap but the 2017 pole-sitter still made a net gain of two positions in the cycle when he managed to at least stave off Mostert at Griffins.
Van Gisbergen was sixth from Garth Tander (#33 Wilson Security ZB Commodore), Coulthard, James Golding (#34 GRM ZB Commodore), and Nick Percat (#8 Repco Authorised Service ZB Commodore), while Whincup was 18th and just under a minute off the lead.
The top 10 ran in the same order, with the top two going blow-for-blow while they dropped the rest, until the dramatic twist with around 30 laps.
Erebus copped a second sucker punch on Lap 139, just before Reynolds’ fateful pit stop, when De Pasquale hit the wall at Reid Park and then went in again at Skyline, in the #99 ZB Commodore.
That was the other major drama as the race petered out and Lowndes cruised home for a fairytale victory.
Behind the podium, Mostert delivered a fourth for himself and James Moffat, while van Gisbergen finished fifth.
Filling sixth through ninth were Tander/Chris Pither, Percat/Macauley Jones, G/Richard Muscat, and Coulthard/D’Alberto.
Whincup salvaged 10th having started the final stint in 13th, while first Nissan was Rick Kelly/Garry Jacobson (#11 Castrol Altima), one position further back.
Andre Heimgartner/Aaren Russell (#7 Castrol Nissan Altima) was last car on the lead lap in 16th.
The only two DNFs were Michael Caruso/Dean Fiore (#23 Industrial Athlete Nissan Altima) after Fiore hit the wall at Hell Corner, and James Courtney/Jack Perkins (#25 Boost Mobile ZB Commodore) with an engine failure.
Van Gisbergen continues to hold the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship lead by a reduced margin of 19 points over McLaughlin.
The latter also has the honour of being the first Falcon across the line in what is likely the nameplates last Great Race.
The Pirtek Enduro Cup concludes at the Vodafone Gold Coast 600 on October 19-21.
Results: Race 25, 2018 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000
|1||888||Autobarn Lowndes Racing||C.Lowndes/S.Richards||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:01:44.8637|
|2||2||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||S.Pye/W.Luff||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:01:51.1557|
|3||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||S.McLaughlin/A.Premat||Ford Falcon FG/X||161||6:01:54.2718|
|4||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||C.Mostert/J.Moffat||Ford Falcon FG/X||161||6:01:55.1167|
|5||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||S.van Gisbergen/E.Bamber||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:02:12.2846|
|6||33||Wilson Security Racing GRM||G.Tander/C.Pither||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:02:14.8735|
|7||8||Repco Authorised Service Team||N.Percat/M.Jones||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:02:21.4061|
|8||34||Wilson Security Racing GRM||J.Golding/R.Muscat||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:02:22.0962|
|9||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||F.Coulthard/T.D’Alberto||Ford Falcon FG/X||161||6:02:31.9757|
|10||1||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||J.Whincup/P.Dumbrell||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:02:41.2971|
|11||11||Castrol Racing||R.Kelly/G.Jacobson||Nissan Altima||161||6:03:03.9376|
|12||5||The Bottle-O Racing Team||M.Winterbottom/D.Canto||Ford Falcon FG/X||161||6:03:19.8730|
|13||9||Erebus Penrite Racing||D.Reynolds/L.Youlden||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:03:23.9683|
|14||78||Team Harvey Norman||S.de Silvestro/A.Rullo||Nissan Altima||161||6:03:32.6399|
|15||19||Tekno Autosports||J.Le Brocq/J.Webb||Holden Commodore ZB||161||6:03:37.2610|
|16||7||Castrol/Plus Fitness Racing||A.Heimgartner/A.Russell||Nissan Altima||161||6:03:39.6871|
|17||14||Freightliner Racing||T.Slade/A.Walsh||Holden Commodore ZB||160||6:03:10.0291|
|18||21||Team CoolDrive||T.Blanchard/D.Wood||Holden Commodore ZB||159||6:02:14.5870|
|19||230||Milwaukee Racing||W.Davison/A.Davison||Ford Falcon FG/X||159||6:03:01.4553|
|20||35||Bigmate Racing||T.Hazelwood/B.Fullwood||Holden Commodore VF2||159||6:03:34.2973|
|21||18||Preston Hire Racing||L.Holdsworth/J.Bright||Holden Commodore ZB||157||6:02:17.0104|
|22||56||RABBLE.club Racing||R.Stanaway/S.Owen||Ford Falcon FG/X||152||6:03:36.8977|
|23||6||Monster Energy Racing||C.Waters/D.Russell||Ford Falcon FG/X||148||6:03:12.6438|
|24||99||Erebus Penrite Racing||A.De Pasquale/W.Brown||Holden Commodore ZB||143||6:03:12.3729|
|DNF||23||Industrial Athlete Racing||M.Caruso/D.Fiore||Nissan Altima||69||2:39:14.1507|
|DNF||25||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||J.Courtney/J.Perkins||Holden Commodore ZB||33||1:11:35.8990|
|1||Shane van Gisbergen||3276|
|18||Jack Le Brocq||1442|
|20||Anton De Pasquale||1314|
|24||Simona de Silvestro||1068|