Save for the interruption of the final Safety Car in this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, Roland Dane believes his team would have won the race.
Dane’s two Red Bull Holden Racing Team entries ran second and fourth in the closing stages with several drivers desperately trying to save fuel to reach the flag.
Jamie Whincup sat fourth in the car he shared with Craig Lowndes, leaving Dane to suggest those ahead would have had to slow dramatically in the final laps had Andre Heimgartner not found the wall at Forrest’s Elbow on Lap 158.
“Without that last Safety Car then Jamie and Craig were in the pound seats because certainly three cars (ahead) were going to be extremely tight (on fuel),” Dane told Speedcafe.com.
“When they’re running sevens before then you could see how they’d get to the end running sixes.
“It was all or nothing and hope somebody gets into the wall, that’s what happened. So yeah, luck of the draw.”
A stint earlier the team had switched strategies, with then race leader Whincup initially trying to save fuel before being given the instruction to push.
Another Safety Car, called on Lap 151 when Garry Jacobson and Richie Stanaway went into the wall together at Hell Corner, saw Whincup pit and the field close up.
“When you’re leading the race and not drafting it’s extremely difficult to make the fuel number,” Dane reasoned.
“We weren’t making fuel number, so we had to make a call to go flat out and try and get us a gap.
“So, that was the call which was made and as soon as there was, I think it was Rossi went into the sand trap, then we pitted.”
Following that Safety Car, Triple Eight cars ran second and fourth, Shane van Gisbergen at the wheel of the #97 he shared with Garth Tander.
Tucked up behind race leader Scott McLaughlin they too were marginal on fuel, though the Heimgartner Safety Car resolved that headache.
It also offered up a one lap dash to the flag, which Dane suggests was always likely to confirm McLaughlin and Alexandre Premat as victors.
“We were in a good position, but sometimes Safety Cars fall in the wrong place,” Dane said.
“It didn’t help that the strategy with drivers, with Shane and Garth, with the Safety Cars, that Shane had to do four stints at the end rather than doing a couple, which was the plan.
“Scotty’s car has been quick for the whole weekend,” he added.
“It was highly unlikely that we were going to be able to pass him on the last lap unless he made a mistake.”
Van Gisbergen also believes it was a tall ask to pass McLaughlin on the final lap.
“In the final restart I knew I was going to have a go and try to keep as much temperature in the car as possible but at the same time save fuel,” explained van Gisbergen.
“We got through the first two corners but saw that Scott (McLaughlin) had more grip.
“We certainly did get knocked down a few times; in the pits and then working back through the pack and got held up during the safety car by someone,” he added.
Co-driver Tander said of the race: “It seemed to go fairly well but it would have been nicer being one step further up on the podium.
“I was really happy with my performance and stints in the car.
“There was no hiccups, no snags at all; it all went fairly smoothly, just that we fell short in the end and will try again next year.”
Though finishing second and fourth was a solid result for the team, Lowndes admitted he was left disappointed not to have achieved more.
“It was a crazy race and hopefully we contributed our part as co-drivers,” the seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner said.
“We led the race for a little moment, and it could have been vastly different if there were less Safety Cars but as I said it was a crazy day.
“Finishing fourth, yes a little disappointing but we will take that and move on to Gold Coast.”
The streets of Surfers Paradise host the Vodafone Gold Coast 600 on October 25-27.