It’s the race that can cause heartbreak in a split second and it surely did for our team behind car #88 at the Bathurst 1000 on the weekend.
Having concentrated almost exclusively throughout the six practice sessions on finding the race pace to conquer those flying F***s (you know who we mean), the no. 88 crew made the call to do an engine change on Saturday afternoon.
Come race day, Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell’s Red Bull Holden Commodore was a rocket, albeit a rather damp one, as J-Dub masterfully steered from 11th to fourth within just three laps.
“I think we showed that we had reasonable pace and we were up the front – and like any Bathurst, it’s about being there with 10 laps or so to go,” said Car #88 Race Engineer David Cauchi.
“If you’re there in the fight and with reasonable car speed, you’ve got every chance of winning.”
Read: Bathurst 1000 2017 Wrap
Tragically though, the day was brought to a sudden halt by a failure in an engine component.
No stones had been left unturned in the quest to fix the speed issues in the lead up to the race and an engine change was a key part in ensuring full reliability and performance from the engine.
“We had a couple of things that weren’t making sense on car #88 and we wanted to eliminate the possibility of it being the engine,” Cauchi said.
“We thought we’d change to the spare engine, which was a fresh engine, so that there was no compromise from a reliability point of view.
“So the engine change on Saturday didn’t compromise us in terms of the failure we saw on Sunday but it was something we did in trying to sort out some other issues going on with the car.”
Now, a few days post-race, the exact answers still haven’t been found and it’s a process the team will need to work through in the short turnaround ahead of the Gold Coast 600 next week.
“At the moment, we haven’t pulled the engine apart, but from what we’ve seen it looks like a valve has broken,” Cauchi said.
“One cylinder wasn’t working so ultimately that was the end of our Bathurst campaign. We weren’t really expecting to see a valve issue so that came as a bit of a surprise.”
The engine failure has caused a blow to J-Dub’s championship campaign but it’s definitely not over and out for car #88 just yet.
With three races to go, Whincup and the team will be pushing to the very end no matter how hard they need to go.
“It’s disappointing we weren’t there in the end to fight it out for a potential win,” said Cauchi.
“It obviously has pretty massive championship implications with Bathurst being 300 points so there’s potential to gain or lose a huge amount of points, and unfortunately, we lost a huge amount of points.”
Going in, DJR Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin was sitting above Jamie in the championship standings. However, the outcome has shown that one race really can turn things upside down.
McLaughlin’s car had an engine failure on lap 74 which saw the previous leader out of the race with a DNF, sacrificing a huge amount of points, and dropping below Whincup – however, after placing third, Fabian Coulthard is now the championship leader, leading Whincup by 91 points.
“We went into the race 84 points behind a car and now we’re 91 points behind a different car,” said Cauchi.
“It doesn’t matter which car it is, we’re still behind, so we’ve got to work hard and fight hard to the very last race of the championship.
“The top three cars could win the championship but you just don’t know – there are probably others that could pop in as well so it’s certainly on for everyone,” said Cauchi.
The Gold Coast 600 is effectively a ‘home’ event for J-Dub so he’ll be putting in everything he’s got for his home crowd – let’s see what he can bring.
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