A ‘rookie’ made hay, a former champ went back to back (sort of), and the reigning champ lucked out – there was no shortage of drama for Triple Eight’s Supercars drivers Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen at Mount Panorama last weekend for the Bathurst 12-Hour.
In his first GT race, six-time Supercars champ Whincup teamed with Lowndes and factory Ferrari ace Toni Vilander of Finland to win the 12-Hour in a Ferrari 488 GT3 for Maranello Motorsport, but only after Whincup had hunted down Red Bull Holden Racing Team teammate Van Gisbergen in the final hour. SVG, driving the Scott Taylor Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT with Maro Engel and Craig Baird, was on used tyres and under siege from Whincup late in the race, J-Dub making a forceful pass on Conrod Straight with a little under 40 minutes remaining to take a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
Van Gisbergen looked set for second, but made contact with the Porsche of Andrew MacPherson exiting The Chase, causing the 15th safety car period of the race. SVG was issued with a drive-through penalty for the incident, but never served it as he crashed out soon after at the Dipper, handing second overall to the Porsche 911 GT3R driven by Marc Lieb, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell and David Calvert Jones. The Bentley Team M-Sport entry of Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Oliver Jarvis rounded out the podium.
The No.88 Ferrari was on pole and led 136 of the 290 laps, with Vilander producing a brilliant penultimate stint to put Whincup in contention for victory at the team’s final pit stop. On new tyres and with Van Gisbergen in his sights, Whincup did the rest to achieve the ultimate success in his first 12-Hour outing, which came after he’d only turned five laps in the car before first practice on Friday.
“I guess we had beginner’s luck today – first time, so to stand on the top step is a fantastic feeling,” he said afterwards.
“It’s really good to drive with the Euros. They know the cars and they are fast, and give you a massive challenge to step up and be better yourself. It’s refreshing to get out of your comfort zone.
“The car was bullet-proof.”
Lowndes, who also won the event for Maranello Motorsport back in 2014, made it consecutive 12-Hour victories – he missed the 2015 running of the race as it clashed with a Supercars’ test day, and again last year thanks to a collarbone injury.
“It’s a fantastic result – it’s twice now that I’ve won it in a Ferrari,” he said.
“Anytime to win at Bathurst is always a great result, it doesn’t matter what car you’re in or what category. 2017 has started off in a great way with a great result.”
Lowndes added yet another piece of silverware to an already-bulging Bathurst trophy cabinet – two Bathurst 12-Hour wins sit nicely with six Bathurst 1000 victories and seven other podiums in the ‘Great Race’ – and he was quick to praise the team after an inauspicious start to their preparations last month.
“We went into the weekend with a little bit of an unknown to be honest,” Lowndes admitted.
“We didn’t have the best lead-in to the week of the Bathurst 12-Hour; we had a test day at Phillip Island where we encountered some issues with the car, but the team did a great job overcoming that.
“The combination between the Maranello race team and the Triple Eight injection of people really made a dynamic mixture of a great team, and our pit stops and strategy were fantastic.”
While two-thirds of the Triple Eight trio were smiling, it was a crestfallen Van Gisbergen who put his hand up for his late-race error, 12 months after he’d won the event in a McLaren. Teammate Engel was highly and publicly critical of the Kiwi in the immediate aftermath of the DNF, but Van Gisbergen was quick to take responsibility.
“It was just a mistake,” he admitted.
“I’m a pretty critical person of myself and I hate making mistakes, and that was 100 per cent my fault. I was pushing hard and thought I got away with the drive-through, and I thought I could try and run with Jamie. But I just stuffed up, ended up in the wall and wrecked the car, so I’m sorry to the team and to my teammates.”
With their Bathurst duties done – until October and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, that is – the Triple Eight triumvirate will have their sights set on their ‘regular’ gigs and the first event of the Supercars championship, the Clipsal 500 on the streets of Adelaide in less than four weeks’ time.
Story via Redbull.com