Intense mountain battle sees TeamVodafone finish the great race fifth. In a day of highs and lows three time defending Bathurst Champions Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup have finished the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 a credible fifth, ...
Intense mountain battle sees TeamVodafone finish the great race fifth.
In a day of highs and lows three time defending Bathurst Champions Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup have finished the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 a credible fifth, following seven gruelling hours where the race lead see-sawed through a wide selection of teams.
Whilst the fairytale finish would have been four wins a row, the day did not start well for the star pairing with a drive through penalty applied after the first pitstop.
During Jamie's second stint mid race, the rain came down and incorrect tyre pressure settings made it impossible for Whincup to keep consistent lap times until the track began to dry out and tyre temps increased.
However, with the best fuel economy of the field they regained the outright lead on Lap 121 and from there battled a pack of Commodores against the lone TeamVodafone V8 Supercar until problems with the clutch arose.
"It was a very tough day," Lowndes admitted. "The conditions were difficult to keep on top of and we had a couple of little things go wrong.
"The team did an unbelievable job with strategy, Jamie did a fantastic job in the final stint and despite the problems we encountered the car soldiered on all day.
"We can be proud of the fact that we continually fought back but it just wasn't meant to be. We now know where we stand in terms of the championship and we will turn our focus to the Super GP in two weeks time.
Driving the final stint for the first time Whincup battled valiantly but with a sticking clutch and lacking outright pace the duo had to settle for fifth.
"It wasn't our day today," Whincup explained. "We had a few little hiccups and to win this race you have to have everything squeaky clean.
"I am extremely proud we were able to pick up the pieces and still get a reasonable result."
"We fought all day and our absence from the podium was not from a lack of trying," Whincup said.
The European contingent in car 88 also had a day of ups and downs, an excellent start by Allan Simonsen elevated them from 17th to 3rd in the early stages of the race but a lengthy pitstop during a safety car period put them a lap/ A black flag for speeding in pit lane further added to their woes but it was an engine failure five laps from the race end that forced them into retirement.
"We had mixed weather conditions leading into the start of the race and we really didn't know until the last minute what tyres we would be on so I was really happy my start," said Simonsen.
"I made my way up to third by the end of my stint and everything went extremely well until our pitstop that put us a lap down.
"A drive thru penalty meant we were never able to really recover and then five laps from the end the engine let go over the top of the mountain spraying oil on the rear tyres. I experienced the biggest slide of my career but somehow managed to keep it off the wall," he added. It was a day of firsts for James Thompson in his Bathurst race debut with the former BTCC driving a V8 Supercar in wet conditions for the first time.
"It was an amazing experience and I have to say a big thank you to everyone at TeamVodafone," Thompson said. "I almost accomplished my dream of completing a Bathurst race.
"I experienced a lot of firsts today -- my first time on wets, my first time driving on slicks in the wet and the first time I have ever driven that distance."
With the endurance races over Simonsen and Thompson will return to their respective european championships while TeamVodafone will prepare for the SuperGP on the Gold Coast in a fortnights time.