TeamVodafone pilot and all round good guy Craig Lowndes survived one of the most spectacular races seen at Mt. Panorama for many years to secure back-to-back wins with teammate Jamie Whincup and add the Peter Brock Trophy to the mantelpiece.
Lowndes, sporting the 888 number on the door of his Ford had more lives than the Holden lion, when in the early stages of the 'great race' he looked headed for the scrapheap after Rick Kelly sat helpless behind the wheel of his Toll/HSV Commodore as it careered through the Chase at almost 300kph. Kelly's tyre delaminated and he crossed in front of Lowndes, missing him by metres.
The second incident, also at the Chase involved fellow Ford driver Mark Winterbottom, who like Kelly could only hang on until the sand trap took hold of the Ford Performance Falcon. Both drivers later admitted that they were shaken and could only go along for the ride until they came to a rest.
Winterbottom, who took pole position the afternoon before in the Top Ten shootout was the favourite to take the money along with his partner Steven Richards but a late pit stop for tyres put paid to that and the young gun could not recover and later lamented that the blame lay with him for the decision. If anything, the FPR driver will remember that winning Bathurst does not always rely on decision making or strategies, sometimes it comes down to luck on the day. Ask any driver who has been lucky enough to have won and they'll soon have a story to tell including the late Peter Brock. Better still, ask the 15 teams that failed to finish.
Behind Lowndes and Whincup were the two Queensland based teams of Stone Bros Racing and Dick Johnson Racing who occupied the other two spots on the podium. Dancing with the Stars contestant James Courtney joined forces with David Besnard and sat in the top ten for most of the day and sat back in the closing stage to grab second after Steven Johnson in the Jim Beam machine ran wide into Turn 1 leaving the gate open after taking the lead from Lowndes. Johnson and Will Davison showed during the practice and qualifying sessions that they were not there to make up the numbers. Team owner and father Dick Johnson never looked so pleased when 'Junior Johnson' crossed the line after 161 cruelling laps to grab his place on the podium after 10 years of trying.
There were many hard luck stories over the weekend, including Kiwi Greg Murphy and Jason Richards who had a chance to grab a podium position in the dying stages. Jack Perkins had problems when the electricals in the Jack Daniels Holden cut short his race as he jumped from the car on pit lane. Brad Jones will have huge repair bills before heading to the Gold Coast in a fortnight after both his cars were wrecked. Damian White crashed the # 12 car on Saturday and was flown to Sydney by the Careflight Helicopter while the # 14 car caught alight after blowing an engine at the Chase.
Talking about engines, Cameron McConville didn't complete a lap after his motor died heading up Mountain Straight. The Supercheap Auto backed Holden was the brunt of Ford jokes for the remainder of the day with reference to Supercheap Oil being the catchcry. Russell Ingall damaged the steering on the Caltex Ford and crawled back to the pits and managed to park it in the garage. Kiwi young gun Shane Van Gisbergen looked like securing a spot in the top ten until everything went pear shaped and he spun coming onto pit straight and hit the tyre wall.
There are many more stories like these, however, one good luck story goes to 6th place getters Steve Owen and Tony D'Alberto in the Autobarn Racing Commodore. Under budget and driving one of the oldest cars in the field both stayed clear of the dicing amongst the big brother teams. They were never a podium threat and kept circulating until the chequered flag dropped. The team was all smiles as they had conquered the Mountain and survived to tell the story.
Coming into the final enduro round Holden drivers Rick Kelly and Garth Tander were 1st and 2nd in the championship with Todd Kelly back in 5th . The weekend result sees Whincup and Lowndes move to the top of the leader board and Rick Kelly and Tander drop back to 3rd and 4th after they retired with brake problems while Todd Kelly and Mark Skaife ended their day at the McPhillamy Park when Skaife hit the concrete wall and beached it.