Red Bull Racing drivers Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards have swept to victory in the Bathurst 1000 after a superb drive from fifteenth on the grid. And for the second year running, Lowndes' teammate Jamie Whincup ignored team orders, losing an almost-certain podium finish.
The race was marred by a number of rib-rattling accidents that brought out the Safety Car, allowing the 888 Red Bull to claw its way from deep in the mid-pack to take the win on a day that see-sawed between rain and sunshine.
It was Lowndes' sixth win at the mountain and Richards' fourth and will prove to be one of the classics.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
Times tumbled on Thursday and Friday, with Fabian Coulthard first breaking his own record and then Jamie Whincup plunging into the 2m04s range in final practice. The cars looked fast and on a knife edge, particularly over the top of the mountain and under braking into Hell Corner.
Friday qualifying was just minutes old when Chaz Mostert had about the biggest accident you'd want to have in a V8 Supercar. The young PRA driver - and 2014 Bathurst winner - clipped the wall in The Esses. He careered into the wall at about 170km/h, wiping the right hand side off the car before firing across to the outside of Forrest's Elbow and climbing the barrier, wiping out the catch fencing and a marshal's post.
Mostert suffered a clean break to his left femur and a broken wrist. One of the seven marshals who jumped clear was taken to hospital with chest injuries, while two others received minor injuries.
Qualifying was shifted to Saturday, with Fabian Coulthard taking provisional pole with an early banker lap before the rain arrived. Winterbottom and Lowndes were both out of the top ten while van Gisbergen, Slade, Whincup, Pye, Bright, McLaughlin, Reynolds, Holdsworth and Moffat would challenge Coulthard for pole.
The Shootout started wet and got wetter, with David Reynolds running third on the road taking advantage to score pole position in a session that got wetter as it went on.
The start was dry and sunny following a cool morning during which Nick Percat took P1 in the morning warm-up.
Jason Bright got a poor start off the line, causing a bit of a shuffle of the deck. Canto was unaffected, tearing off into the lead. He wouldn't hold it for long, both McLaughlin and van Gisbergen rounding him up in short order. Winterbottom's car was started by Owen who fell from fourteenth to twentieth over the first few laps.
The Davison pair's car marched forward after starting eleventh taking sixth.
The first Safety Car came on lap 16 as Renee Gracie, who had started from pitlane, put the car into the wall at Forrest's Elbow. She was first on the scene after David Wall's stricken Volvo poured oil all over the track. It was a huge disappointment as Gracie had been running very quickly up until that point. de Silvestro was philosophical about the disaster and waited for the team to repair the car, which eventually finished last, but classified.
The teams took the opportunity to make a number of driver changes and the shakeout left Premat in the lead from Webb Youlden and Bourdais, who came under immediate fire from Reynolds.
Whincup went on the attack, making up places against the part-time drivers, eventually taking the lead with an easy pass on Premat at the bottom of the Chase. The Frenchman later dropped places running wide at the same place a lap later.
Jack Perkins was lucky not to lose a spot in his HRT Commodore, taking to the gravel trap on the inside of the final turn after messing up the pit entry. Moments later the 111 Falcon bounced off the wall out of Hell Corner after an altercation with Reindler and Jones.
The Safety Car was deployed on lap 37, with Whincup in from the lead straight away, swapping with Dumbrell.
As quarter distance approache, the order was Dumbrell, Webb, Youlden, Reynolds and Richards. Ambrose found himself in eighth behind Perkins and Premat, ahead of Bourdais and Gavin.
Dumbrell led away from the restart as Reindler was handed a drive-through penalty for his role in the Pederson crash.
Championship leader Winterbottom was putting in a workmanlike performance, slowly pushing his way forward. He was hampered by a lack of information from his onboard computer, his steering wheel blank, a problem that seemed to spread to his brake lights. He was black-flagged on lap 45 for that particular problem.
Winterbottom was told by his pitwall to do three fast laps before he came in for a driver change on lap 49. The electrical fix merely extended to turning it off and on again but the tardiness of the response saw the team handed a fifteen second stop-and-go to be served at the next pit-stop.
Ambrose, Youlden, Reynolds pitted together on the same lap, with Reynolds heading out first.
Oliver Gavin was helped into the wall by Wil Davison at Forest's Elbow, limping back to the pits with damage to the rear of the car and a cranky drier. The Double Davison car got a drive through for the incident.
The number 1 car in the hands of Dumbrell pitted on lap 56 for a brake pad change and fuel and the 888 car came in a lap later for a driver change. Webb swapped with van Gisbergen on lap 59.
On lap 70, Steve Owen brought in the #5 car he was sharing with Winterbottom to change brakes, tyres and serve the penalty levied against the team for ignoring the mechanical black flag, a decision Tim Edwards admitted was strategic while they worked out how to fix the gremlins.
Dumbrell continued to impress out in front, setting fastest laps and maintaining a gap back to second of almost fifteen seconds.
As the halfway mark approached, clouds started rolling in from the west. Dumbrell came in on lap 78 to allow Jamie Whincup into the seat and change tyres.
Another Safety Car was scrambled on lap 80 when Tim Blanchard had a huge accident at Reid Park. The #3 car slapped the wall hard after hitting the metal drain grate, tearing off the boot and destroying the right hand side. Blanchard was able to get himself out of the car as van Gisbergen and Lowndes pitted.
With the Safety Car leading the pack for four laps, the order was Whincup, Richards, Webb, Youlden, Canto, Pye, Ingall, Bourdais, Premat and Russell.
On lap 90, Race Control declared the race wet as the higher parts of the track copped an initial lashing of water. Scott Pye passed Webb for position and almost lost it on the way up the mountain as slicks met wet track on the uphill run.
Webb was urged by his team to do one more lap but he preferred to try and pass, sliding off the road and conceding the pit box priority to Pye for the stop. Richards brought the 888 Red Bull into the pits for wets while Whincup continued in the lead, toying with the idea of staying out before relenting and pitting on 94.
Not long after, Whincup's throttle started playing up, the race leader unable to get full throttle despite putting the pedal to the floor. Nevertheless, he held a 26 second lead as the 100-lap mark approached.
Polesitter David Reynolds started his move on lap 101, passing Lowndes for second, facing a 34 second chase to Jamie Whincup. Holdsworth and McLaughlin quickly pounced on the relatively slow moving Red Bull.
Shane van Gisbergen also began his campaign for the podium, rounding up three cars including Tander's HRT and Ambrose's DJR Penske.
Winterbottom moved to slicks on lap 103 in the hope of jumping the pack and gaining the advantage on a drying track. Lowndes came in a lap later for slicks, jettisoning the incorrectly-pressured wet tyres that had blunted his pace.
Winterbottom's immediate pace brought in McLaughlin, Youlden and Ingall for slicks as the rain began to fall again in pitlane. Whincup came in a lap later on 106 and put Dumbrell back in, at the same time re-starting the car to try and sort out the throttle sensor problem. Whincup's stop put Holdsworth in the lead, with van Gisbergen chasing, both of them pitting together. Webb climbed back in to the 97 to satisfy the minimum co-driver laps requirement and Tander took the lead.
As more stops unfolded, Wil Davison took the lead in his Erebus Mercedes, still circulating on wet tyres. He pitted on lap 111 for a driver change, tyres and fuel. Meanwhile Lowndes passed Dumbrell who was then attacked by Winterbottom. The FPR driver's early change to slicks had paid off handsomely, leaping seven spots to sixth.
With fifty laps to go, Reynolds hit the lead followed by Lowndes, McLaughlin, Dumbrell and Winterbottom. Lowndes edged ever closer over the next few laps, attaching himself to the rear bumper of Reynolds Falcon. Lowndes made the pass on lap 116 on the way up the mountain.
van Gisbergen returned to the 97 car on lap 119, stopping out of sync with the rest of the frontrunners.
The rain started again on lap 123 and two laps later Whincup resumed the seat in his Red Bull VF. Race leader Lowndes pitted on 127 for brakes and fuel, while Winterbottom pitted behind him without going for new pads. The number 5 Ford took to the track ahead of Lowndes who in turn made it out ahead of Whincup.
With 25 laps remaining, the top five were within six seconds of each other, Reynolds leading. Each of the five were on a slightly different fuel strategy, with Lowndes needing the least amount of fuel, Reynolds the most.
On lap 138, the 17 car of Scott Pye slammed into the wall at Sulman Park, the DJR Penske driver later transferred to hospital with suspected rib fractures. The team said it may have been a steering arm failure.
In came the top three but Whincup continued on to avoid stacking and against his team's wishes. Whincup blew by the Safety Car on Mountain Straight and as Lowndes exited the pits next time around, Red Bull were one-two.
Authorities tend to take a dim view of drivers flying by the Safety Car and Whincup was under investigation, scoring a drive through penalty. Whincup's boss Roland Dane later said Whincup was "freelancing". The driver himself was convinced he'd been given the green light from the Safety Car.
The race went green again at the beginning of lap 143 - Lowndes, Whincup, Reynolds, Coulthard, Winterbottom and McLaughlin. Lowndes got away well and Whincup came in for his penalty. Lowndes skipped off into the distance. The 1 car fell to 19th and twice left the road before the end of the race.
Fabian Coulthard dive-bombed Reynolds but went slightly wide allowing Winterbottom through, Reynolds falling back behind Tander and McLaughlin and in front of Shane van Gisbergen. Tander had passed both McLaughlin and Coulthard at Griffin's Bend in a superb move.
Lowndes powered away to victory, Winterbottom and Tander unable to make any impression on the Triple 8-engineered Holden. Winterbottom followed Lowndes home by four seconds, with Tander third a further two seconds back.
"It's a great honour to be here on the stop step again. It didn't go to plan last year, I screwed up!" Lowndes said after the race. "What we executed was what we planned at the start of the day."
Lowndes now lies second in the championship behind FPR's Winterbottom.
Results - 2015 Bathurst 1000
- C.Lowndes, S.Richards Triple Eight Holden 6h16m07.7064s
- M.Winterbottom, S.Owen Prodrive Ford 1.3654s
- G.Tander, W.Luff HRT Holden 3.9516s
- F.Coulthard, L.Youlden Brad Jones Holden 4.4166s
- S.McLaughlin, A.Premat GRM Volvo 9.7147s
- D.Reynolds, D.Canto Rod Nash/PRA Ford 10.9831s
- J.Bright, A.Jones Brad Jones Holden 12.0096s
- S.Gisbergen, J.Webb Tekno Holden 14.3117s
- L.Holdsworth, S.Bourdais Walkinshaw/HRT Holden 14.7198s
- J.Moffat, T.Douglas Nissan Motorsport Nissan 20.1927s
- J.Perkins, R.Ingall HRT Holden 21.1964s
- W.Davison, A.Davison Erebus Mercedes 21.6238s
- M.Caruso, D.Fiore Nissan Motorsport Nissan 29.5798s
- T.Slade, T.D'Alberto Schwerkolt/HRT Holden 31.5931s
- D.Wood, M.Jones Britek/BJR Holden 31.9784s
- R.Kelly, D.Russell Nissan Motorsport Nissan 35.2023s
- A.Russell, D.Russell Novocastrian Holden 43.5836s
- J.Whincup, P.Dumbrell Triple Eight Holden 1m01.9616s
- N.Percat, O.Gavin Dumbrell Holden 2 Laps
- T.Kelly, A.Buncombe Nissan Motorsport Nissan 5 Laps
- S.de Silvestro, R.Gracie Prodrive Ford 40 Laps
- S.Pye, M.Ambrose DJR Penske Ford Retirement
- A.Walsh, J.Le Brocq Erebus Mercedes Retirement
- T.Blanchard, K.Reindler Dumbrell Holden Retirement
- A.Heimgartner, A.Pedersen Super Black/PRA Ford Retirement
- D.Wall, C.Pither GRM Volvo Retirement
- C.Mostert, C.Waters Prodrive Ford Withdrawn