Racing: Whincup And Other Famous ‘Last Lap’ Fuel Disasters Photo:

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Tim O'Brien | Oct, 13 2014 | 9 Comments

Jamie Whincup’s “oh no” look said it all. The chequered flag at this year’s action-packed Bathurst may have only been half a lap away, but he was up on Skyline and his Commodore was sucking air.

Gutted probably doesn’t get close after so many weeks - and months - of preparation. And to have victory in the hand, to have worked so hard, and then for it to slip away on such a twist of fate.

But young Mostert in the Ford took the win. And deserved - he pushed when he knew Whincup was vulnerable. His elation at the flag in equal measure to Whincup’s despair.

And Shane van Gisbergen’s despair. And Winterbottom’s, and all those claimed in the day against the barriers; some victims of their own errors, some victims of others, and yet more simply victims of the mechanical and physical stresses of one of the world’s toughest motor races.

But Whincup isn’t alone. Motor racing is full of such ‘defeat snatched from the jaws of victory’ stories.


Doug Chivas - out of fuel

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Doug Chivas, then 50 years old, had, while co-driving with Brock, driven the Torana into a race-winning Bathurst lead in the 1973 Hardie Ferodo 1000.

The race strategy had been to try to do the race on three stops to give the XU1 Torana a time advantage over the faster but thirstier GT Falcon of Alan Moffat and Pete Geoghegan.

Unfortunately, the car ran out of fuel on Conrod.

After coasting to a stop, Chivas bailed out and pushed the car without help up the incline into pit lane, where the crew could then join the exhausted Chivas.

Moffat took the lead, and won, but Chivas’ efforts salvaged second.


Jack Brabham - out of fuel, final lap

The 1959 World Championship was resting on the final race of the year on December 12 at Sebring, Florida USA.

Brabham was second on the grid in his Cooper while Stirling Moss, also a contender for the title was on pole. Bruce McLaren, Brabham’s team-mate was gridded behind Brabham.

Brabham got ahead of Moss at the start, but the great Englishman took the lead back before retiring with a busted transmission.

Brabham reclaimed the lead, McLaren then took it off him and he, Jack and French driver Maurice Trintignant battled for the greater part of the race.

Jack had only to finish ‘in the points’ to win the title, but ran out of fuel nearly 400 metres from the chequered flag. He got out, and pushed the car all the way to the line to finish fourth and take the world title.

Australia’s first F1 World Champion won the crown on foot.


Nigel Mansell - out of gears, final lap

While leading from pole position for most of the race in his F1 Lotus in July 1984 at Dallas, Texas, future World Champion, Nigel Mansell, found his tyres starting to fade.

After being passed by Rosberg, and pressed by Alain Prost and Niki Lauda, Mansell dived into the pits for tyres and pushed to get back among the front runners.

With Rosberg leading after Prost had found a wall, Mansell had an unlikely podium in sight - then, on the last lap, he lost his transmission.

After coasting to a stop, Mansell got out of his car and began pushing it to the finish line. Unfortunately, the physical exertions of the race, and the Dallas heat, were too much for him.

Mansell collapsed on the track just short of the line. He did however manage to claim a single point toward the world championship, as he was classified sixth, though Lauda won the F1 world title that year.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. - out of fuel, final Lap

Running this year at Charlotte Speedway in Las Vegas in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup, Dale Earnhardt Jr ran out of fuel on the last lap.

With the chequered flag barely a turn away, his Chevrolet ran dry with just the final turn between him and victory.

It wasn’t to be. As he tried to coast through the final turn, he lost the lead to Kevin Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS.

Gutted? Maybe. For Earnhardt Jr., he was headed for victory for the first time in 105 races: the chequered flag would have ended a three-year drought of wins.


Alain Prost - out of fuel, final lap

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Prost and Mansell, mortal foes on the track, had more in common at the end of their careers than just F1 World titles.

In 1986 at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, Prost's McLaren ran out of fuel on the last lap.

He had been pressing Mansell for the lead, but it was the car that conspired to beat him. Within sight of the flag, he tried to repeat Mansell’s heroics two years earlier at Dallas by pushing the car over the line.

He didn’t make it, but, like Mansell in Dallas, he earned a point for sixth place as the next car was more than a lap behind.

(That year, Mansell had the world title in his grasp till a rear tyre spectacularly blew at Adelaide, the last race for the year. The blowout ceding the title to Prost.)


De Cesaris, Pironi - out of fuel, Monaco GP, out of cars

The 1982 rain-soaked Monaco Grand Prix perhaps produced one of the oddest finishes in F1 history.

With just four laps to go, Prost, leading the race, crashed.

Riccardo Patrese took over the lead, then spun with just two laps to go. The late Didier Pironi then found himself at the head of the field, leading into the last lap... but his Ferrari then ran out of fuel.

In what we would now recognise as a ‘Stephen Bradbury moment’, with everyone falling over ahead of him, an astonished Andrea de Cesaris - nick-named ‘de Crasheris’ by commentator James Hunt - took the lead in his Alfa Romeo.

But he too run out of fuel, coming to a stop in the tunnel under the Loews Hotel (track officials, with a death wish, tried to give him a push). And this, remember, was all happening on the last lap.

Then the lead went to Derek Daly, but, incredibly, his gearbox let go moments later, and he too failed to finish.

Finally, in what was possibly the slowest final lap in Monaco F1 history, Patrese limped his Brabham to the line, and took the flag.


Gugelmin, Blundell - both out of fuel, last lap

(Note: video embedding disabled, view the footage at YouTube.)

In the 1997 CART World Series round in Detroit, former F1 drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell were both chasing their first-ever victories.

In this race, the PacWest Racing team mates were sitting first and second.

On the last lap however, both cars spluttered to a halt within sight of the finish line - Mark Blundell so agonisingly close he can be seen stationary in the background as the chequered flag greets the winner, Greg Moore.

(Moore would later be tragically killed while competing in the last round of the 1999 CART season.)

Unfortunately for Gugelmin and Blundell, CART had mandated that the 40 gallon fuel tank be reduced to 35 gallons and the teams were struggling to go the distance with their allocated fuel.


Nigel Mansell (again) - stalled, final lap

Hubris, like waving to the crowd before the race is won, is risky. Ask Nigel Mansell.

Leading on the last lap in Montreal in 1991, Mansell decided to acknowledge the unbridled admiration of the cheering crowds by waving.

Presciently, the commentator says, “Don’t wave to the crowd too soon there buddy.”

Unfortunately, the race was not yet won. According to the post-race armchair commentary, Mansell's waving distracted him from the job at hand, and he let the revs of his highly-strung Williams-Renault fall too low.

The result: the engine cut-out on the hairpin, just a few corners from the finish line.

Unable to start the car, Mansell was forced to watch Piquet sail by and go on to win the race. (Mansell may have had to digest a large serving of humble pie that evening.)

That year, 1991, Mansell and Prost’s nemesis, Ayrton Senna won the World Championship.

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