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HomeNewsBathurstTOP FIVE: When the fastest car failed to win Bathurst

TOP FIVE: When the fastest car failed to win Bathurst

OUTRIGHT speed is one of the things you need to win the Bathurst 1000 but, as many drivers will attest, it’s not the only thing.

There have been many times that a single car has been head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field in the lead-up, only to stumble when it mattered on Sunday.

While the relative fragility of cars in the Series Production and Group C eras means this was relatively commonplace in the early decades of the event, a surprising number of instances can be found in the race’s modern era.

The 2023 race can now be added to that list, with Brodie Kostecki and David Russell coming up short after looming as the dominant car throughout Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Mount Panorama.

However, the pair at least brought home a second-place finish that maintained Kostecki’s lead in the drivers’ standings and the teams’ championship lead for Erebus.

The five entries on this list weren’t so lucky…

Craig Lowndes exits the pits at pace following a late-race puncture in the 1998 FAI 1000 Classic. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

No.5 – 1998

The VT Commodore made its debut at Mount Panorama in the 1998 FAI 1000 Classic, and the Holden Racing Team looked poised to give the model a first-up victory.

The #1 car of Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife showed its strength on several occasions during practice and qualifying, before Skaife laid down a storming Shootout lap to take pole by over half a second.

It then dominated the first half of the race, leading all but a handful of laps during the pitstop cycle.

And then the wheels fell off on lap 113. A tyre went down on Skaife as he arrived at the Chase, sending the race-leading car into the gravel and costing it a likely victory.

They recovered to come home sixth, two laps off the pace after another tyre failure later in the race.

The polesitter is towed home during the 2017 Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

No.4 – 2017

The #17 DJR Team Penske Falcon was a bullet all throughout the practice and qualifying sessions, building to the crescendo of a Top 10 Shootout in which Scott McLaughlin delivered the first ‘three’ for a Supercar around Mount Panorama.

Rain arrived on race day, but it wasn’t the conditions that cost he and Alex Premat their shot at a Great Race win.

Instead, it was a freak valve failure that dropped its Ford V8 onto seven cylinders, eventually causing it to roll to a stop atop the Mountain on lap 74 as the race’s first retirement.

Whincup took the chequered flag first in the 2016 Bathurst 1000 but was demoted to 11th. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

No.3 – 2016

This is an unusual example on this list, as the fastest car from that year actually did take the chequered flag first.

The #88 Triple Eight Commodore of Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell topped all but two sessions in the lead-up, highlighted by qualifying and the Top 10 Shootout.

They also led a race-high total of 133 laps, including the last one.

What cost them the win was an incident with 11 laps remaining, when Whincup collided with McLaughlin at the Chase and triggered a series of events that ended with the latter’s Volvo colliding with Garth Tander’s Commodore.

Whincup was judged guilty of careless driving over the initial contact and handed a 15-second post-race time penalty that dropped the #88 from first to 11th in the final results.

The strain of a big week of pre-race commitments is evident on Reynolds’ face prior to the start of the 2018 Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

No.2 – 2018

Mechanical failures have ended the Bathurst dreams of many competitors, but it was a biomechanical failure that took the fastest car out of contention in 2018.

David Reynolds and Luke Youlden looked odds-on to back up their 2017 victory after claiming pole position and leading 112 of the first 134 laps.

What nobody knew, until the #9 Commodore raced up Mountain Straight for the 135th time, is that Reynolds had been battling issues with his body.

His legs were cramping up badly, which forced him to concede the lead and, eventually pit and hand over to Youlden to complete the race.

The sad end to the #2 HRT Commodore’s 2006 Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

No.1 – 2006

Few cars have demonstrated such a significant performance advantage as the #2 Skaife/Tander HRT Commodore did in the lead-up to the 2006 race.

Stunningly fast straight off the trailer in opening practice, Skaife romped to pole position in the Shootout and looked poised to give the factory team a victory in honour of the late Peter Brock in the first Bathurst held since his tragic passing.

But it all turned to dust as soon as the red lights went out on Sunday morning.

The #2 car struggled off the line with a clutch problem that would have forced it out of the race, but it only got as far as Mountain Straight before Skaife was hit by an unsighted Jack Perkins.

The result was a double blow for Tander.

The Toll HSV Dealer Team elected not to pair him with teammate Rick Kelly for the enduros, moving Tander across to the HRT to ensure a single problem wouldn’t take both its title challengers out of contention.

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