It was another race for the ages, with Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander delivering one last victory for Holden in the legendary marque’s final Bathurst 1000 as a manufacturer in the Supercars championship.
From Holden’s 34th victory to another Holden’s turmoil and the setting of a new qualifying lap record, there are the talking points from the Bathurst 1000.
Van Gisbergen delivers Holden a final Bathurst victory
After finishing as runner-up again in 2019, Shane van Gisbergen at last delivered his first Bathurst 1000 victory and also the 34th and final win on the mountain for Holden as a manufacturer.
Starting Race 31 of the 2020 championship from fourth following the disqualification of the Nick Percat and Thomas Randle entry from the top-ten shootout due to a technical infringement, co-driver Garth Tander took the reins and settled in for a solid first stint.
Van Gisben, the 2016 Supercars champion, first jumped in the car on lap 34, when ironically his Red Bull teammate Jamie Whincup crashed out of the race. From there the Kiwi settled in behind race leader Cameron Waters and Tim Slade.
A brief shower hit the top of the Mount Panorama Circuit and created intermediate conditions, which brought life into Van Gisbergen’s stint. The 31-year-old took the lead from Waters in the wet conditions on lap 56 and from there stayed in command of the race.
Four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Tander then went about executing one of the best co-driver stints in the middle of the race and as the leader. The former series champion handed the No. 97 back to Van Gisbergen on lap 98 when the third safety car was deployed, still in the lead.
Waters then proceeded to put pressure on the race-leading Holden driver, with the pair exchanging lap times separated by only a tenth. Ultimately Van Gisbergen broke the resolve of the Tickford Mustang in the penultimate stint.
A couple of late safety cars with fewer than ten laps to go gave Waters another opportunity to have a crack at Van Gisbergen, though the unrelenting, unyielding nature of the Kiwi meant that there was no chance the win would be going anywhere else but to the Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
Van Gisbergen’s final stints were so good that co-driver Tander praised the final 65 laps as the best he had seen at Bathurst, with the Kiwi setting qualifying-style laps to hold the pole-sitting car at bay.
In the end it was a victory claimed by under a second and one of the most famous for Holden, as it was their final race as a manufacturer in the Australian touring car championship.
Waters’ epic pole position
Even though Bathurst ultimately remembers the champions at the end of the 1000 kilometres on Sunday, the top gong in the top-ten shootout has its own caveats, and it was something that the runner-up Waters could relish.
The 26-year-old qualified a provisional fourth on Friday before rolling out in the cool and overcast conditions of the one-lap shootout on Saturday to record an almighty 2:03.559 to take pole position.
It was also the new qualifying lap record for a Supercars racer at the Mount Panorama circuit, eclipsing the previous best time set by Chaz Mostert last year, which was a 2m 03.789s in a Tickford Mustang too.
And it was looking good and well for the Monster Energy Mustang in the race until a cool-suit failure hampered Waters in the penultimate stints. To still finish under a second behind the Red Bull Holden of Van Gisbergen shows how strong this car and driver combination have been.
Finishing second during the great race with Will Davison in what was one of the most impressive weekends for the Tickford team, also elevated Waters up into a career-high second in the championship, which will be a real feather in the cap of the two-time race winner.
Whincup bins it early
Coming into the Bathurst 1000 every year, the names Whincup and Craig Lowndes are always favourites driving for the frontrunning Red Bull Holden Racing Team, but 2020 again dealt an unlucky hand to the combined 11-time Bathurst winners.
With the emotion of this being Holden’s final race as a manufacturer, the onus was on the factory team and in particular the seasoned champions to deliver the result. However, that was not the case, with the No. 888 finding the wall on lap 33.
Whincup was tucked up behind the Penrite Commodore of Brodie Kostecki and had the pressure of Chaz Mostert coming from the rear too. On the previous lap teammate Tander in the race-winning Red Bull made the pass on Kostecki going into turn three, and when it came to the seven-time champ’s turn he completely fumbled it.
The Red Bull Commodore slapped the outside wall just before Cutting and busted the rear of the car enough to put it out of the race. It was a significant blow as well to Red Bull’s team championship hopes as well, with a fourth and fifth place finish for the Shell V-Power team assisting the Ford squad in clinching that championship as well.
Overall it was a scrappy weekend for Whincup, who from the first practice session found himself crossed up at the final corner during a flying lap before also botching his top-ten shootout lap to qualify ninth ahead of the penalised Percat.
The four-time Bathurst winner’s hoodoo continues until at least the next edition in 2021, as the non-finish also saw the 37-year old drop from second in the drivers standings to fourth behind Waters and Van Gisbergen.
Bathurst bites BJR
Brad Jones Racing came into this year’s edition of the Bathurst 1000 still without a race win for either himself or his race team despite many attempts at the great race. That stat sadly remains unchanged.
Despite early promise from the Percat and Randle entry for the Albury-based Holden team, the weekend soon unravelled following the disqualification of the No. 8 car from the top-ten shootout for a technical infringement. The scrutineers had found the 2020 race-winning Commodore to have been underweight.
The four-car operation’s fortunes didn’t improve in the race either, with the same driver-side door on the Macauley Jones-Tim Blanchard car having come loose again, as it did during practice. This occurred early enough in the race to have put the son of team owner Jones on the back foot, with a 15-second penalty also dished out for them failing to pit and repair the car immediately.
Young Jones carried on and ended up finishing 13th in the race, though the Todd Hazelwood-Jordan Boys entry found trouble on lap 50. The rookies dropped a rear tyre into the dirt on the outside of the final corner and lost the entire rear end, pirouetting into the pit lane wall.
The terminally damaged Club Cadets car then limped as far the turn one runoff before conking out and needing a safety car to be retrieved.
There was further pain for Brad Jones, with the Percat-Randle car struggling throughout the day with a power steering problem and in and out of the garage. They were classified in 18th at the end of the day but were 28 laps off the leaders.
Jack Smith in the fourth BJR car brought the safety car out twice, the first occasion after the 21-year-old was escorted off into the turn-23 gravel by teammate Macauley Jones and the second close to the end of the race getting bogged down in the gravel at the Chase.
As much as the Mountain can be cruel, it was particularly cruel to Brad Jones Racing this year and their four-car operation. There was anguish too for Matt Stone Racing, as both his cars failed to finish and an emotional Garry Jacobson wallowing in an engine oil leak that cruelled their race.
Gen3 and the Camaro revealed
After much speculation about the makeup of Gen3, the future of the Supercars championship has been revealed in the blueprint of the new regulations set for debut in 2022.
An all-new control chassis, with a 100-millimetre lower roof and 100-millimetre wider front end to emulate the road cars that the Supercars will be based on – Gen3 will indeed see the full shift of the category from four-door saloons to the two-door coupes.
After the successful and controversial debut of the Ford Mustang in 2019, which had to have its bodywork significantly changed to fit the current Gen2 chassis, the rule for Gen3 will be for the race cars to have the same dimensions for things such as doors, roofs, windows and bonnets as their road-going counterparts.
Downforce will be reduced by 200 kilos from the current Gen2 spec cars as well as an overall weight reduction 100 kilos in comparison to the current models.
The V8 engine will roar on too, with Gen3 set to exclusively run on the eight-cylinder powerplants, with consideration also from Supercars to supply a spec engine to attract new manufacturers to the series without the added significant cost of developing an engine programme.
This is a concept currently used by the British Touring Car Championship, who develop what is called the TOCA-branded engine, which prospective manufacturers can elect to brand as their own.
Among the announcement of the Gen3 specifications was also the revealing of a homologated Chevrolet Camaro as the successor to the incumbent Holden ZB Commodore, with fresh backing from General Motors Special Vehicles.
From the initial renders the new Camaro and the updated Mustang are quite the eyecatchers, even though they’re a far cry from the current Supercar. But ultimately the focus of Gen3 and the future of the category will be to reduce the costs of running the cars and continue the shift away from number-crunching and engineering, making the driver the star of the show.