February, 5th 2017-Almost a decade since scoring a hat-trick of Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 victories, Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes have rekindled their partnership in perfect fashion.
In a dramatic finish to the Bathurst 12 Hour, Whincup drove the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 that he shared with Lowndes and Toni Vilander to victory.
Whincup, who made his GT Racing debut this weekend was ecstatic about the result.
The Triple Eight-assisted Ferrari team waged a race long war with the Shane van Gisbergen-led Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes, which finally ended with a crash for the Kiwi.
Whincup and Van Gisbergen had re-entered their cars two hours from the finish, with the Ferrari leading the Mercedes by 30 seconds.
A decision not to change tyres on Van Gisbergen’s final stop gained the car track position with just 45 minutes left on the clock, but the advantage was to be short lived.
Whincup retook the lead just five minutes later – the two cars making brief side-to-side contact as Van Gisbergen fought in vain to hold the place.
The reigning Supercars champion’s race would only get worse from there, however, as he made contact with Andrew MacPherson’s lapped Porsche 30 minutes from home, turning it into the concrete wall.
The accident triggered a Safety Car and subsequent penalty for Van Gisbergen, who then crashed on his own at The Dipper, much to the frustration of co-driver Maro Engel.
Engel was visibly angry when the #22 Mercedes hit the wall, and then admonished Van Gisbergen on the telecast.
Speaking a short time later, Van Gisbergen said he had already apologised to MacPherson and would also do so to Engel and the entire STM team.
Whincup eventually took the flag a lap clear of Van Gisbergen’s Pirtek Enduro Cup co-driver Matt Campbell, who combined with Patrick Long, Marc Lieb and David Calvert-Jones to win the Pro-Am Class.
The result came in Whincup’s first ever GT race and follows Lowndes’ previously victory with Maranello on his most recent 12 Hour start in 2014.
For full results, visit: http://www.bathurst12hour.com.au/results/
Quotes from the Podium
“It was a great day for us and my debut into GT racing. For a lot of my teammates at 888 it was their first time as well. A massive thank you goes to Maranello Motorsport and of course to Peter Edwards – the owner of our million dollar Ferrari 488. It was a fantastic day with fantastic team work and we pitted at the right times. The blokes beside me did an amazing job and it was just up to me to bring it home at the end. It was quite ironic that my teammate ‘Gizzy’ and I were fighting for the win right at the end there. He was driving like he usually does, all over the place which is good,” he laughed, “he’s hard and fair. I certainly enjoyed the battle, there is always a bit of grass action when we’re rubbing panels!”
“(The final pit stop) was strategic. We had to make a call as to whether we wanted to put tyres on and loose track position or whether we wanted to keep track position on older tyres. So, I made a call at the end there to put some new bags on and it was the right call. The car had great pace. It was very good down the straight, it wasn’t the quickest down the straight (gesturing to the #12 drivers) these boys beside me were absolute rockets and the Nissan wound it up again at the last five laps. All in all it was a massively enjoyable week for us. They are great cars. I couldn’t believe the traffic, I’m not used to so much traffic! It was also very nice that the Skippies kept to the other paddock and didn’t go on the track. It was a long, long day, but I’ll certainly be back.”
“Sometimes you have those days, you have a clear track and just feel really comfortable in the car. Even all the traffic seemed like it was dropping in the right places with the right timing. I had clear air with the car and it felt like it was working perfectly. Sometimes when you’re fast it feels like it’s easier so today was definitely one of those days,” Vilander said.
“I was fed up with all the stories from Mika Salo that he is the only Finn who can win here so now we are even at least! It is a big thing (to have the success with Ferrari), there are still races for me to win and this was one of them and now it it is done. I am really, really happy and really, really proud – this is a great team. Sometimes when you start the day you have a feeling something good might happen and here we are – winners.”
“My day was actually quite easy. I did a lot of the morning shift and looked out for the traffic and brought the car home clean until the restart of my final stint. For me, as Toni said, we rolled the car out and didn’t do much with it over the course of the couple of days. It was a much nicer car than the Ferrari 458 over the top of the mountain for both Jamie and I as far as becoming familiar with the car. We did have a good lead into this weekend and we did have some issues but we rectified that. With Toni putting it on pole yesterday we knew that we had a strong car, we just didn’t know who else was going to be strong for the day,” Lowndes said.
“The main objective for me was to stay out of trouble and keep it on the lead lap which I was lucky to do – getting out of the gravel trap. So that for me was the most important – to stay on the lead lap. We knew we had good car pace to come back. It was an enjoyable day to be part of the crew. As Jamie said, there are a lot of 888 guys who have come across from ‘Supercarland’ and it’s really opened their eyes to see what the GT world is all about and also about 12-hour racing. Normally we race in October and it is only six and a half hours, so we’ll come back in October and think it’s a sprint race!”
#12 Competition Motorsport powered by Ice Break Porsche 911 GT3 R – second outright and BRM Watches GT3 Pro-AM class winners
“It was quite an interesting race. The car has been fantastic throughout the whole weekend from day one on. We were up to the pace from the start and it was a good job by the team. We cycled through the race, we had some small incidents but of course were always fighting back. Sometimes we were lucky with the safety cars but at the end there weren’t enough yellows to catch it back and we were missing a bit of speed, but I think we are very happy with the second overall and the win in the class. It has been a fantastic weekend,” said Lieb.
“We came here with two objectives. One was to do as well as we could and the second, which was a close second, was to have fun. CJ (David Calvert-Jones) has been a great friend, we are both based in Los Angeles and this has been something Marc and I have been talking about for quite a few months to get back over here and try and go for an overall. Matt was a great late addition, we took a look at the rules and thought that four drivers would be the best way and he became available, so it all just worked out great. Like Marc said, it was an adventurous day – you have to race hard and you have to fight because you know there are going to be yellows and track position means a lot. At the end there might have been an incident or two I could have taken back and done a little different, but I have no regrets. Looking forward, we had a strong GT3 – R and it held up.”
“(Towards the end of the race) I had two final stints to go and we were running third at the time. We had good pace and I just made a massive mistake there in my final stint (regarding the contact with the #32). I slipped off the brake pedal and it was totally my fault. It cost us a bit of time but thankfully we were able to get it turned around and continue on without too much damage. I am very thankful it wasn’t too much worse, it was an up and down day but thankfully it ended on an up.”
“I am feeling pretty good right now! It has been a great adventure. This is our fourth time here and thanks has to go to Patrick for being my mentor and helping me put these programs together, along with Ice Break and Virgin who have stepped up to get us here. It has been amazing. I can’t thank Patrick enough for coming out and also Marc, an amazing addition to the team. It was just going to be the three of us and then Matt became available last week, we asked him if he wanted to come for a drive and the two older boys threw him in the fire and made him work. Thanks goes to all those guys and all the organisers, and especially McElrea Racing for all they did for us,” Calvert-Jones said.
#17 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 – third outright, second in Liqui-Moly GT3 Pro-Pro class
“We came here with a brand new car on Friday and we hadn’t even run it, so we lost a bit of time during qualifying and we just didn’t have the pace so we ended up 24th. To finish on the podium again is just amazing and the team did a really good job with strategy. Oliver was learning the car this weekend as it was his first time in the car in the dry and he did an amazing job and so did Guy – he is getting old but he still has the speed,” laughed Kane. “This is a really good result for the start of our season. We wanted to come here and go a bit better and finish first but it didn’t happen, but we are pleased with third.”
“I am pretty happy I have to say, this is an incredible place and I don’t think I have ever been in a race as brutal as that! I have been involved in a lot of endurance racing but I have never seen so much carnage within the first three or four hours of a race,” Jarvis said. “We had a game plan and that was simply to stay on the lead lap. We didn’t have a great run up to the race due a lot of issues with the brand new car but the team did a fantastic job. It didn’t stay issue free throughout the race, but coming out third is a great result and a credit to my team mates. We didn’t quite have the pace of the Ferrari boys next to me and congratulations goes to them – we will take the third and celebrate tonight.”
“We didn’t really have the pace so we were just trying to make sure we stayed on the track and the lead lap. We had a couple of issues throughout the race and ultimately we didn’t have the pace but if you had told us last night after qualifying 24th that we would be on the podium today we would have taken it all day long. We are very happy – the team did a fantastic job and congrats to all the guys here for a great race.”