The final laps of the Bathurst 1000 have been rocked by safety car madness that has sent shockwaves through the field.
Australia’s greatest motorsport race is nearing the finish line and is continuing to deliver all the drama Mt Panorama always provides.
Chaz Mostert and his rollercoaster comeback from the brink of disaster has been the biggest story of the day after he suffered a tyre explosion.
He was also at the centre of the drama at the death of the great race when he pitted early to catch rivals Shane van Gisbergen, Cam Waters and Jamie Whincup on the hop.
By the time his rivals rejoined the race with 22 laps remaining, Mostert had opened up a five second buffer.
That was then reduced to dust after a safety car was triggered when Anton De Pasquale was forced to park his car at the top of the mountain after suffering a technical failure.
Stream every practice, qualifier & race of the 2021 Repco Bathurst 1000 Live & On-Demand on Kayo with no ad-breaks during racing. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
With the safety car still controlling the field with 20 laps to go, the leaderboard was: Chaz Mostert, Shane van Gisbergen, Cam Waters, Brodie Kostecki, Jamie Whincup, Bryce Fullwood, Nick Percat, James Courtney and Broc Feeney.
“It’s on,” Supercars commentator Neil Crompton said.
“My goodness me.”
Mostert opened up a one-second lead on van Gisbergen in the next two laps, but yet another safety car was forced out when Feeney went into the wall with just 18 laps remaining.
Earlier, Mostert assumed the race lead with 30 laps left to go after the sight of an echidna waddling across the track triggered three yellow flag safety cars in quick succession.
Echidna drama causes pandemonium
The race was yellow flagged and a safety car was deployed after it first emerged the little critter was crossing to the far side of the track.
Several drivers came terrifyingly close to making contact.
However, fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the echidna made it to the wall and was picked up by a safety marshall.
“In my experience we’ve seen kangaroos, we’ve seen horses, we’ve seen trees and water and bits of cars. We have never seen an echidna,” Supercars legend Mark Skaife said.
“This place is just madness”.
The monotreme triggered pit stop madness as cars came into the pits to take advantage of the safety car.
When the race resumed on Lap 109, race leader Mostert had slotted into second spot behind Shane van Gisbergen. Jamie Whincup was third.
Mostert goes berserk after day almost blown up
Mostert’s day appeared to be blown to pieces after a tyre deflation that saw him plummet down the leaderboard.
Mostert had been racing in clean air as the race leader when he suffered a tyre failure on Lap 50.
His team said after he had been forced into the pits that the tyre issue was the result of debris forcing a puncture to his left rear tyre.
Mostert rejoined the race in 12th with Cam Waters taking the race lead.
The live TV broadcast showed how ripped up the tyre was.
“Oh, my God! This is such a cruel race, isn’t it,” Supercars legend Mark Skaife said on Fox Sports.
Neil Crompton responded with: “He’s in a real pile of trouble”.
That was only the beginning of Mostert’s drama.
In an insane stint at the wheel, Mostert went berserk to swallow up almost half the field in the space of 15 laps.
Mostert set the fastest lap of the race to re-take the lead as rivals Cam Waters and Anton De Pasquale came into the pits for a third time.
Mostert’s lead was out to more than 28 seconds after 70 laps.
Skaife described Mostert’s Holden as a “rocket”.
“He’s actually back to having the same lead as he had before he had the tyre issue. Extraordinary,” he said.
“Just unbelievable pace.”
However, the tyre drama left the Holden team on a different pit stop strategy to its rivals and mystery surrounds how the car’s tyres and fuel load will look at the end of the race.
Here’s what the leaderboard looked like with 70 laps left.
Earlier, there was some jostling on the opening lap with cars making contact in the opening corners as they raced wheel to wheel.
James Moffat suffered a, early nightmare when he dropped six spots before the lead drivers had even climbed to the top of the mountain for the first time.
It came after there was a scary crash in the support categories with two drivers spinning off the track at 270km/h.
Mostert’s co-driver Lee Holdsworth regained the lead following the opening pit stops.
Big drama as safety car called out
There have been mass pit stops following the first safety car of the race.
Just a few laps after James Moffat and Bryce Fullwood went into the gravel after coming into the chase too hot, Thomas Randle missed the first turn coming from pit straight and thumped into the wall.
Randle was parked in the heavy sand, forcing the first safety car of the race.
As a result of the stops, Lee Holdsworth re-gained the race lead ahead of Garth Tander and Tony D’Alberto.
The frenzy of pit stops turned the race “crazy”, according to the Supercars’ official Twitter handle.
Drivers disqualified pre-race
Usually held in October, the Bathurst 1000 has been pushed back a couple of months due to the effect Covid-19 has had on the Supercars schedule.
Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen has already secured his second Supercars championship, but he’ll be looking to end the year on a high, while his Red Bull teammate Jamie Whincup is desperate for one last triumph at the iconic Mount Panorama circuit before he retires.
Mostert started from pole position after breaking the lap record during Saturday’s Top 10 Shootout.
Mostert drove his Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden Commodore ZB around the Mount Panorama circuit in 2:03.373 seconds to beat the previous fastest lap time of 2:03.481sec set by Scott McLaughlin in 2019.
“I don’t even know what words (to say),” he said after his record-breaking lap.
“It was just so fun.”
Meanwhile, young guns Will Brown and Brodie Kostecki were disqualified from the top-10 shootout overnight for having underweight doors.
“Erebus Motorsport is disappointed to hear the news that after being reviewed by the stewards at Bathurst today, they have been disqualified from this afternoon’s top ten shootout,” Erebus said in a statement.
“After thorough inspection it was found that although the overall can weights were by the book, doors on both the Erebus Holdens were underweight.
“It is a small oversight and honest mistake by the crew who have worked tirelessly for six weeks to ensure they represented the team, its partners, and their fans well.”
Bathurst 1000 starting grid
1) #25 Mobil 1 Appliances Online Racing
Chaz Mostert/Lee Holdsworth, Holden Commodore ZB
2) #11 Shell V-Power Racing Team
Anton De Pasquale/Tony D’Alberto, Ford Mustang GT
3) #6 Monster Energy Racing
Cameron Waters/James Moffat, Ford Mustang GT
4) #3 CoolDrive Racing
Tim Slade/Tim Blanchard, Ford Mustang GT
5) #888 Red Bull Ampol Racing
Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander, Holden Commodore ZB
6) #17 Shell V-Power Racing Team
Will Davison/Alex Davison, Ford Mustang GT
7) #8 R&J Batteries Racing
Nick Percat/Dale Wood, Holden Commodore ZB
8) #5 Truck Assist Racing
Jack Le Brocq/Zak Best, Ford Mustang GT
9) #9 Erebus Motorsport
Will Brown/Jack Perkins, Holden Commodore ZB
10) #99 Boost Mobile Erebus Motorsport
Brodie Kostecki/David Russell, Holden Commodore ZB
11) #88 Red Bull Ampol Racing
Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes, Holden Commodore ZB
12) #2 Mobil 1 Middy’s Racing
Bryce Fullwood/Warren Luff, Holden Commodore ZB
13) #20 DEWALT Racing
Scott Pye/James Golding, Holden Commodore ZB
14) #18 IRWIN Racing
Mark Winterbottom/Michael Caruso, Holden Commodore ZB
15) #39 Supercheap Auto Racing
Broc Feeney/Russell Ingall, Holden Commodore ZB
16) #44 Boost Mobile Racing
James Courtney/Thomas Randle, Ford Mustang GT
17) #7 NED Whisky Racing
Andre Heimgartner/Matt Campbell, Ford Mustang GT
18) #14 Cub Cadet Mowers
Todd Hazelwood/Dean Fiore, Holden Commodore ZB
19) #26 Penrite Racing
David Reynolds/Luke Youlden, Ford Mustang GT
20) #19 Local Legends Racing
Fabian Coulthard/Jonathon Webb, Holden Commodore ZB
21) #34 UNIT Racing
Jake Kostecki/Kurt Kostecki, Holden Commodore ZB
22) #96 Coca-Cola Racing
Macauley Jones/Chris Pither, Holden Commodore ZB
23) #35 Yellow Cover Racing
Zane Goddard/Jayden Ojeda, Holden Commodore ZB
24) #4 SCT Logistics Racing
Jack Smith/David Wall, Holden Commodore ZB
25) #22 Team Sydney
Garry Jacobson/Dylan O‘Keeffe, Holden Commodore ZB
Bathurst 1000 recent winners
2020 – Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander (Holden)
2019 – Scott McLaughlin/Alexandre Premat (Ford)
2018 – Craig Lowndes/Steven Richards (Holden)
2017 – David Reynolds/Luke Youlden (Holden)
2016 – Will Davison/Jonathon Webb (Holden)
2015 – Craig Lowndes/Steven Richards (Holden)
2014 – Chaz Mostert/Paul Morris (Ford)
2013 – Mark Winterbottom/Steven Richards (Ford)
2012 – Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell (Holden)
2011 – Garth Tander/Nick Percat (Holden)
2010 – Craig Lowndes/Mark Skaife (Holden)
2009 – Garth Tander/Will Davison (Holden)
– with Matthew Sullivan