With the Repco Bathurst 1000 crossing the halfway mark, the Tickford Racing combination of Cameron Waters and James Moffat holds the effective race lead by with Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander second right behind them, and Anton De Pasquale/Tony D’Alberto third … all three co-drivers behind the wheel.
Chaz Mostert and Lee Holdsworth have been the dominant force for most of the race. But, a tyre failure between their second and scheduled third pit-stop dropped them down the order. The duo are now in recovery mode, holding the race lead at the minute but being out of synch with the rest of the leaders. Once they make their next stop, they’re expected to slot in around fifth position.
For the moment, Brodie Kostecki/David Russell hold fourth on corrected, ahead of Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes, and Bryce Fullwood/Warren Luff.
Most of the lead pack had their co-drivers at the helm for the first stint, but there were a handful of main drivers in play. These included Tim Slade, provisional polesitter Will Brown, and Bryce Fullwood.
D’Alberto won the run off the line to slot ahead of Holdsworth. The best starter was Tander, rising from the third row to be second, with Moffat the poorest starter, falling from third to ninth.
Holdsworth, wanting to showcase the pace he had in practice, dived inside D’Alberto at the Chase to take the lead at the end of the lap, with Tander following him a few corners later. By the end of lap one, Holdsworth led Tander, D’Alberto, Alex Davison, Slade, Dale Wood, Zak Best, Russell, Moffat, and Fullwood.
The Dewalt Team18 Commodore with James Golding at the wheel. Brake problems saw the former full-timer go off at the Chase at the end of lap two, with the team losing several laps in pit-lane during repairs.
Holdsworth’s excellent pace and Tander’s solid chase pace meant a fragmented top 10, harming the efforts of those with main drivers behind the wheel. By lap six Holdsworth led by over six seconds, with Tander another second ahead of D’Alberto. With Slade dispatching Davison for fourth, a train began to form behind car No. 17.
Moffat and Fullwood surrendered their spots in the top 10 on lap 10 after they both dribbled off the road at the Chase; Fullwood having made a late lunge and Moffat locking a tyre. Both ran wide, allowing Brown to slot into ninth and Broc Feeney into 10th. It was an impressive opening phase for Feeney, having passed both Lowndes and Mark Winterbottom.
The first of the scheduled pit-stops began on lap 13 with Jayden Ojeda, with Mark Winterbottom, Luke Youlden, and Garry Jacobson, coming in a lap later, and then David Russell becoming the first in the top 10 to stop on lap 15, and Moffat stopping on lap 16.
Lap 17 saw the first safety car deployment for the beached Boost Mustang of Thomas Randle. He went off at turn one through the sand trap, making a mistake all by himself. This triggered a series of pit-stops among the leaders, led by Holdsworth and Tander. The second Shell Mustang, Red Bull Commodore, and Erebus Commodore had to double stack, pushing them down the order.
When the dust settled Holdsworth kept the lead, with Tander second, and D’Alberto third. Tim Blanchard took over from Slade to be fourth, ahead of Brodie Kostecki, Wood, Jack Perkins, Warren Luff, Cameron Waters, and Michael Caruso in 10th. Whincup was 11th, his time ‘double stacked’ being relatively minor. It was the opposite from Alex Davison, who dropped from fifth to 17th.
Waters was on a mission from the go, diving inside Luff at the Chase to get ninth. A lap later he had also got past Perkins. A raft of newly installed full-timers were on the move. Whincup had passed Luff to progress to ninth on lap 20, with Brodie Kostecki getting past D’Alberto for third on the same lap.
By lap 21, Holdsworth had a 3.7-second margin, with Tander another two seconds ahead of Kostecki. D’Alberto, Blanchard, Wood, Whincup, Perkins, Luff, and Caruso were the top 10. Whincup got by Wood the following lap at the Chase, as he continued to recover from missing the top 10. The pass triggered a brief scary moment; Wood falling into the clutches of Perkins, Luff, and Caruso. The foursome ran two-by-two up mountain straight, but somehow avoided chaos at Griffins Bend.
Lap 29 saw tell-tale smoke emerge from Perkins, prompting an unscheduled pit-stop and removing them from the lead pack. The provisional polesitting entry was brought straight into the lane for a full power-steering system replacement. Lightning appeared to have struck twice for Erebus, with Kostecki reporting from the other side of the garage that he was experiencing brake problems.
While things appeared to remedy for Kostecki, Perkins’ issues left a bit of oil spread across the top of the mountain. Kostecki’s seemingly addressed dramas saw him become the first of the leaders to make a second stop on lap 33, his team performing a brake rotor and pad change. A number of other notable entries pitted over the following laps, with Will Davison taking over car No. 17 on lap 36.
The following lap saw Holdsworth peel out of the lead to finally hand over car No 25 to polesitter Mostert, with their pit-stop going seamlessly. Waters and Caruso also stopped on the same lap. It had been a relatively short run of just 20 laps since the last pit-stop, prompting questions on fuel economy among the other front-runners. Whincup and Blanchard pitted on lap 38.
Tander and D’Alberto, having been able to stay out a few laps longer than others, stopped on lap 40, simultaneously handing their respective cars to van Gisbergen and De Pasquale for the first time. With the second stanza of stops resolved, Mostert led Waters by 10 seconds, who led Kostecki by three seconds. van Gisbergen, De Pasquale, Whincup, Blanchard, David Reynolds, Nick Percat, and Luff rounded out the lap 10 with 40 laps complete.
Van Gisbergen’s progress encountered dramas on lap 47, with the Kiwi’s digital read-out had disappeared, meaning less information for the Kiwi to use while on the go. But his dramas paled in significance to those that would befall Mostert in the leading car. On lap 49 the leader’s left-rear tyre would puncture. Mostert had to slow significantly, nursing his car all the way down to pit-lane for new rubber and dropping him down to 12th and still on the lead lap.
On-board vision appeared to indicate a tyre failure, with opinion split over whether it was caused by debris or excessive camber.
The new leader was Waters, with Kostecki now second (4.6-seconds behind) ahead of van Gisbergen, De Pasquale, Whincup, and Blanchard. Although this would soon change with the third wave of stops. Kostecki and De Pasquale were the first leaders to come in on lap 54, with Waters peeling off from first at the end of lap 56.
Predictably the Red Bull entries ran longer stints than the rest, perhaps an indication of better fuel economy. Mostert was making moves too, progressing up to third by lap 59, although he was off sequence with the other leaders. Van Gisbergen finally made his stop on lap 63, handing over to Tander for the next stint and performing a brake rotor change.
The stop handed the lead back to Mostert, who persevered at the front with incredible pace. He finally stopped on lap 70, handing over to Holdsworth and dropping back to a more representative position. This purified the order again; Moffat leading Tander by six seconds, with Russell, De Pasquale, and Lowndes fifth. Holdsworth was sixth, indicating that Mostert’s credible sub-stint following the puncture had gained them six spots.
Will Davison, Slade, Fullwood, and Youlden filled the top 10. Youlden had sat in seventh, but lost three spots in quick succession after initially holding up a strong defense to Slade. The main loser from that central stint was the entry of Percat and Wood. With the latter now in the car, they were down to 12th behind Matt Campbell.
Still recovering from their early double-stack, the Davison brothers were the earliest to make their fourth scheduled pit-stop on lap 73, with Alex Davison hopping back behind the wheel. Russell stopped a few laps later, surrendering fourth position. Youlden, Macauley Jones, and the Kostecki brothers Matt Stone Racing entry were among the next to stop as the leaders pressed on.
Moffat surrendered the lead on lap 77, handing it to the two Red Bull entries. Whincup followed on lap 80, with car No. 888 last to make its stop. He finally stopped on the end of lap 82. Although he had completed his minimum laps, he stayed in the car. This somewhat cured the order once again, although again Holdsworth stayed out for much longer out of synch with the rest of the pack.
Behind him, Moffat led Tander by just a second, with D’Alberto another 12 seconds behind. Russell, Lowndes, Luff, Blanchard, Alex Davison, Campbell, and Percat complete the current corrected top 10, with Mostert and Holdsworth expected to slot in around fifth position.