History was made in October’s Bathurst 1000 with Richie Stanaway and Shane van Gisbergen becoming just the second all-Kiwi pairing to win the iconic race at Mount Panorama, following in the footsteps of Greg Murphy and Steven Richards in 1999.
In comparison to the chaos and close racing seen in the race over the decades, the 2023 edition was a relatively tame event, featuring only three cautions and a carefully executed drive and strategy that saw van Gisbergen and Stanaway take the crown by an impressive 19.96 seconds, the largest victory since Murphy and Richards’ 1999 success.
For van Gisbergen, it was the perfect sendoff to the famed venue, his third crown from the last four years, putting his name alongside the greats before his move to the United States.
For Stanaway, it was finally the opportunity to showcase his potential in the class following well-documented, difficult campaigns in 2018 and 2019 off the back of a European stint that saw him win GP3, GP2 and World Endurance Championship races. In 2019, he ultimately left the sport altogether, only returning in 2022 with Murphy in a wildcard entry.
It was known Stanaway could compete at the front, having won the 2017 Sandown 500 with Cam Waters, and his partnership with van Gisbergen presented the perfect opportunity for the 32-year-old to return to the top of the podium.
The duo entered the round with a strict focus on the race itself, compromising practice and qualifying speed to find the perfect setup once Sunday’s proceedings began. Despite this, van Gisbergen still qualified for the Top 10 Shootout in seventh on Friday before gaining an extra place on the grid in said run on Saturday to start the Great Race from sixth.
A drama-free start saw Stanaway make an immediate impact and move towards the front, handing over to his compatriot on the team’s first stop. A timely Saftey Car following Kevin Estre’s crash at Turn 1 put the Triple Eight Racing entry at the front, where he pulled a gap over teammate Broc Feeney to nearly three seconds when a second Safety Car was called after Dale Wood and Scott Pye came together entering pit straight.
Stanaway would retake control when the team boxed under caution, falling into second, only behind Brodie Kostecki, who he matched on pace off the restart as the duo pulled well clear of the field.
An impressive middle stint from van Gisbergen put the team at the front entering the final stages, building a 10-second buffer over his rival, who dropped to second as Broc Feeney made it a Red Bull one-two on the track in pit lane.
Feeney ate into the lead over the following laps and sat just four seconds behind, a tense finish threatening as the 20-year-old hunted down the veteran.
However, the curse of the mountain struck with a broken gear shift lever, heart-breakingly forcing him to the lane and costing the team a one-two finish on the series’ greatest stage.
It was the same issue that had impacted the Triple Eight wildcard of Craig Lowndes and Zane Goddard earlier in the race, and at the chequered flag, it was revealed the race winners had almost suffered a similar fate.
With his closest rival forced from contention, van Gisbergen cruised home for a comfortable 19.9626-second win over Kostecki and David Russell.
“I’m really going to miss this place and miss the fans, and it was an amazing experience on that podium,” van Gisbergen said following the race. “The team did a fantastic job. We were a little bit under the radar this week doing our race runs and just being methodical about our setup and tuning it as we went, and obviously, our race went pretty good.
“It was a pretty special moment for two Kiwis to be on the top step.”
Stanaway added, “It was obviously an incredible result today, and I couldn’t have asked for much better,” said Stanaway. “It’s been incredible to be a part of this team.
“I’ve always known Supercars has been such a team sport, but I hadn’t really learnt the true meaning of it until I joined Red Bull Ampol Racing and saw it from the inside. It’s been truly incredible to be a part of it.
“When I signed the contract to drive with Shane and the team about 11 months ago, I knew we’d have a good chance of getting these results, but with such a big tough race like this, you never know – anything can happen. I’m just really happy that we got the win today.”
Stanaway returns to the sport full-time in 2024, joining Grove Racing, where he’ll team up with compatriot Matt Payne. With his performance in the 2023 Bathurst 1000, there’s no telling what the season could bring.
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