Liam Lawson and Paul Stubbs have come from a lap down to claim a sublime victory in the inaugural 2KCUP Bathurst 6 Hour iRacing challenge.
In a classic Mount Panorama thriller, the race was only decided in the last ten minutes as drivers looked to run their Porsche GT4’s on empty in the closing stages.
With the chequered flag looming it initially seemed that the Crème Insurance entry of Mark Mallard and Callum Hedge were set to clinch an unlikely victory, but the duo were obliged to pit for a splash of fuel with five laps remaining.
Jamie Stovold and Hunter Larson were another pairing who relinquished the lead in the race’s final stages as they succumbed to thirsty needs of the fuel tank.
As such, the six-hour dual came down to a ten-minute flat-out sprint between Lawson and Toyota 86 regular Peter Vodanovich, though the latter would also be compelled into an undesired late pitstop.
It caps off an incredible race for Lawson and Stubbs who found themselves towards the back of the field at the midway distance after being tagged into a spin off a safety car restart.
The duo then scrapped back onto the lead lap and began to scythe their way through the field, executing a meticulous fuel strategy on route to memorable victory.
It could have been a far different fairy-tale however, as pole sitter Mathew Payne proved untouchable in the opening stages, maintaining a comfortable margin over the challenging pack before Taylor Cockerton found the concrete at the dipper, deploying the first of four safety car periods.
Payne’s lead was instantly nullified, and he subsequently lost first place when Lawson pulled off a wily move at turn one off the restart.
Another safety car was deployed 30-minutes later when the track become blocked at the dipper as multiple cars found trouble.
Most of the field, including Lawson, opted to pit under yellow to maintain the lead lap while utilising the benefit of fresh tyres, full tank of fuel and, for some, a new driver.
This ultimately put the field on differing fuel strategies and proved to be a pivotal moment on the race.
The safety car intervention also proved costly for Payne who stayed out on track and was consequently forced to stop under green flag conditions once the incident had been cleared.
Surprisingly, the race remained green for a considerable length, but a third safety car intervention was waved two hours into the race when Adam Garlick crash into the wall at Sky Line.
It wouldn’t be too long until we saw the field neutralised once more as another accident along the mountain saw the safety car brought back out onto the circuit.
Drama struck off the restart as Stubbs, who had taken over from Lawson, was tipped into a spin and sent to the rear of the field.
An almighty fightback beckoned for the two, but courtesy of consistent pace and shrewd racecraft it was inevitable that once Lawson got back behind the wheel that a challenge for the win was on the table.
And once Stovold made his final fuel stop, it become a two-horse race between Vodanovich, driving with Taylor Oakes, and Lawson.
But despite desperately searching in vain and several valiant attempts, Vodanovich was kept at bay and was eventually forced to pit with a few minutes left on the clock.
It left Lawson unchallenged in the lead as the clock ticked past 10 pm local time. Having completed 144 laps, the final margin between Lawson and Stovold was 6.8s.
Vodanovich’s last pitstop demoted him from the podium and into fourth meaning Hedge and Mallard rounded off the top three.
The trio of Sum Dunstall, Billy Frazer and Matt Mccutchen followed the second Crème Insurance car home in fifth.
The rest of the top ten was made up of Darryn Lobb, Matt Stevens, James Watson, Antal-Rafael Sabo and Phillip Worley.
The 2KCUP Sunday iRacing League will conclude its virtual series next weekend with a return to its usual format of two 33-minute races split across four grids.