Shane van Gisbergen and Richie Stanaway have lauded a perfect Bathurst weekend where they became the second all-Kiwi pairing to claim Great Race honours in its 60-year history.
Despite having qualified sixth, van Gisbergen and Stanaway have repeatedly reinforced that the results of the previous three days of action counted for little and that they were instead focussing on building the perfect race car.
It’s fair to say the results spoke for themselves, with van Gisbergen bringing the car home over 20 seconds clear of the field.
“What an awesome day,” said van Gisbergen following the race. “Richie drove awesome, and it’s been so cool to have him a part of the team and a part of this experience this year.”
The 2023 Bathurst 1000 is the three-time Supercars champion’s last as a full-time driver, given his impending move to NASCAR next year. He has indicated he would be interested in doing the race as a co-driver; however, NASCAR’s recently released 2024 calendar may make that difficult, given there are several Road Course events in Bathurst’s traditional time frame.
“I’m really going to miss this place and miss the fans, and it was an amazing experience on that podium,” he adds. “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.”
The victory for Stanaway was his first on the iconic Mount Panorama circuit. The 31-year-old two-time GP2 race-winner was ecstatic with the win, having only returned to the sport in a wildcard entry with Greg Murphy in 2022 after walking away at the end of 2019.
“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 was overlooked by Red Bull Ampol Racing’s vacant seat following van Gisbergen’s forthcoming departure but has since signed with Ford outfit Grove Racing.
It was a contrast of fortunes for the teammates of the #97 Camaro, driven by Broc Feeney and Jamie Whincup. Feeney was sitting second, only four seconds behind van Gisbergen, ahead of the final round of stops but was dealt a cruel blow when their gear lever mount failed, forcing them from the track and out of contention.
Despite the unlucky circumstances, Triple Eight Team Principal Whincup says the squad will walk away from the event with their heads held high, given the result.
“I’ve always said this place is about the effort, and I couldn’t be happier with everyone’s effort this weekend,” he said. “What you don’t see from the outside is the grind that goes on for a full month before this event, let alone the huge week we embark on, but everyone played their role and did a phenomenal job.
“To have two cars in contention for a podium, if not a one-two, is just a true credit to everybody. It didn’t go our way for #88, and I’m gutted for Broc and the #88 team because they deserved more after the fantastic week they had, but as a team, we won the Bathurst 1000, so we should still hold our heads very, very high.
“To win this race is not about having the quickest car. It’s about all the one-percenters and all the attention to detail to make this a great team. It’s pretty special to win 10 Bathurst 1000s in 20 years. To come to this great race that’s so easy to lose and to win 50 per cent of the time is massive, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Feeney was left devastated following the failure, having begun to slowly eat into his teammate’s lead with a slightly slower final stop for fuel on the cards. He did, however, stick around to witness van Gisbergen and Stanaway make history.
“I’m pretty gutted to finish the race in the pits,” said Feeney. “Everyone in the team has done a fantastic job this week, and everyone should hold their heads very high.
“For #97 to get the win was fantastic, and although it’s not the one-two we were hoping for, everyone should be very proud of what they did this weekend.”
Van Gisbergen now sits just 131 points behind Brodie Kostecki in the championship standings, with only the Gold Coast 500 and Adelaide 500 still to run.