It took only a moment for the Toll Holden Racing Team's Bathurst dream to become a nightmare, and it came in the opening seconds of the 161-lap, six-hour marathon.
Garth Tander's hard-won pole position turned to dead last before the first corner, courtesy of a slipping clutch that saw the pre-race points leader creep on the start-line then stall as the Supercheap Auto 1000 got underway.
Even after the entire field had somehow negotiated the stricken red-and-white Holden, avoiding a repeat of the pair's exit the first time they shared a car back in 2006, insult was added to injury when Tander and co-driver Mark Skaife were handed a ten-second stop-go penalty for the jump start.
The punishment was served at the team's first pit-stop, and the pair put a brave face on the mishap and soldiered on, putting themselves back into contention before Skaife brushed a wall after locking a brake at Forrest Elbow.
The five-time V8 Supercar champion was holding down third position, and dicing with eventual winner Craig Lowndes when, on lap 104, he ran wide and grazed the wall. Although the impact wasn't race-ending, as it had been for many others over the weekend, Skaife had to limp back to the pits for attention to the front end of the #1 car, notably to the splitter, which has taken the brunt of the collision.
“It was just the worst day for us, from the start to the ten-second penalty in the pit-stop..." Skaife reflected, "Then we had a tyre delaminate, so we were on the back foot all day.
"We got to the point of the race where I had to press on - and I was pressing on hard - but I caught a right front [brake] on the approach to Forrest Elbow, couldn't slow it down, then locked the left front, ran wide and caught the fence. It was my mistake, and summed up just one of those crappy days - sometimes you get away with those, sometimes not.”
Having been specially liveried to celebrate Holden's 60th anniversary, the #1 eventually returned to the track swaddled in tape, and the subsequent loss in aerodynamic performance and downforce saw Skaife and Tander slip back to finish twelfth, with Tander surrendering his championship lead to eventual race winner Jamie Whincup in the process.
“It was a very disappointing result seeing we'd fought back so well to get us in the position where were effectively leading on track with the same pit strategy as everyone else," the reigning champion sighed, "The car was very, very good and got better all day - as we expected it would. The final result wasn't what we'd planned and certainly hurt our final result. It's hurt us championship-wise – we've still got four races to go but I'd rather be leading.”
Tander now trails Whincup by 82 points, with Mark Winterbottom also edging ahead of the HRT man after taking fourth at Bathurst, heading to Surfers Paradise in two weeks' time.