A tough weekend at Bathurst ended with a disappoint result for the HSV Dealer Team after its sole remaining car ran into early problems in the Supercheap Autos 1000 and spent the rest of the weekend playing catch-up.
After losing the # 15 Holden when Paul Radisich crashed heavily in Saturday morning practice, the team was happy to secure fourth on the grid with the revised #16 partnership of Paul Dumbrell and Rick Kelly - the latter having swapped teams to replace the poorly David Reynolds - but things did not continue in such a positive vein in Sunday's race.
Former series champion Kelly got off to a flying start, picking up two positions on the first lap to sit second but, by lap two, the Autobarn car started to suffer mechanical dramas and hade slipped back to ninth by lap nine. Pitting for fuel five laps later, the team had the chance to inspect the problems, but later suffered a penalty for having too many mechanics in pit-lane, forcing Kelly to return and serve a drive-thru'.
To make matters worse, the problems had not been traced and, on lap 23, the HSVDT Commodore pitted again and, this time, went straight into the garage for a more extensive examination.
“Our primary focus coming into this event was obviously not the championship, but giving ourselves the best chance to win Bathurst," Kelly sighed, "We head to a place like this to have a bit of fun and to try and win the race, so to see Paul get injured and airlifted out of the track is a tough one for all the team.
"We take a lot of pride in preparing our cars and, when something like that happens, it's a real bummer. Everyone in the team was a bit down from that moment onwards, although I got thrown a lifeline to jump in with PD. It just wasn't to be I guess."
Some 34 laps later and following a driver change, the addition of more fuel and a tyre change, the car eventually returned to the track, with Dumbrell and Kelly pressing on for the remainder of the race without much hope of a reward beyond useful points for their respective championship campaigns. In all the team made eight stops during the six-hour 161-lap event and, without a high rate of attrition elsewhere, had to be content with 20th place, the last of the classified finishers.
“It has been an up-and-down weekend for us all, with Paul injuring himself and Dave missing out today," Dumbrell reflected, "The ups were qualifying eighth - and then fourth in the Shoot-out - so we had all the momentum there but, unfortunately, those small mechanical dramas at the start of the race put us back.
“It is hard to maintain your concentration and focus when you are that far down but, at the end of the day, we are here to do a job, and we still managed to get 90 points, so I guess that is the best result of the weekend."