V8 » 12 October 2008
Bathurst 1000: Vodafone duo dial up hat-trick.
Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup became the first combination in 24 years to score a hat-trick of wins at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 when they completed a third straight win at Mount Panorama for TeamVodafone.
Despite starting from the third row of the grid after being bumped back in Saturday's Top Ten Shoot-out, the duo dominated, leading for most of the day and holding control throughout several safety car periods that punctuated the last 20 laps. Only two other combinations have ever won three times on the trot at Mount Panorama, and the Lowndes' mentor, the late Peter Brock, featured in both - with Jim Richards between 1978-80 and with Larry Perkins between 1982-84.
“It's great to get your name on this [Peter Brock] trophy once, but three times is just awesome,” Lowndes said, “It's been a really clean weekend for us, and three years in a row.... I can't believe it. It's amazing.”
Whincup was complimentary of his team-mate, who held off all challengers in the final stint to become a four-time race winner
“We had a great strategy and this bloke standing beside me absolutely nailed the last sector every time,” Whincup said, “To win in 2006 was an amazing day. Last year was even more special, but to win the biggest race three times in a row is pretty special.”
Whincup also said that the team had had a superb strategy with pit-stops and fuel, and had managed to avoid the tyre degradation that affected a number of teams, while the victory went some way to making up for his disappointment at Phillip Island, when he blamed himself for a driving error that may have cost the #888 Ford victory in the first of the season's two endurance races.
“To throw it away with ten laps to go was disappointing, but this over-weighs all that," he smiled, "It goes to show you need to keep fighting to the end.”
Lowndes and Whincup finished two-and-a-half second clear of a reborn Sprint Gas Racing pairing of Jason Richards and Greg Murphy, the latter continuing his love affair with Mount Panorama after four wins of his own, while James Courtney starred in the final few laps to take advantage of the tiring tyres under Steven Richards' Ford Performance Racing Falcon to grab the last spot on the podium for himself and Jeld-Wen Ford team-mate Davis Besnard.
There was drama at the start when polesitter Garth Tander jumped the lights and then stalled, thankfully being avoided by the rest of the grid before being slapped with a stop-go penalty that pushed the Toll Holden Racing Team to the rear of the field.
From there, however, Tander and veteran team-mate Mark Skaife worked their way back into the top ten before a series of offs - most coming as the result of Skaife finding the wall and badly damaging the frontal aerodynamics of the #1 Commodore - saw the car drop back to twelfth and, in turn, hand Tander's championship lead back to Whincup.
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