Mark Winterbottom suffered a lot off pressure, but doing no mistake led him to a Bathurst 1000 victory.
Mark Winterbottom has never felt pressure like it. The cynics expected him, or the team, to break at some point, make a mistake. He didn't. Nor did the team.
A next to faultless 161 laps over more than six and a half hours around Mount Panorama won Winterbottom his first Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. It was also his first podium. For his co-driver Steve Richards, who was equally exemplary behind the wheel, it was his third Bathurst crown.
It was redemption for Winterbottom and his Pepsi Max Crew FPR team who have come to Bathurst so many times, only for things to mostly go horribly wrong. Not this time. They fended off Red Bull Racing Australia's Whincup, and Paul Dumbrell, as well as RBRA's Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff.
Also in the mix at the end was Team BOCs Jason Bright (Andrew Jones) Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander (Nick Percat) with the hardest luck story of the day the second HRT pair of James Courtney and Greg Murphy.
Many would say that Winterbottom came of age today. He absorbed incredible physical and mental pressure in the last 30 laps at one of the world's most daunting arenas in fending away arch-rival Jamie Whincup.
"I have been trying so hard," an emotional Winterbottom said.
"For 10 years I've been coming here. Actually four years old was my first trip to the mountain. I just wanted to hold that trophy at some stage. To finally win it, the battle at the end, the way we did it, to do it with Richo and to do it with FPR is just amazing. I am speechless almost.
"The reception on that podium was just ridiculous. It is going to sink in later I am sure. The whole team worked hard, we have been written off a few times but what a way to fight back. This is amazing."
Winterbottom said the feeling of redemption was a great weight off his shoulders.
"What is at stake it's such a big prize," Winterbottom said.
"There have been points throughout your career - whether it be go karts, getting a scholarship to get into Ford, there's been some big moments but nothing as big as this.
"To cross that line to do it with this team, and with Richo as well, to hear the FPR chant on the podium, I've never heard that before.
"We've been kicked a bit but we've worked hard. The guys in the workshop they don't just sit there and cop it on the chin, they go and work harder."
Richards was a rock in the car, but perhaps not out of it in the closing stages as he watched on.
"I couldn't be happier to win it with Frosty. If you talk in terms of the three, then this is the best. I know the trials, tribulations and the great success we have had. This just chalks one of those big ones off the board. It means a lot," said Richards.
After three quarters of the race it came down to a battle of the heavyweights. Ford versus Holden. It was gripping. Lowndes was flying, Tander was flying, Winterbottom holding on for his life.
Whincup tailed Winterbottom exerting maximum pressure. He had one big lunge with a handful of laps to go but failed, Winterbottom not putting a foot wrong.
"I thought I may as well have a crack. That's what Bathurst is all about," Whincup said.
"It's the biggest race of the year. I prefer to be in the fence having a go than just run second. I had a good go but Mark drove really well. I am happy I had a go; and happy we both played a straight bat. It was all fair deal.
"It would have been so easy for one of us to make a mistake and stick it in. He hung it on the line for 30 laps and never really made a mistake that cost him the lead so he deserved it.
"We got beaten by a class act today. I'm happy, I did everything I could."
A devastated Murphy took the blame for the crash that has eliminated the front-running Holden Racing Team Commodore VF from the race.
The four-time Bathurst winner lost the rear-end of the Holden as he rounded the right-hand turn heading into Reid Park. The impact into the concrete wall at 135km/h destroyed the right-front suspension of the car.
"I don't know what happened, I either turned in too late or a bit too aggressively," Murphy said. "It was weird. I had had moments on other parts of the track today, but not there.
"It completely caught me by surprise. I lost the rear and as soon as it got in the marbles it was gone. I wasn't going to collect it from there."
Murphy suffered no serious injury in the crash, which was the second notable one of the race after David Russell collected a kangaroo in the Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima he was sharing with Todd Kelly on lap 21.
The Courtney/Murphy Commodore qualified fifth for the Great Race and was shaping as a rostrum player when the accident happened on lap 87.
Behind Lowndes and Luff were Tander/ Percat, Reynolds/Dean Canto, Scott Pye/Paul Morris, Will Davison/Steve Owen, Scott McLaughlin/Jack Perkins and Shane van Gisbergen/Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Others to note include Xbox One wildcard international drivers Andy Priaulx/Mattias Ekstrom in 11th, Lee Holdsworth/Craig Baird - yet again the highest placed Mercedes-Benz in an enduro in 14th, and James Moffat/Taz Douglas the first Nissan home in 18th.
Whincup continues to lead the Championship from Lowndes, Winterbottom improves to third ahead of teammate Will Davison, and Fabian Coulthard - despite finishing 16th - jumps up to fifth.
Faith pays off for Bright at Bathurst
Nissan Motorsport takes double top 20 at Bathurst 1000
About this article
|Drivers||Scott Pye , James Courtney , Shane van Gisbergen , Scott McLaughlin , Andy Priaulx , Jeroen Bleekemolen , Jamie Whincup , Craig Lowndes , Todd Kelly , Will Davison , Mattias Ekström , Taz Douglas , Garth Tander , Mark Winterbottom , Lee Holdsworth , Craig Baird , Nick Percat , Fabian Coulthard , Warren Luff , Jason Bright , David Russell , Greg Murphy , Andrew Jones , Dean Canto , Paul Morris , Steve Owen , Paul Dumbrell , Jack Perkins , Steve Richards , James Moffat|
|Teams||Red Bull Racing , Nissan Motorsport , Holden Racing Team|