Australian young guns Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna won a thrilling Bathurst 1000 touring car race at Mount Panorama on Sunday, taking the lead in the dying stages of a race which took seven and a half hours to complete
The Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden Commodore duo inherited the lead of a dramatic wet-dry race with 10 laps to go when the unfortunate David Besnard hit the wall while avoiding an errant lapped car.
Besnard, driving in his debut Bathurst with veteran Tony Longhurst, looked as though he was holding his own against Tander and was more than five seconds ahead when the incident happened. As Adam Macrow hit the wall at the Dipper, Besnard was left with nowhere to go and lost his right front wheel as he in turn clouted the concrete with his Stone Brothers Racing Ford Falcon.
That gave Tander a 6.6s advantage over a charging Paul Radisich, who had stormed back up the order after the Dick Johnson Racing Ford squad called him and team-mate Steven Johnson in relatively late for their penultimate pit stop. That proved to be the wrong call, although the DJR boys got their sums right in subsequently calling the duo in early to change onto slick tyres at their final stop.
Radisich, his car set up for wetter conditions, carved into Tander's lead and got the gap down to 3.2s with six laps to go, but the Western Australian stepped up the pace and pulled away from the Kiwi once more as Radisich's rear tyres overheated.
"I just drove the wheels of the car," said Radisich, "but Garth picked his pace up. Because the car was set up for the wet the rear end was very soggy - that wore the tyres and I didn't have enough to zero in on him."
Tander, who relaxed his speed on the final lap, said: "The team did a great job. The car was awesome in the wet and good in the dry."
Works Holden star Mark Skaife picked up the Australian Touring Car title from Tander after finishing sixth with Craig Lowndes. That was despite an incident triggered by the lapped Matt Neal, who caused works Ford driver Neil Crompton to swerve into Skaife's path. Shortly after Skaife's tyre blew out, putting him a lap down, but he moved back onto the lead lap when Alain Menu spun his Ford off the road at the Chase chicane. Menu and co-driver Mark Larkham had been looking good for a rostrum finish until the car lost two laps in the pits with a broken power-steering O-ring.
Jason Plato and Yvan Muller took the final top 10 spot, despite two spins from the Englishman and one from the Frenchman. John Cleland went well, but co-driver Rodney Forbes spun twice, the second time with terminal results.
For Plato's own account of the Great Race, click HERE.
1 Garth Tander/Jason Bargwanna (Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden Commodore) 7h23m30.2348s 2 Paul Radisich/Jason Bright (Dick Johnson Racing Ford Falcon) +2.4s 3 Steven Richards/Greg Murphy (Kmart Racing Holden Commodore) +5.1s 4 Steven Johnson/Cameron McLean (Dick Johnson Racing Ford Falcon) +5.7s 5 Nathan Pretty/Todd Kelly (Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore) +25.7s 6 Craig Lowndes/Mark Skaife (Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore) +59.5s 7 Craig Baird/Simon Wills (Stone Brothers Racing Ford Falcon) +1m15.8s 8 Dugal McDougall/Andrew Miedecke (Perkins Motorsport Holden Commodore) +2m06.2s 9 David 'Truckie' Parsons/Darren Hossack (Kmart Racing Holden Commodore) +2m16.4s 10 Jason Plato/Yvan Muller (Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore) -2 laps
12 Paul Morris/Matt Neal (Nemo Racing Holden Commodore) -3 laps 18 Mark Larkham/Alain Menu (Mark Larkham Motorsport Ford Falcon) -7 laps DNF Rodney Forbes/John Cleland (Wynns Racing Holden Commodore) -83 laps
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