Craig Lowndes was a popular if unexpected winner of the 2018 Bathurst 1000 after a dramatic an emotional day at Mount Panorama.
It was also a fairytale victory in what was Lowndes’ last start in the race as a full time driver.
But there was heartbreak for David Reynolds, who was forced to withdraw late in the race due to severe cramping – while holding a solid lead over Lowndes.
Off pole position Reynolds and Erebus Commodore co-driver Luke Youlden looked the combination to beat all day. Not only did they enjoy a pace advantage, with Reynolds setting the fastest lap of the race, but in the crucial second last round of fuel stops Reynolds was able to run two full laps longer than his opponents.
The combination of better fuel consumption and pace usually makes for an unbeatable combo at Bathurst – and surely it would have been exactly that had Reynolds’ cramping drama not intervened.
“I am so, so devastated," a barely consolable Reynolds said. "We had the fastest car all day. My leg was cramping big time. When Lowndes passed me, I was 50 per cent throttle, I couldn’t tell whether I was on the brake or the throttle. I have never had anything like that before in anything I have ever driven. It was bizarre.
“Even the first 15 laps (of the last stint) I wasn’t mentally there. I was lost. My body gave up after that. I am just so disappointed for everyone involved. I just can’t believe it.”
With Reynolds eventually handing over to Youlden – who then had to return to the pits for a penalty because Reynolds had illegally allowed the rear wheels to spin during his final fuel stop – Lowndes assumed a lead that would not be challenged till the flag.
Lowndes and co-driver Steven Richards got the job done for the Triple Eight team on a day that did not favour either of their team-mates. Jamie Whincup lost all chance when he lost a wheel early on, while the sister car of championship leader Shane van Gisbergen just didn’t have sufficient speed on the day.
“It’s such a shame for Dave [Reynolds] because they were the benchmark all weekend,” Lowndes said. “I wasn’t sure what happened but when we got the lead we weren’t going to give it up.
‘It’s almost like ’06 back again,” he said, in reference to his emotional win that year, only weeks after the death of mentor Peter Brock. “I just wanted to enjoy that last lap. I really cruised and enjoyed it for what it was, watching the crowd right across the top of the mountain.”
For Richards, victory, his second with Lowndes and sixth in total, was very sweet.
“The fact of the matter is we do have a few years under our belts,” Richards said. “Old mate here was just cruising, one hand on the wheel, fantastic. He will be back next year and probably win another one.”
The Walkinshaw Andretti United Commodore pairing of Scott Pye and Warren Luff finished second, in a repeat of their result from 2017, ahead of the DJR Team Penske Falcon of Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat. With points leader van Gisbergen finishing sixth, a podium result for McLaughlin has been a siginificant boost to his championship campaign.