TEAMVODAFONE SCORE HISTORIC 1-2 FINISH
Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife headed home Jamie Whincup and Steve Owen in a historic 1-2 finish for TeamVodafone at today's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, the world's most arduous touring car race.
All four drivers delivered flawless performances, managing myriad challenges throughout the 161-lap race to cross the line just 0.173 seconds apart.
The form finish had not been seen at Bathurst since 1984, making the result especially significant for the Brisbane-based team which has excelled in endurance race mode.
Today's victory is the fourth for the team, and takes the tally of Mt Panorama wins between Lowndes and Skaife to 11. It also marks a significant milestone for Holden 20 wins to the Commodore.
The regular-season pilot of car #888 delivered a super-human effort, climbing aboard his Commodore on lap 82 and fighting on for a gruelling 79 consecutive laps, just shy of half-race distance or 500km.
With his co-driver suffering from back pain after an earlier stint, Lowndes forged on, overcoming various safety car interruptions and a low-fuel warning.
A late safety car to retrieve a stricken competitor across the top of the mountain sheared Lowndes' advantage to zero, and he held off gun teammate Jamie Whincup who put in storming drive to claim an eventual second place alongside Steve Owen.
A spritely Lowndes said he was running on pure adrenaline in the closing stages but said he would savour the victory with Skaife for a long time to come.
"This result really is a dream come true and an incredible effort for all at TeamVodafone who work so hard and are so passionate at what they do," said Lowndes.
"It had been ten years since Mark (Skaife) and I had raced together and we showed we still had what it took at Phillip Island. To come back to Bathurst and do it all again is just amazing and a real credit to Mark after he stepped away from full-time racing over a year ago.
"It was a typical Bathurst race. We had to expect the unexpected and be on our toes to respond to strategy changes and the challenge with conserving fuel.
"This has really been a team effort and I'm very pleased for Jamie (Whincup) and Steve (Owen) to be able to finish a very close runner-up and deliver the team a deserved 1-2 victory."
Today's victory adds to Lowndes' incredible feat earlier in the week when he smashed the standing lap record of Greg Murphy to assume the honour of the fastest man around Mt Panorama.
A series of solid stints from now six-time Bathurst winner Skaife contributed greatly to the duo's victory, with experience paying dividends in mixed conditions, pressure pit stops and traffic.
Skaife was forced to give up his final run in the TeamVodafone Commodore after tweaking his back as he bounced awkwardly in his seat on the high-speed run down Conrod Straight.
He congratulated Lowndes on his effort and praised the team on its professionalism and dedication to engineer two cars equally capable of winning the 1000km showdown.
"It's been an absolute privilege to be part of TeamVodafone and drive alongside Craig (Lowndes) at Phillip Island and Bathurst," said Skaife.
"I stepped away from full-time racing bearing the pressures of being a team owner and it has been a completely different experience for me to be able to concentrate solely on my driving.
"Strategy-wise we were on the money and I was pleased to put in some solid stints early on, however it was Craig who delivered when it counted.
"I was in considerable pain after tweaking a muscle in my back around 5 laps from the end of my stint, I would have loved to have kept driving but wasn't able to continue.
"The victory is a fantastic feeling and one I will remember for many years to come. To be part of the form finish is amazing, TeamVodafone truly is in a class of its own when it comes to the endurance races."
Whincup and Owen executed a series of solid laps each to ensure they were in the running in the crucial closing stages.
The defending V8 Supercar champion, Whincup shadowed his teammate through each and every turn from the lap 156 restart and came close to capturing the race lead on a number of occasions.
A strong points haul for second-place sees the #1 Commodore pilot make back ground in the race for the title.
"Both of our cars came on strong at the end and it's great to have the team get a 1-2 finish here at Bathurst," said Whincup. "Full credit must go to the guys who worked tirelessly to prepare for this day all season long.
"We were in the running for the whole race and had the pace to challenge Craig but couldn't find a way past in the end.
"There were a few hurdles along the way and we had to adapt our driving style to suit the weather, low fuel and tyre wear at the end of the stints.
"Steve did an amazing job all weekend long, it's a good result for us to bounce back from after Phillip Island."
Owen drove a strong race, maintaining pace and position in the #1 TeamVodafone Commodore and rarely putting a foot wrong.
He said he was proud to score a podium finish and looked forward to driving alongside Whincup at the upcoming Gold Coast 600km event.
"It's been a fantastic day for us, we gave it our all and were in with a chance of winning right down to the final corner," said Owen.
"Jamie drove a great race, as did Craig and Mark. TeamVodafone is a class act when it comes to endurance races and I'm just pleased to be a part of the 1-2."
Today's chapter of the 'Great Race' had just four safety car periods and considerably less attrition than previous years. 26 cars finished and 19 of those were on the lead lap.
TeamVodafone's next challenge comes in less than a fortnight as the concrete-lined walls of the Gold Coast street circuit loom.
The 600km event features a new format and drivers are confident that the momentum will carry over from a perfect Bathurst weekend.
Supercheap Auto 1000 Bathurst Final Results
1. C.Lowndes/M.Skaife (TeamVodafone, Holden Commodore)
2. J.Whincup/S.Owen (TeamVodafone, Holden Commodore)
9. M.Winterbottom/L.Youlden?10. M.Caruso/G.Ritter