The stars of V8 Supercars go into the 2015 Bathurst 1000 this weekend still buzzing about last year’s mind-boggling edition of The Great Race.
The memory of Chaz Mostert and Paul Morris’ dramatic win after starting from last in pit lane and leading for the first time on the final lap is all that’s required to get the blood pumping for another edition of the endurance classic.
In all, 10 safety cars produced the longest, and one of the most staggering races fans at Mount Panorama have seen.
An unprecedented red flag to repair the track at turn two stopped the race before the final eight laps produced drama of the highest order.
Leader Mark Winterbottom, gunning for back-to-back victories, was handed a one-two punch by the Red Bull Racing team within two laps.
First Jamie Whincup overtook the Ford ace, then Craig Lowndes clipped his Falcon at the bottom of Mountain Straight to drop him out of contention.
The race was Whincup’s, only for the series champion to run out of fuel on the final lap, handing Mostert and Morris an incredible victory.
Fast forward 12 months, and even Whincup can’t find fault from the day after limping to fifth.
“It was one of the best race meetings I’ve ever been involved in. I couldn’t have been happier with how we represented ourselves,” Whincup said.
“After I stuck it in the fence in qualifying, it certainly wasn’t our race to win, if anything we were just trying to steal it.
“To come so close to doing that, it was a great effort.”
Mostert said he could sum up the day – and biggest win of his young career – in two words.
“That’s Bathurst,” he said.
“You need all the luck in the world and I don’t think there’s one Bathurst that hasn’t been won without luck.”
This year, Mostert heads back to Bathurst with more than luck; a fast car.
The FG X Falcons of series leader Mark Winterbottom, Mostert and David Reynolds sit atop the championship, giving Ford the top three in the series for the first time in years.
They also have form on their side after Winterbottom, with co-driver Steve Owen, won the Sandown 500 ahead of Mostert and new wunderkind co-driver Cameron Waters.
While no one at the Prodrive Racing team will admit it, Whincup is in no doubt of their status for the biggest race on the V8 Supercars calendar.
“They’ve won the last two years in a row and they’re going for a three-peat; no doubt they’re the team to beat,” he said.
“One-two in the championship, one-two at Sandown, they’ll be very difficult to beat.”
For the first time in five years, Whincup will arrive at Bathurst all but out of the championship race.
The six-time V8 Supercars champion sits in eighth place but said he’d prepare as if he was on top.
“I don’t feel any pressure, it’s a big stand-alone event,” he said.
“It’s the standard Bathurst mentality; expect the unexpected and try to be there at the end of the six hours.”
Mostert is trying to stay level-headed in his preparation.
“Obviously we’ve got a fast car and a fair chance of a strong finish if we’re aggressive and consistent,” he said.
“Going as the defending champ, there’s a lot of pressure and expectation but we’re just go there and do our best job and see how we go.”
Two wild card entries will look to make their presence felt, with brothers Aaren and Drew Russell joining the field in a Commodore alongside an all-female driver team in another Prodrive Ford.
Development driver Renee Gracie, 20, will partner with Swiss IndyCar racer Simona de Silvestro.
Mostert backed the pair to do well.
“I think they’ll surprise a lot of people, I think they’ve got a really good chance to finish top 10,” he said.
“There’s a lot of talent in that car … if you’re a quick driver, male or female, you deserve to have a seat.”