V8 Supercars series leader Mark Winterbottom insisted they had done fallen teammate Chaz Mostert proud despite failing to claim a rare third straight Bathurst 1000 for their Ford team.
Winterbottom dug deep to defy two penalties and electrical gremlins that could have sabotaged his championship hopes to finish second behind Holden veteran Craig Lowndes on Sunday.
Winterbottom – along with co-driver Steve Owen – made no secret that they wanted to honour defending race champion Mostert with their Prodrive Racing team’s third straight Mount Panorama triumph.
However, Winterbottom admitted just making the podium was a fitting salute to Mostert who cheered them on from his Orange hospital room.
Mostert missed the race after breaking his leg and wrist in a horror qualifying crash on Friday that also injured three officials.
The defending Bathurst champion – who was sitting second in the drivers’ standings – was ruled out for the rest of the season.
“I know he was watching. He wanted us to win but this is as good as we could get – it’s still a good day,” Winterbottom said.
“It was just cool to get on the podium. I am stuffed – I put everything in it I could.
“We just couldn’t catch Craig. I will go to bed happy tonight.”
Winterbottom said they were inspired by a pre-race talk with Mostert on the phone.
And Mostert could be seen cheering them on from his hospital bed on a teammate’s mobile phone throughout the race.
“He’s going good, he’s in good spirits,” Winterbottom said.
“We Facetimed him this morning. We had a team huddle, he went around and said hello to everyone.”
Winterbottom said Mostert would be taken by helicopter to his Melbourne home on Tuesday after the youngster had a rod inserted into his shattered left leg.
“He is in pain, what he did was a massive shunt,” Winterbottom said.
“But he is going home on Tuesday. He is moving into a new house.”
Winterbottom kept his lead in the championship standings, 399 points ahead of six-time Bathurst champion Lowndes, with four rounds left.
Winterbottom was counting his lucky stars after receiving two black flag penalties following electrical problems that disrupted his brake lights.
“I had power out in the dash and everything, that could have been game over,” he said.
“It could have been disastrous if I didn’t finish.
“But I wasn’t thinking about the championship. I wanted to win the race.”
The next round is the Gold Coast 600 enduro starting on October 23.