TWELVE years after he won his first Development Series crown, Paul Dumbrell claimed a second, his victory in the 250 kilometre mini endurance race at Mount Panorama on Saturday sealing the title.
Dumbrell had arrived at Bathurst with the series lead, but his buffer was just four points over 2013 runner-up Ash Walsh.
However, with the Bathurst race win worth 300 points and Walsh failing to finish after crashing on lap 10, the chequered flag brought with it more than just round honours for Dumbrell.
“It’s certainly not something we expected, I hadn’t really had much of a chance to think about the championship going into this weekend,” Dumbrell said.
“It is certainly not the way you want to win the championship, it would have been good to see Ash out there having a battle going to Homebush.
“But it’s really exciting, it’s 12 years I have been told since I won the championship, “ Dumbrell, who rejoined the series this year to help him better prepare for the V8 Supercars’ endurance rounds, added.
The new format – the first time the Development Series has staged a mini enduro – saw drivers required to complete at least one pit stop in which four tyres were changed and an 80 litre fuel dump completed.
Dumbrell was the quickest in qualifying to earn himself pole position for Saturday’s race and he got off the line well to hold out Chris Pither in the dash to turn one.
The top eight held position through the first lap, but it was not long until the safety car was called onto the track.
Marcus Zukanovic’s Falcon went into the left wall on the entry to Reid Park on lap two after contact from behind, ending his race early.
By the time Zukanovic’s car was towed back to the pits, there were 35 of the 41 laps remaining. Cameron Waters did well off the restart as he pulled off a passing move on Andrew Jones to claim third position, while Walsh then dived inside Jones at Forrest’s Elbow.
Ahead of him Dumbrell was doing it easier, breaking Jono Webb’s 2009 race lap record of two minutes, 9.1614 seconds by clocking a 2:08.9705.
The man who paired Red Bull Racing’s Jamie Whincup in yesterday’s Bathurst 1000 got faster still, but what gave his championship hopes an even bigger boost was when Walsh crashed on lap 10.
Walsh carried too much speed out of Reid Park and his rear contacted the right hand wall before his Falcon speared across to the opposite side of the track.
The resulting safety car period saw Dumbrell’s advantage disappear, but he was quick to gap Pither once the green flag was shown.
Dumbrell became the first man to enter the 2:07s on lap 16 and was at least 3km/hr quicker per lap than his rivals.
He finally pitted on lap 22 and at that stage he enjoyed an advantage of more than 20 seconds. Waters, operating on a two-pit strategy, was the only man on track at that stage who appeared a threat to Dumbrell when he rejoined in 10th.
With 14 laps remaining Geoff Emery hit the wall at Forrest’s Elbow in his Commodore, triggering another safety car period.
That allowed Dumbrell to close the gap to Waters, and when the safety car pulled off the track with some 15 minutes remaining, the Eggleston Motorsport driver was quick to regain the lead.
With the race cut short due to the safety cars, Dumbrell’s advantage stood at almost 31⁄2 seconds when the one lap to go signal was given.
He went on to claim the chequered flag, secure the championship and finished with a lap record of 2:07.4812 to boot. Waters claimed second with Pither third.
“As soon as that safety car came out I knew I was in trouble, ‘PD ‘was just too quick and I was on older tyres,” Waters said.
“If it didn’t come out I think I could of won.”