WITH under four minutes to go in Sunday’s Bathurst 6 Hour Luke Searle made a decisive move down the inside of defending champion Chaz Mostert at The Chase in a moment that will be replayed for many years to come.
Searle’s excellent drive under pressure gave co-drivers Barry Graham and Paul Morris victory, and made the latter the first person to win the Bathurst 1000 plus the 6 and 12 Hour events.
Mostert (Ford Focus RS) and Searle (BMW M135i) spent much of the final hour duelling it out before the defending champ started to pull away through lapped traffic.
However, the 11th and last yellow flag of the day brought them back together.
That safety car was brought about with 20 minutes to go when the engine in Craig Baird’s Mercedes A45 AMG violently exploded on Pit Straight.
On what was to be the third-last lap of the day the big moment happened.
Mostert lost sixth gear on The Chase and Searle moved down the inside to take the lead.
By the time Searle found the chequered flag the gap was out to almost 10 seconds.
“Chaz was driving the wheels off it. We were driving the wheels off it. The lap times we were punching out there were in the [two minute] 25s,” Searle said of the closing stages.
“I just had to get him and I really wanted to get Paul the ‘triple’. We did it and I’m stoked.”
Searle couldn’t believe that the opportunity to pass Mostert presented itself so easily.
“I went up the inside of him and I started looking around for yellow flags because it was too easy. I didn’t know if it was going to be a legal pass,” he said.
“Paul was phenomenal in the middle stint. It’s a privilege to do it with him.
“To win at Bathurst is the pinnacle of anyone’s career, whether it be this or another Bathurst race. Bathurst is just phenomenal. When you’ve done a lap like we’ve done at the end there you know what it’s all about.”
Morris was thrilled to be the first person to claim a Bathurst endurance ‘triple crown’ and had plenty of praise for Searle’s performance.
“It was in the back of my mind, for sure, and it’s a pretty cool feeling to be able to do that. To do it with Luke is great because I’ve been friends with his family for a long time,” he said.
“I rate him as probably one of the best drivers Australia has had but he’s just slipped through the net. You put him in any car and he just goes. He was definitely the right man to have my job at the end of the race, that’s for sure.
“It feels good to be a part of a bunch of guys who have day jobs and they come to Bathurst to win a car race. I think that’s what this place is all about – that passion. There’s 20 people down there who have won and Bathurst and come together to do it.
“It’s still a race where you can do that. You can get some mates together and win a race, and that’s what you’ve seen today.”
The Mitsubushi Evo X entry of Jim Pollicina and Ryan Simpson took the last spot on the podium despite crossing the finish line fourth on the road.
Duvashen Padayachee drove his Mercedes to third over the line but a pit lane infringement (for doing a pit stop under the 2:30 minimum) cost him a podium.