INSIDE the last 10 minutes of Sunday’s Bathurst 6 Hour Chaz Mostert looked set to deliver himself and co-driver Nathan Morcom back-to-back wins in the endurance event.
It wasn’t to be, as Mostert failed to find fifth gear on The Chase and eventual winner Luke Searle breezed on by with less than four minutes left to race.
Mostert said it was a great effort for his DPO team to get themselves onto the podium for the second year running.
“It’s one of the most hectic races I’ve had around here, like 2014 where I was chasing Whincup [in the Bathurst 1000]. This time I was on the opposite end of the stick with Luke chasing me down over the final laps,” he said.
“Those boys definitely deserved it 100 per cent. They pushed us hard all day.
“It’s a great effort from the team to win last year, release a brand new car this year … and then to put it together during the race is just awesome.
With just over an hour of racing to go Mostert couldn’t have asked for a better moment to pit.
A safety car was announced just as Mostert passed the control line for his last stop. Searle immediately followed the Supercars driver into the pits.
Mostert and Searle then started to pull away from the remaining contenders on the lead lap, and it became apparent it was going to be a race of two to the finish line.
Both drivers produced their best lap times of the race in the last green flag session – Mostert with a two minute and 25.802 second loop of the Mount and Searle with a 2:25:885.
Mostert said the Focus couldn’t quite hold on under the pressure from Searle’s chasing BMW during those blistering laps.
“We dropped fifth and sixth gear but I don’t think that was mechanical as it was more driver abuse,” Mostert said.
“We were getting pushed hard for that whole last stint and I think I’m going to put my hand up for that one. I think I was a bit harsh on the production car [gear]box.”
The record 64-car grid made lapped traffic a constant danger for the front runners to navigate all day.
Morcom said good pit strategy helped his team avoid those dramas.
“With the safety cars and slower cars you had to get right past them and not get baulked by them, because you could go down a lap. We had a different strategy, pitted really early, and that put us right up there at the end and we could drive the wheels off it,” he said.
Jim Pollicina and Ryan Simpson drove their Mitsubishi Evo X to fourth, but were promoted to third after the Robert Woods Mercedes Benz team were penalised for an earlier pit lane infringement.
Simpson went into a small slide trying to overtake the third-placed Duvashen Padayachee on the final lap.
“There was nothing left in the car and the brakes were gone,” Simpson said.
“I had no idea [they had a penalty], so when I was trying to overtake Padayachee with no brakes I was hoping for the best but it played out well for us.”