The build up to the Bathurst 1000 is always big but, with Dean driving the #1 Falcon with Mark Winterbottom, there was a lot more attention on him than in previous years.
Dean: “It’s funny really. Everyone kept asking if I was feeling the pressure and how I was handling the lead up to Bathurst. But weirdly, I went into this years Bathurst 1000 probably more relaxed than ever.”
“I received a fair amount of attention after the outcome of Sandown and I went into Bathurst purely to prove that I could get the job done. I know I can get the job done, I just wanted to remind the critics.”
The Bathurst week is a busy one on track with six practice sessions, qualifying, Top 10 shootout, warm up and then, finally, the big race.
From the moment they hit the track in Practice 1, both Mark & Dean knew they had a lot of work ahead of them before the big race on the Sunday.
Dean: “Mark did most of the first practice session & I jumped in just at the end. Neither of us were feeling overly comfortable in the car. We needed to make some big changes to try & get it right before Sunday.”
Practice 2 was a co-driver only session & after some changes between the two sessions, the car had improved and they finished the session in P4.
Dean: “We had made some improvements in the car but we still had a fair way to go.”
Over the next four practice sessions, the team continued to fine tune the car and they sat in the top 4 for the last three sessions.
Mark completed the Qualifying session on the Friday & finished in P7, putting them in the Top 10 Shootout on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon rolled around & Mark pushed hard during his shootout lap. As he entered the chase he locked a wheel which had a big impact on his time. He finished in P10, giving them their grid spot for the big race from.
Safety cars always play a big role in Bathurst & can change a teams luck in an instance. Unusually, the first safety car didn’t emerge until Lap 92, over halfway into the race.
Dean: “When there’s no safety cars, it’s imperative you get your pitstops right. We had seamless pitstops & were able to make some spots up here & there with them.”
As it got closer to the end of the race, the team were sitting in P6.
Dean: “At around Lap 120, we were looking pretty good. We were sitting in P6 but were on a better fuel strategy than some of the guys in front. We were looking really good for at least a podium finish.”
On Lap 133, as Mark came down Conrad straight, the disc rotor failed & disintegrated. As he entered the Chase, he had no brakes so the car wouldn’t stop & he had to use the gravel trap to stop the car.
Dean: “It wasn’t a great finish to the Race. After Sandown, we were really looking for some redemption but Bathurst always throws up something. It’s just very lucky the car broke where it did. If that had happened across the top of the mountain, he would’ve been in the concrete & it could’ve been a very different scenario. Thankfully it happened where he did so Mark was okay.”
“Despite the DNF, the car came back pretty much unscathed so the team don’t have a huge job to turn the car around before Gold Coast.”
With a disappointing result at Sandown and a DNF at Bathurst, Dean & Mark are out of contention for the Pirtek Enduro Cup, of which the final round is at the Gold Coast 600 in two weeks.
Dean: “It’s been a pretty disappointing campaign so far. We’re out of of the Enduro Cup & Mark is out of contention for the Championship as well. Hopefully we can get a surfboard at the Gold Coast & finally spray some champagne.”
The Gold Coast 600 kicks of on October 21st to 23rd.