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Bathurst 1000 2017: McLaughlin’s Bathurst dreams dashed again

8 October 2017 7:08 AM
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Kangaroos. Flying rocks. Plastic bags. Drivers have had their Bathurst 1000 campaigns ended in unusual ways over the years.

But even by Mount Panorama standards, this would have truly been a head scratcher.

Four-time Bathurst champion Jamie Whincup dodged a potential penalty in Sunday’s 161-lap classic over possession of a humble squeegee. Eyebrows were raised when the Holden great’s co-driver Paul Dumbrell was captured by his cabin TV camera using a squeegee on a stick to clear the inside of his windscreen - while driving one-handed at 280km/hr.

“I can’t see a thing,” Dumbrell could be heard on the team radio. Visibility was so poor in the wet and wild Bathurst conditions that Dumbrell had stocked the squeegee to clear condensation building inside his cabin. He would have also been tempted to pack a snorkel in the horror conditions. Officials looked at the incident with speculation the Holden team may receive a safety issue penalty for “having accessories in the car”.

To Whincup’s relief, officials cleared his Red Bull Racing team after it was found the squeegee was magnetically attached to the roll cage in the cabin. “There’s no problem. We cleared it with officials (before racing),” RBR team manager Mark Dutton.

“It is magnetically attached. You can’t knock it off from the roll cage where it is attached so there is no safety issue.” A penalty would have added to the bizarre ways drivers have found trouble on the mountain.

Kangaroos on the track have been the downfall of many hopefuls. Plastic bags from Mount Panorama’s camp site have floated into radiators and cooked them.

And who could forget the rock thrown by a spectator in 1980 - certainly not Dick Johnson.

“$1 million race car and a hand held operated $1 squeegee to clean your windscreen at full chat - very Australian,” a wag tweeted.

After producing the “Lap of the Gods”, Ford’s record-breaking Scott McLaughlin was reduced to mere mortal status at Sunday’s Bathurst 1000. In a huge blow to his Supercars championship hopes, McLaughlin’s Great Race lasted just 74 laps before he retired with mechanical issues at a wet and wild Mount Panorama.

A day after “the greatest day of my life”, McLaughlin cut a shattered figure as another shot at becoming King of the Mountain slipped through his grasp. “We really had a really good shot at it, in the wet as well,” McLaughlin said. “Unfortunately that is how it goes, it’s a tough old race to win - I just have to move on.” No one saw McLaughlin’s fizzer on Sunday coming - certainly not anyone who witnessed his heroics barely 24 hours earlier.

Quite simply McLaughlin could do no wrong ahead of the 161-lap classic. He left the Bathurst faithful in shock and himself in tears of joy on Saturday when he clocked two minutes, 03.83 seconds - the fastest Supercars lap ever seen on the infamous Mount Panorama street circuit.

McLaughlin became the first to crack the 2min 04sec barrier on the mountain after shattering the record mark he had set barely 24 hours earlier in Friday’s practice.

It earned him the new “Lap of the Gods” tag at Mount Panorama, first coined when fellow New Zealander Greg Murphy shattered the lap record back in 2003. It seemed the sky was the limit on Sunday.

“Yesterday will always be pretty special in my mind, knowing that we were the fastest car in the dry,” McLaughlin said.

“But (right now) I feel pretty weird, it hasn’t really sunk in but I can’t change anything.

“Sometimes luck is not on your side and you need luck on a day like this. “We had a really good chance today, it sucks when it is out of your hands. “It’s the Bathurst 1000 - you want to win it.” After the heavens opened, the pole sitter went wide in the slippering conditions on the first corner on lap four, relinquishing his lead and falling back to sixth.

Remarkably the Ford gun has never finished on the Bathurst 1000 podium. His best finish is fifth in 2015 despite starting on the front row for the third straight year.

McLaughlin was more concerned about his championship hopes after leaving Bathurst empty handed.

He had arrived at Bathurst leading the series, 84 points clear of Holden great Jamie Whincup.

“I have undone a lot of good work that I have done but it could have gone either way today - I could have won,” McLaughlin said.


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