Richards wins Bathurst in Biante Touring Car Masters
Seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner ‘Gentleman’ Jim Richards has once again scored victory on Mt Panorama with a dominant performance in the Shannons Falcon Sprint for the sixth and penultimate round of the Biante Touring Car Masters series at Bathurst (NSW), this weekend.
The Group 2 class was topped by consistent performances from series part-timer Cameron Tilley in the Tilleys Automotive Valiant Pacer.
Overall series leader Gavin Bullas recorded the fastest time in practice, almost three seconds quicker than the lap record Steve Mason established in 2007; a sign of the times to come throughout the event, largely due to the performance of the new Hoosier control tyres.
The opening practice session, however, proved disappointing for John Bowe when the WesTrac Cat Camaro suffered cooling issues restricted him to only one lap, putting the two-time Bathurst winner on the back foot for the weekend start.
Fastest in Group 2 was Bernie Stack who finished an outstanding sixth overall. Stack was also lucky to survive the session when the throttle jammed open in the Gawler Self Storage Porsche 911 on the approach to the Dipper causing him to spin and tap the wall.
Thursday afternoon’s qualifying session proved to be the perfect form guide for the weekend as the most experienced man to have ever raced at Mount Panorama with 35 consecutive Bathurst 1000 starts, Richards showed the way and took his place at the top of the time sheets, while Cameron Tilley was the fastest of the Group 2 runners in ninth outright.
Drama and frustration continued for Bowe as gearbox issues prevented him from completing a single lap in qualifying, forcing the veteran to start off the rear of the grid for race one.
On pole for race one, Richards shared the front row of the grid with the Rain City Racing Mustang of reigning series champion Bullas.
Bullas made a strong start to lead up Mountain Straight, but at the end of the first lap the order was Brad Tilley from Bullas with Richards in third after a slow start in the Falcon Sprint.
Bullas regained the lead on the next lap and was never headed, but the battle for the minors continued with Richards finally getting past Tilley’s Falcon on lap four to secure second and in the process establish a new lap record on the final lap.
The leaders were followed closely by Drew Marget in the Marget Engineering Mustang and Steve Mason’s Chev Camaro who battled right to the finish for fourth and fifth respectively.
Bowe did a great job to finish sixth after starting from 27th on the grid, and Stack took out Group 2 honours in the Porsche 911 RS after a race-long battle with Cameron Tilley in the Valiant Pacer.
Race two proved to be cracker with nothing between the top five cars for the whole race.
Richards made a much better start, but still had to settle for second behind Bullas at the end of the first lap with Brad Tilley, Bowe and Marget nose-to-tail behind him.
However, on the next lap Tilley passed Richards and started applying pressure to Bullas who was struggling with a different setup to race one.
On lap three, Bullas slipped back to fourth and Tilley took the lead from Richards and Bowe until the fifth lap when Bathurst legend Richards got through on Tilley to head the pack.
Muscling past Brad Tilley, Bowe was up to second at the start of lap six and what followed was a wonderful battle between two of the greats of the sport with Richards holding on to win from Bowe with Tilley and Bullas following and Marget in fifth after running wide at McPhillamy.
Richards set another lap record on the final lap of race two, with a new record time of 2:24.2489m that would not be bettered for the weekend.
Trevor Talbot scored a comfortable win in Group 2 after leader Stack was forced out when an earth wire came off and Cameron Tilley had handling issues that made the car much slower than the first race.
Cameron Mason hit the wall heavily at Forrest Elbow in his Datsun 510 on lap five, while Tony Hunter had broken wheel studs and limped back to the pits in the Holden HQ Monaro, and Ian McAlister had a loose alternator which caused the belt to come off.
A reverse grid for the top eight put the G-Force Performance HQ Monaro of series newcomer Matt O’Brien on pole at Bathurst for the third and final race with Bowe and Richards side-by-side on row four.
Following early morning rain, wet and greasy conditions greeted the drivers as they came out to form the grid with a drying line of the right-hand side while the left hand side of the track was very wet, giving cars on that side very little grip for the start.
As racing went green for race three, all but the Tilley brothers were on wet weather tyres on the damp but rapidly drying track.
It was Alastair MacLean’s Dukes Body Works Camaro SS who led up Mountain Straight for the first of seven laps with the pack scrapping to make up position, and as they crossed the line for the first time the order was MacLean comfortably in front of Marget, Bullas, Bowe, Brad Tilley and Richards.
Brad Tilley slipped back to seventh on the next lap, but it was only a matter of time before he would come through and at the end of lap four he was up to third.
After chasing down MacLean, Tilley’s green Falcon took the lead on the final lap to score his first race win of the season.
Bowe and Richards were engrossed in a good battle with Richards finally getting the upperhand on lap six, but they were unable to do anything about MacLean who had driven superbly for second place.
Cameron Tilley matched his brother by taking the Group 2 race win from Stack and the Holden HQ SS of Greg Waddington.
The result clinched the overall round victory for Richards from Brad Tilley and Bullas in third while Cameron Tilley sealed the Group 2 round win ahead of Talbot and Waddington.
The Biante Touring Car Masters will wrap up its 2009 season with the grand finale and series decider at the Historic Sandown meeting at Sandown International Raceway (VIC) on 7-8 November.
“Another win at Bathurst is great. We thought our car would be competitive here; it’s been competitive at every track we’ve been to. I was quietly confident that the Falcon would be really good, but you don’t know until you drive around here.
“We’re very happy; the Biante class got some great coverage on TV, there’s not too much damage to the cars which is terrific, and the racing was brilliant.”
BIANTE TOURING CAR MASTERS CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after round 6 of 7):
Words by: Barry Oliver, Biante Touring Car Masters Series On-course Commentator. Via TouringCarMasters.com.au