Video + Photos: Seton claims Bathurst victory after huge crash stops TCM at Bathurst
Early morning fog greeted the Touring Car Masters field as they took to the mountain for race three, opening the program for the greatest day in Australian motor sport, the day of the great race.
Lining up on the grid, sadly both Gary O’Brien and Pye’s positions were left vacant after O’Briens windscreen was deemed unsafe and for Pye, the engine failure of race two had not been overcome.
As the lights came on one last time, the classic engines roared to life and it was go. Miedecke had another slow start seeing a mad scramble once more, Jason Richards forced his way right to left leaning on Bowe, action man of the weekend Stillwell went to the grass to pass O’Neill, Keene pushed to the centre for room, as pole sitter Bowe, Seton and Abelnica charged into the first corner. A crush of muscle hot on their bumpers.
Three wide up mountain straight, Abelnica was charging to the fore with the experienced Seton and Bowe pushing hard. It was the two Falcon XB’s leading the way across the mountain, Seton making his move to take the lead at Bathurst through the chase, Bowe pushing to the inside to take second through the final turn, Abelnica now heading series guest star Jason Richards. The action was raging through Murray’s corner, Mason moving under the Tilley GTHO for sixth, and seconds later Miedecke rounded up the Tilley Mustang through the same turn on his charge pack to the front.
Starting lap two, the leaders were streaming away as undoubtedly the strongest field yet on the mountain grew battle packs around the circuit. Karanfilovski looked under the Kassulke HQ into Hell corner, taking the position on the run up mountain straight as he went on to fight to 11th. Out of shape and struggling, O’Neill dropped from 26th to the rear of the field while at the front Jason Richards made his move on Abelnica for third, the top five now some two seconds further on track.
Miedecke continued to push on, under Mason into the chase as up ahead Jason Richards posted the fastest lap of the race, but for King it was another journey down pit lane, this time to retire from not just the race and event, but to park the XA GT for the year after ongoing engine dramas have seen five failures this season, the team electing to take the time away to reassess and prepare for a better 2012.
The #10 HQ of Richards was hunting down neighbour and fellow enforcer Bowe, making the pass along Conrod straight for second, going on to set a new record on lap four with a 2:22.6622 in the hunt for Seton and the lead. Keene was back in the yellow #33 and carving up the bigger muscle ahead, gaining on Kassulke with a safe gap on McAlister. Out of sorts, Sparks was well back in the field, teething concerns with her new ride keeping her near garage mate Buik down in 26th.
With two laps to go, Richards was all over the back of Seton’s XB through the cutting, but all eyes were on the cutting where Wilson was all out of shape forcing Nelson wide onto the grass but fighting the mountain, all continued from the moment. Matt O’Brien with the new gearbox was pushing the HQ to the limit and gaining on Keene, but it was Stack who had again fought on the mountain to gain six positions despite being down on power with a loose plug lead after an eight position haul in race two.
Treloar was into the action, spinning before Forrest elbow but catching the Charger to get back to racing. The hard charger of the weekend, Westwood had again battled on to move from 19th to 12th after completing the same challenge in race two. The top four were now five seconds adrift as they crossed the line, Richards still all over Seton, pushing hard for a maiden race win in his maiden event with the series.
The drive through Murray’s corner for the second to last time saw the battle for 20th throw massive drama when Nittis’ GTHO went off the circuit, rejoining in the Wilson versus Whiteside battle. As Nittis returned, Wilson was out of shape on the inside of the corner, the Charger back on the tarmac and tagging the rear of Whiteside, sending the Mustang into the armco at speed. The impact launched Whiteside, destroying the front and giving the Class B runner a massive shake up, the incident immediately bringing out the red flag to attend to Whiteside stranded in his destroyed machine.
From a race long battle, Seton would finally secure the long awaited Bathurst victory, more than two decades in the making. While all thoughts were on the health of friend and fellow competitor Whiteside, Seton was undoubtedly thrilled at finally conquering the mountain, saying,
“Anytime you have the opportunity to stand on top of the podium at Bathurst is a very special moment.
“This place is so legendary because of the history, this place really created motor sport in Australia in the hearts of minds of so many people.
“To achieve the first win in an icon car after Moffat and Geoghegan won back in 1983 in the XA of the same shape, and to do it on the Sunday morning of the big race, there’s no doubt it’s a great time to win.
“I’ve stood on second three times, stood on third, and now I can finally say I’ve done it, today we achieved the top step.”
Seton 227 (round winner as won Race 3)
Series points post Round 5, Bathurst 1000
G O’Brien 773
Images: Touring Car Masters