PENRITE RACING: Bathurst 2023 Race Wrap
Penrite Racing showed its fighting qualities to claw back a top five finish at the 2023 Bathurst 1000 on Sunday, October 8.
With both cars in the famed Top Ten Shootout on Saturday, David Reynolds and Matt Payne locked out the fourth row of the grid, with the teams metallic-copper-coloured Mustangs shining brightly in the sun, as they lined up on race day for the 161-lap classic.
Five-time Bathurst champion Garth Tander was given the nod to start Reynolds car #26 for The Great Race, while Payne aboard car #19, started the race for the first time in his career, following an impressive showing in Qualifying.
As the lights went out and the 60th edition of the world-famous endurance race came to life, Tander and Payne kept it clean as they marched their way forward without taking any big risks.
Following Supercars decision to ditch compulsory pit stops, fuel and tyre life were the big factors, and the propeller heads within the teams crack engineering squad turned their attention to the first round of pit stops.
On lap 23, Payne pitted to handover the wheel to his co-driver, the flying Frenchman Kevin Estre, who impressed many with his speed at Sandown.
Estre rejoined the race and wasted no time getting up to speed, as he traded fast laps with defending champion Shane Van Gisbergen.
But the Mountain had other ideas and on lap 27 Estre found the sand at Hell Corner at the end of Pit Straight. Car #19 sat dormant as it went a lap down while the recovery vehicles assisted it back onto the circuit under safety car conditions.
After a quick inspection back in the pits, no major damage was found and the highly credential Penske Porsche sportscar ace rejoined the race with plenty of work ahead.
Tander did a sterling job to have car #26 firmly in winning contention with the leaders after his opening stint, handing over to Reynolds, who had a spring in his step for the fight at the front.
Despair and anguish reigned over the Penrite Racing garage when a double blow was dealt just 10 laps later, Reynolds being handed a Pit Lane Penalty for passing the Feeney/Whincup Red Bull Camaro as it exited the pits.
Replays revealed a harsh decision made by the stewards, with Reynolds side by side with Feeney at the safety car line on Mountain Straight.
Quickly realising it would be under investigation, the team instructed Reynolds to hand the position to Feeney. Usually this is the easy fix, however the officials took a mystifying hard-line stance on the situation and ordered car #26 through pit lane.
The frustration displayed by Reynolds’ long time Engineer Alistair McVean, represented the mood of the whole team.
With both cars at the very bottom of the field, the team dug deep across six hours of racing with a combination of smart strategy, clean pit stops, car speed and focus seeing Reynolds/Tander lead the race again with one stop to go.
Pitting with under 30 laps to go for the final time, Reynolds was required to drive to a fuel number while praying for the famous late safety car to squeeze the field together again.
Unfortunately, the motor racing gods did not answer the prayers in the Penrite Racing garage and the race ran green until the chequered flag, an unusually drama-less ending to The Great Race. This favoured the leaders as both Penrite Mustang’s ran out of time to catch up any further.
Payne and Estre put in a mighty effort to fight back from one lap down, finishing P11, while Reynolds/Tander brought it home safely in P5.
A top five finish for the team in the biggest race of the year the takeaway from an exhausting weekend both on and off the track.
Penrite Racing will be back bigger and better in 2024 with full time pilot Richie Stanaway, who scored his first Bathurst win alongside Van Gisbergen.
TOP TEN SHOOTOUT