Chaz Mostert and Nathan Morcom celebrate their Bathurst 6 Hour victory. [Photo by MPix]
DPO has returned to production touring car racing in the best possible way by winning the inaugural Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour.
!n a story reminiscent of the classic Blues Brothers movie, DPO director Barry Morcom ‘put the band back together’ for the enduro at the Mt Panorama public road circuit. He brought his BMW 335i out of its four-year retirement, reassembled his former pit crew, and handed the keys to his son, Australian GT Championship contender Nathan, and V8 Supercar ace Chaz Mostert.
It was as if nothing had changed since the two young guns last raced the BMW to a class win in the 2012 Phillip Island round of the Australian Production Car Endurance Championship. They ran near the front of the 50-car field in the opening laps, took the lead before the end of the first hour, and held it securely until the end.
After 125 laps (777km), Chaz crossed the Finish line almost a full lap ahead of the BMW 135i of Michael and Iain Sherrin and David Ayres. Australian racing legend John Bowe and V8 Supercar and GT racer David Wall placed third, a lap behind, in their Mitsubishi Evo IX RS.
The DPO team’s only hiccups were an engine change after Friday’s practice sessions, and a recalcitrant wheel nut during the race.
Chaz took pole position at 2min. 26.879sec. in the final top-20 qualifying session after Nathan had posted the fifth fastest lap in the preliminary all-in session. That was despite several pit stops for the replacement engine to be fine-tuned.
But on race morning officials relegated them to 11th starting position because of an alleged technical infringement.
From the rolling start, Chaz quickly moved toward the front and took the lead before handing over to Nathan for the second driving stint. A Safety Car soon after their pit stop wasn’t in their favour, forcing Nathan to drive from back in the field.
He regained the lead from Terry Nightingale, driving a Mitsubishi Evo IX RS, in a daring overtaking move across the top of the mountain. From then he and Chaz extended their lead to more than a lap while their rivals struck mechanical trouble, crashed or simply couldn’t keep pace with the flying BMW.
Nathan Morcom puts a lap on the second-placed BMW. [Photo by MPix]
The win was all the more memorable for Chaz, who was racing at Bathurst for the first time since his huge crash in qualifying for last October’s 1000km V8 Supercar race.
“It’s such a good feeling to be back at this place, and even better to be on the top step of the podium with my mate Nathan,” he said after the podium presentation ceremony. “My last stint was all about conserving the car to get to the finish. It had done five hours, so it would’ve been a shame for something to go wrong in the last hour.
“It’s all down to the boys working on the car. The way they did the engine change on Friday night was incredible. Big thanks to Barry Morcom and the DPO team for letting me have a crack this weekend!”
Nathan, previously a Mt Panorama race winner in Formula Ford and Formula 3 openwheelers, said the DPO team effort got them over the line for the biggest win in his career.
“The car had been sitting in the workshop since the last time Chaz and I raced it in 2012,” he said. “The boys prepared it for the last couple of months, with the plan for us to team up for this race. We did a bit of testing in the lead-up, but you never know how things will turn out until you get to the circuit.
“Chaz did an awesome job all weekend, and the car finished without a scratch on it!”
Barry Morcom, who raced the BMW from 2007 to 2011, including a class win in the 2009 Bathurst 12 Hour before the race changed to GT rules, was thrilled to record his first outright win at Mt Panorama as a team owner.
“This car has always been suited to long-distance races on fast circuits like Mt Panorama,” he said. “People thought that the newer cars would leave us behind, but Bathurst is all about top speed, handling and reliability, which are the BMW’s strengths. It’s bigger and heavier than the other turbo cars, but it’s more stable across the top of the mountain and through the Chase.
“And the other teams didn’t have drivers of the calibre of Nathan and Chaz, who could do 2min. 30/31/32sec. laps all day. The jammed wheel nut gave us a few anxious moments at the last pit stop, but our pit crew stayed calm and got us through.
“All credit to our crew, especially Nigel Bolling who prepares the car, Bob Riley for building the engines, and Jim Souvaliotis of Croydon Racing Developments for tuning them. Thanks also to our long-time sponsors, Rondo Building Services and CSR Building Products.”
RESULTS – 2016 HI-TEC OILS BATHURST 6 HOUR, MARCH 27
Qualifying 1 (all cars): 5th – 2min. 29.371sec.
Qualifying 2 (top 20 cars): 1st – 2min. 26.879sec.
Race: 1st Outright & B1 class – 125 laps (776.6km)
MT PANORAMA (6.213km) – BATHURST, NSW