The 2012 race was the sixteenth running of the Australian 1000 race, which was first held after the organisational split between the Australian Racing Drivers Club and V8 Supercars Australia that saw the Bathurst race run twice in 1997 and 1998, with one race open to V8 Supercar entries, and the other open to Super Touring cars. The schism was repaired in time for the 1999 race, with the race being open exclusively to V8 Supercars.
The 2012 race will also be the 56th race for which the lineage can be traced back to the 1960 Armstrong 500 – held at Phillip Island – and the 53rd to be held at Mount Panorama; the two separate races of 1997 and 1998 are recoginsed as four individual runnings of the event. Race organisers plan to use this race to celebrate the 50th year since the race first moved from Phillip Island to Mount Panorama in 1963, though it was not until 1973 that the race was run over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi); from 1963 to 1972, the race was run over 500 miles (800 km).
The Holden Racing Team drivers Garth Tander and Nick Percat were the defending race winners.
All twenty-eight cars which contest the regular V8 Supercar season took part in the race, plus one "wildcard" entry—a car that is only entered in the endurance races—prepared by Minda Motorsport and operated by Kelly Racing. Each car was driven by its regular driver, who contests the full International V8 Supercar Championship, and a guest driver, who only took part in the Bathurst race and its prologue, the Sandown 500. These guest drivers were recruited from a variety of racing categories, including the Dunlop Development Series (such as Nick Percat, partnering Garth Tander), the V8 Ute Racing Series (such as Chris Pither, partnering David Wall), and the New Zealand-based V8 SuperTourer Series (such as John McIntyre, partnering Will Davison), among others. Each driver was required to complete at least 54 laps of the race, with the teams given the freedom to allocate those laps as they see fit.
The only exception to this applied specifically to the Kelly Racing—Minda Motorsport "wildcard" entry. This car was driven by Cameron Waters and Jesse Dixon, both of whom won the opportunity to drive as part of the Shannons Supercar Showdown, a reality television programme created by Kelly Racing. Waters, who won the 2011 competition, was a late entry to the grid; the car was originally scheduled to be driven by Dixon, the 2012 winner, and Australian television personality Grant Denyer. However, Denyer was forced to withdraw two weeks before the race due to injury, and Waters was drafted in to replace him. Together, Waters (18) and Dixon (19) formed the youngest driver line-up to enter the race in its fifty-year history.
The first free practice session took place on the Thursday morning before the race, taking the form of a fifty-minute timed session open to all drivers, though most teams elected to run only their primary drivers. The session passed without incident, and Michael Caruso – driving for Garry Rogers Motorsport – finished the session fastest, one-tenth of a second ahead of championship leader Jamie Whincup and the Ford Falcon of Shane Van Gisbergen. Cameron Waters, driving the Kelly Racing—Minda Motorsport wildcard entry, finished in twenty-ninth and last place, five and a half seconds behind Caruso, and two and a half seconds behind the sister Kelly Racing car of Karl Reindler and Daniel Gaunt in twenty-eighth place.
The second forty-five-minute free practice session early on Thursday afternoon was limited to co-drivers. Britek Motorsport's Chris Pither became the first driver to crash when he locked up one of his front wheels at the end of Mountain Straight, understeering into the tyre wall on the outside of Griffins' Bend. Although the damage was minor, the session was suspended for thirteen minutes to allow the circuit to be cleared, and the car was retired to the garage for the remainder of the session. Warren Luff – partner to Craig Lowndes in the #888 Triple Eight Race Engineering Commodore – finished fastest, ahead of Andrew Jones and Steven Richards. In his first appearance in a V8 Supercar, Jesse Dixon finished twenty-ninth, the Kelly Racing—Minda Motorsport setting a fastest lap that was five seconds slower than Luff's time. Stone Brothers Racing driver Lee Holdsworth also took part in the session, despite being a primary driver rather than a co-driver, testing Ford's "Car of the Future" prototype to gather data on tyre performance for tyre supplier Dunlop. Holdsworth also drove the car in two of the Dunlop V8 Supercar Series support race practice sessions.
The first day of running ended with a fifty-minute session late on Thursday afternoon. Like the first session, it ran without incident, though drivers were cautioned when kangaroos were spotted on Conrod Straight. Jamie Whincup ended the session on top, half a second faster than Will Davison. Whincup's final flying lap was nearly a second faster than Davison, who subsequently narrowed the margin with his own final lap. After Pither's accident sidelined the Britek Motorsports car for most of the second session, the car was repaired and its regular driver, David Wall was able to complete the session, finishing twenty-third overall.
Practice resumed on Friday morning, with a second session open only to co-drivers. The session was incident-free, and at the end of fifty minutes, Scott McLaughlin – partnering Tekno Autosports' Jonathon Webb – was fastest, a tenth of a second quicker than Jamie Whincup's partner, Paul Dumbrell. Once again, Jesse Dixon finished the session last in the Kelly Racing—Minda Motorsport wildcard entry, but improved his best time from the second practice session by two seconds, but was shown the bad sportsmanship flag for abusing the limits of the circuit while going through The Esses.
The Triple Eight Race Engineering pair of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes topped the final free practice session before qualifying, with Whincup half a second faster than his team-mate. The session was suspended twice due to incidents; the first came when Tony D'Alberto made contact with the wall at McPhillamy Park, damaging his front tyre and elected to stop on the circuit rather than risk further damage to the car ahead of qualifying. The second interruption came shortly after D'Alberto's car was cleared from the circuit when Tim Slade got caught in the gravel trap on the outside of Murray's Corner.
Mark Winterbottom set the fastest time in the final practice session, held on Saturday morning. Garth Tander was second-fastest, three tenths of a second behind Winterbottom, while Winterbottom's team-mate, Will Davison was third-fastest. Dick Johnson Racing's James Moffat finished the session in twenty-ninth, some thirty-six seconds off Winterbottom's time after his car broke a tailshaft that ripped an oil line free from underneath the car, causing enough damage to sideline the #17 entry for the remainder of the session.Summary
The forty-minute qualifying session was held on Friday afternoon. It decided positions eleven through to twenty-nine on the grid, with the top ten drivers advancing to the Top 10 Shootout, to be held on the Saturday afternoon. During the Friday session, drivers were free to complete as much running as necessary to set a competitive lap time, but with the knowledge that their tyre allocation for the weekend was limited and that they would have to qualify on tyres that they would later use the race, the drivers had to balance their desire to set a fast time against the need to preserve as many tyres as possible for Sunday's race.
The session was red-flagged and suspended almost as soon as the circuit was open, when Holden Racing Team driver Garth Tander locked one of his tyres up at the end of Mountain Straight and understeered into the barrier on the outside of Griffins' Bend, in an incident similar to the one Chris Pither experienced in free practice. Tander was able to extricate himself from wall with largely cosmetic damage, and he limped back around the circuit to the pits while safety crews cleared away the fluids spilled by his Commodore in the accident. Tander's team were able to patch up the damage with sheets of tape, and while he was later heard on the radio complaining of his inability to stop the car and seen spinning at Hell Corner, he would ultimately set a lap time that would prove fast enough for a place in the Top 10 Shootout.
Michael Caruso set the early pace in the session, but he was unable to maintain it for long and was soon supplanted by the Ford Performance Racing cars driven by Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison. The lead would change several times throughout the session, but it was not until Jamie Whincup set his first competitive lap time that the leader board began to stabilise, and from that point on, it became a fight between Whincup and the Fords that Craig Lowndes briefly entered into, but soon turned his attention to securing a place in the Top 10 Shootout.
Elsewhere, several other drivers encountered troubles; James Moffat very nearly spun coming out of the Skyline, and was forced to apply opposite lock to his steering wheel to avoid the walls. He was later seen spearing off the road at the Chase, having misjudged his braking point and running through the grass on the outside of the left-hander. Jason Bright had a similar off-track excursion, but like Moffat, he was able to avoid the walls.
As the session began to wind down to a close, drivers started producing lap times that were increasingly competitive. Jonathon Webb, Bright, Rick Kelly and James Courtney had all looked to secure places in the Top 10 Shootout, but were all pushed out in the dying minutes. After forty minutes, Whincup had set the fastest time, ahead of Fabian Coulthard, who had produced a late flying lap to secure second. Mark Winterbottom edged out team-mate Davison for third place, ahead of Craig Lowndes, Shane Van Gisbergen, and Tim Slade. Despite his early accident, Tander recovered to eighth, having run as high as third before the final push for lap times. Steve Owen and David Reynolds both qualified in the top ten, though Reynolds was forced to wait anxiously as several other drivers – including Lee Holdsworth and Webb – still had enough time to record one final flying lap, though neither were able to surpass his time.
Webb ultimately missed the cut-off by seven hundredths of a second, leaving him eleventh alongside Bright, with Kelly and Courtney filling out the seventh row of the grid behind them. Holdsworth's final lap left him fifteenth, alongside early pace-setter Caruso. Team-mates Moffat and Steven Johnson took sixteenth and seventeenth, alongside Todd Kelly in the second Jack Daniels' Racing car, in what would be his final appearance in a Holden, having injured his shoulder in a training accident that would force him to miss the final four races of the 2012 season, while his team would switch to fielding Nissan Altimas in 2013.
Michael Patrizi qualified twentieth alongside Kelly, while Dean Fiore and David Wall out-qualified 2011 pole-sitter Greg Murphy in his second race back from a recurring back injury. Tony D'Alberto qualified twenty-fourth in the slowest of the Ford Falcons, ahead of Russell Ingall in twenty-fifth and Jack Perkins in twenty-sixth, Perkins having qualified the Garry Rogers-prepared Fujitsu Commodore in the place of regular driver Alexandre Prémat. Taz Douglas and Karl Reindler completed the last full row of the grid, leaving Cameron Waters and Jesse Dixon in twenty-ninth and last place, two-point-seven seconds adrift of Whincup's time.
The Top 10 Shootout took place at 16:30 local time on Saturday afternoon. Each of the ten fastest drivers in Friday qualifying were given one lap to set record a final qualifying time running in reverse order – so that the tenth-placed driver from Friday would go first, followed by the ninth-placed driver, all the way down to the fastest driver on Friday, who would be the last driver out – which would then decide the starting order to the top ten places on the grid.
David Reynolds was the first driver to take to the circuit. Conditions were considerably cooler and visibility lower than during the previous day's qualifying session, and Reynolds' lap time was half a second slower than his previous qualifying time. Steve Owen was the next driver out, setting a time that was over a second slower than Reynolds' and confirming that the conditions meant that lap times during the Shootout would not be as fast as the previous day's qualifying times had suggested. Several mistakes around the lap, particularly coming out of the Cutting, would also cost Owen dearly, and he would finish tenth overall.
Garth Tander was the first driver to better Reynolds' time, improving upon his time by four-tenths of a second. He was followed by Tim Slade, making his first appearance in the Bathurst Shootout. Slade, too, was fastest than Reynolds, but was unable to surpass Tander's time. Tander's place on provisional pole did not last long, as Shane Van Gisbergen took to the circuit fifth and established a new benchmark of 2:08.1791, which would prove difficult to beat. A poor first sector from Craig Lowndes left the three-time Bathurst winner struggling to record a competitive time, and with Van Gisbergen having been the fastest through the final sector, Lowndes ultimately had to settle for ninth.
Will Davison was the next to record a lap time, and while he had the advantage over Van Gisbergen in the first sector, he lost time in the second across the top of the mountain. Davison made a mistake whilst exiting the Chase, but held on by a tenth of a second to take provisional pole away from Van Gisbergen. By his own admission, small errors throughout the lap meant that Davison's hold on provisional pole was tenuous with three more drivers to come. His team-mate, Mark Winterbottom was next, and while they were evenly-matched through the first sector, Winterbottom lost time whilst traversing The Esses and was slower than Van Gisbergen.
Reports of rain on the initial climb up the mountain began to come in as Fabian Coulthard took to the circuit, and in-car shots clearly showed drizzle as he climbed Mountain Straight. Coulthard's lap was cautious, and while there was not enough water on the circuit to greatly affect his time, he would finish even further adrift of Davison in fifth place. The rain continued as the final runner, Jamie Whincup, started his flying lap, and the reigning champion was unfazed by the worsening weather as he passed through the first sector nine hundredths of a second faster than Will Davison. The second sector split, coming out of Forrest's Elbow, was even closer with Whincup in front by just two ten-thousandths of a second. But despite Davison's messy exit coming out of the Chase, Whincup lost time in the final sector, missing out on pole position by half a second. Thus, Davison claimed his first pole position at the Mount Panorama Circuit, with Whincup second. Van Gisbergen and Winterbottom filled out the second row of the grid, ahead of Coulthard and Tander, Slade and Reynolds, and the struggling Lowndes in ninth place alongside Owen.
Race stewards handed Tekno Autosports' Michael Patrizi and Jonny Reid a five-place grid penalty for blocking Jason Bright during the Friday qualifying session, which Bright claimed prevented him from securing a place in the Top 10 Shootout. Patrizi, who had qualified in twentieth place on merit, would start the race from twenty-fifth place instead.
The following table represents the final starting grid for the race on Sunday:
Paul Dumbrell, starting from second on the grid, made the best start, but pole-sitter Will Davison was able to stay with him through Hell Corner and up Mountain Straight, seizing the lead by driving around the outside of Dumbrell through Griffins' Bend. Dumbrell was soon passed by Shane Van Gisbergen, who immediately started applying pressure to Davison. Meanwhile, Mark Winterbottom made a poor start and slipped down the order, fighting with Tim Slade and David Reynolds over seventh place. Steve Owen also went backwards at the start, having overshot his grid position when the grid was formed, and being overwhelmed by the fast-starting cars around him as the field headed up Mountain Straight.
Tyre management quickly became a big issue, when Craig Lowndes was forced to pit after just eleven laps with a tyre failure. Winterbottom was also forced to make an early stop with a similar problem, and both plummeted back down the order. The effect was somewhat negated by the first safety car intervention when Jonny Reid, driving the #91 Tekno Autosports entry, ground to a halt on the narrow climb out of the Cutting. Davison, Dumbrell and Garth Tander all elected to pit immediately, while Van Gisbergen stayed out on the circuit to take the lead of the race. Davison changed places with co-driver John McIntyre and quickly rejoined, but Dumbrell's stop was compromised when his team was forced to change the driver's-side window, and by the time Jamie Whincup pulled out of the pits, he had lost a place to Nick Percat, the Holden Racing Team having capitalised on the slow stop to get the Tander—Percat Commodore out ahead of Whincup. Most of the field would pit under the safety car, and once racing resumed, McIntyre led from Lowndes and Luke Youlden and Dean Canto in Van Gisbergen's and Reynolds' cars respectively; Canto quickly reeled Youlden in and passed him as they emerged from Forrest's Elbow and the circuit opened up onto Conrod Srraight.
Whincup's lead did not last long, as he returned to the pits with a delaminated tyre and fell to twenty-first; McIntyre reported a similar problem and pitted, but the Ford Performance Racing pit crew could find nothing wrong with the tyre and he rejoined in twenty-second as Lowndes inherited the lead. Percat triggered a second safety car when he crashed coming down through The Esses on the approach to Forrest's Elbow, and although he was able to return to the pits under his own power, he had left a trail of debris on the racing line, necessitating the safety car. His Holden Racing Team crew would ultimately be able to repair the car and send it back out, but twenty laps off the lead. Meanwhile, the field pitted again, but Whincup and McIntyre remained out and resumed the race in first and second. By this point, only Whincup, Lowndes and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport driver Taz Douglas were the only regular drivers out on the circuit, and Whincup took full advantage of a field of co-drivers to build up a thirteen-second lead.
Whincup's strategy began to work against him when the race saw the third safety car in the space of fifty laps. Having just stopped for a brake pad change, Steve Owen found himself at the end of Mountain Straight with no brake pressure and spun at speed into the barriers on the outside of Griffins' Bend. Owen was uninjured, but the car was critically damaged, and would not return to the race. The field bunched up again, and Whincup handed control of his car back to Dumbrell as the rest of the field swapped for their regular drivers. Craig Lowndes was held up in the pit lane waiting for Whincup to complete his stop and fell from fourth to twelfth as a result, while John McIntyre spun at Hell Corner and was forced to perform a three-point turn to escape the run-off, dropping from second to twentieth. More problems ensued when he made his scheduled stop and left the car in gear once it was raised onto its jacks; as the spinning wheels were dangerous for the pit crew, the team was handed a penalty by race stewards. Back on the circuit, Dumbrell took advantage of the slower, non-pitting cars of Craig Baird – driving for Lee Holdsworth – and Andrew Thompson, sharing with Slade, to hold off Reynolds, Jason Bright, Michael Caruso, James Courtney and Van Gisbergen.
The race began to settle down, with drivers aiming for targeted lap times and attempting to avoid kerbs as much as possible to preserve the life of their tyres; the kerb on the outside of Griffins' Bend and on the inside of the left-hander at the Chase were earmarked as the ones to avoid where and when possible. Dumbrell maintained a steady lead over Reynolds, while Caruso, Courtney and Mark Winterbottom rounded up and passed Bright. Greg Murphy and Tony D'Alberto had also fought their way up into the top ten, having started twentieth and twenty-third respectively, while Van Gisbergen was shuffled back down the order when one of his tyres failed after just eight laps.
A further safety car was needed on lap 91, when David Besnard spun the #14 Brad Jones Racing Commodore at Skyline. He narrowly avoided hitting the wall, but beached himself in the gravel trap and needed assistance to be extracted, triggering the safety car. This brought about another wave of pit stops, and with it, the first major strategy deviations. Triple Eight had been running their cars in twenty-three lap windows, the maximum they felt was viable on the tyres; by comparison, Rod Nash Racing was running longer stints, so that when the race resumed, Whincup and Dumbrell only had enough fuel to reach lap 108, whereas Reynolds and Canto could make it to lap 119 before needing another stop. The advantage of this came into effect with the fifth deployment of the safety car when Andrew Jones burst a tyre on the second Brad Jones Racing Commodore and went off at Murray's Corner. Needing less fuel than those around him, Reynolds was able to make a shorter stop and leapfrog from sixth to second place. Lowndes, on the other hand, suffered when he tried to perform the same feat, as he was once again forced to wait for his team to finish servicing Whincup before he could make his stop. Upon exiting his pit bay, Lowndes nearly made contact with David Wall and Alexandre Prémat, though he escaped without penalty for an unsafe release.
Brad Jones Racing's difficult day continued after the restart. Besnard had returned the #14 car to the pit, where the team changed the steering rack and manage to get the car back out onto the circuit, but Besnard went off again several laps later at the same place as where Jones had spun, calling for the sixth safety car of the race. When racing resumed, the order settled down into a rhythm once more, with Whincup leading Reynolds, Courtney, Caruso and Winterbottom. Davison, in the second factory-supported Ford, was constantly in trouble, pitting with tyres problems one lap and then being forced to make an unscheduled stop on the next. Van Gisbergen also found more trouble when Stone Brothers Racing miscalculated his team-mate's lap count by one lap, leaving them with no option but to bring Van Gisbergen in and put Luke Youlden back in the car so that Youlden could complete the minimum fifty-four laps. D'Alberto's charge through the field from twenty-third ended abruptly when he encountered mechanical trouble and was recalled to the pits where he spent a lap sitting in his pit bay while the team tried to diagnose his problem; he was later retired.
Davison's day went from bad to worse; contact with team-mate Youlden in the middle of the race had damaged his car, and the watts' linkage finally gave way forty laps later. Davison reported a roll bar snapping at the top of Conrod Straight, severing a brake line so that he found he had no brakes as he entered the Chase. He spun across the infield of the circuit, narrowly missing Fabian Coulthard – the #14 Commodore having been removed from the gravel trap again – and hitting the wall on the outside of the Chase. Davison was able to limp back to the pits and have the damage repaired, but he was taken completely out of contention by the incident. At the front of the pack, Whincup, Reynolds and Caruso pitted on lap 134, while Courtney tried to undercut them by pitting on lap 135, but lost third place to Caruso. Lowndes also pitting on lap 135 so as to avoid being double-stacked in the pit bay again. This marked the final pit stop of the race, thus allowing the front runners to make it to the finish without stopping again, but several pit crews warned their drivers that they would need to conserve fuel. Courtney, however, had an extra lap worth of fuel on-board compared to the other three drivers, which meant he had no such need to economise and took full advantage of it, passing Reynolds with twenty laps to go. Courtney's resurgence was short-lived; no sooner had he passed Reynolds than he was reporting problems with his tyres, and while he defended as best he could, Reynolds took the position back and set his sights on Whincup. Courtney was also rounded up by Michael Caruso and Lowndes, who had followed the same strategy as Courtney, but had managed his tyres properly. Lowndes was also able to pass Caruso for third, but Whincup and Reynolds were too far ahead for him to catch them, and Lowndes had to settle for third.
Meanwhile, Reynolds and Whincup were matching each other blow-for-blow. Where Whincup was becoming increasingly lean on fuel, Reynolds had the luxury of running his Falcon on the highest fuel setting, forcing Whincup to drive defensively. It soon became obvious that Reynolds was strongest down Conrod Straight, but was lacking traction at Hell Corner and The Dipper, and Whincup drove accordingly; aggressively through The Dipper to build up a lead down Conrod Straight, and then as defensively as he could through Murray's Corner and Hell Corner to build up a lead onto Mountain Straight. With each passing lap, Whincup was instructed by his pit wall to be increasingly conservative, while Reynolds was encouraged by his engineers to attack at every opportunity. In the end, Whincup picked his battles through The Dipper and Hell Corner to hold on for victory by just three tenths of a second, with Reynolds second and Lowndes third. James Courtney recovered late in the race to catch Caruso again, while Jonathon Webb and Scott McLaughlin were sixth ahead of Slade, Holdsworth, Russell Ingall and James Moffat completing the top ten. After struggling with tyre problems throughout the race, Mark Winterbottom was eleventh, while Will Davison's race ended in disaster, finishing twenty-fourth, eighteen laps down. The lone wildcard entry driven by Cameron Waters and Jesse Dixon was classified twentieth of twenty-five finishers, three laps behind the leaders.
Notes:^1 – Michael Patrizi was handed a five-place grid penalty for blocking Jason Bright during Friday qualifying.
Teams competing in the race chose to commemorate the fiftieth year of the event, with several commissioning special liveries inspired by historic race-winning cars:The #18 Falcon of James Moffat and Alex Davison was modelled after the "Tru-Blu" Ford XD Falcon driven by team principal Dick Johnson at the 1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000. The car was also re-numbered to carry the number 17, which was used by Johnson in the 1980 race. The Steven Johnson—Allan Simonsen entry, which usually carried the number 17 during the regular season, was reassigned as #18.
Ford Performance Racing commissioned liveries for the Falcons of Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards, and of Will Davison and John McIntyre, based on the liveries used by the Moffat Ford Dealers team when they claimed a one-two finish in 1977.
The David Reynolds—Dean Canto entry was restyled after the livery used by Harry Firth and Fred Gibson when they won the 1967 race. The car's number was also changed from #55 to #52 to further reflect the 1967 livery.
Karl Reindler and Daniel Gaunt designed a "new retro" livery for the #11 Holden VE Commodore loosely inspired by cars of the 1960s.
Craig Lowndes paid tribute to his mentor and nine-time Bathurst winner Peter Brock with a replica of the livery used by Brock when he won the 1982 event. However, the car carried Lowndes' #888 instead of Brock's traditional number, 05, as the number was retired by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport as a mark of respect upon Brock's death in 2006. The design also carried minor modifications as the original car was sponsored by Marlboro, and with tobacco sponsorship of sporting teams and events banned in Australia, the changes were needed to prevent the car violating these laws.
Several other teams, including Stone Brothers Racing, Kelly Racing, Britek Motorsport, Tekno Autosports, and Walkinshaw Racing also raced with special liveries, but these were not inspired by historic designs.After 21 of 30 races.