BATHURST 12 HOUR HEARTBREAK FOR DAVIES
As the motor racing saying goes, it's hard to know whether going out of the race on lap one is any easier to accept than registering a failure to finish late race, and so it was to be for Shae Davies and the Handley Surveys Melbourne Performance Centre (MPC) Audi R8 LMS entry at last weekend's Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour Intercontinental GT race.
Having never before sat in the car Davies took to the 2016 GT spec machine like a duck to water, quickly whittling his practice times down in a field that included more than 30 of the world's best GT drivers, some of which were ex-Formula 1 and Le Mans 24 Hour stars.
Teamed with fellow ex-Carrera Cup racer Marcus Marshall and brothers James and Theo Koundouris the car, lined up in 17th place in the 37 car field after qualifying, with Marshall having set a time just under two seconds slower than the pole time registered by V8 Supercar star Shane Van Gisbergen, who shattered the previous outright lap record by almost one second.
The race started in dark conditions with Marshall - last year's Class B Bathurst champ - taking the green light, before handing over to Theo early in the race. Davies first stint saw the stunning black and blue Audi climb up to 12th place, a position the car remained in and around for the first half of the race.
Early afternoon saw the strategy start to evolve with the number 40 machine sitting just inside the top 10. With both Davies and Marshall - the quicker of the four drivers - not allowed to exceed more than four hours accumulated driving time the team worked actively to rotate the driving quartet throughout the day, taking advantage of Safety Car calls to change their plans on the run.
With less than two hours remaining, and having traded fastest laps with the race leaders, Davies looked well-poised to roll off his final four laps and hand the car over to Marshall to bring it home. At this stage of the race the car had completed 251 laps and was placed in eighth position outright, second in class, and was catching the class leader with each passing lap, Davies recording the team's fastest race lap of 2:04.8s on lap 187.
Unfortunately it was not to be, with Davies suffering a high-speed tyre failure while accelerating up Mountain Straight towards Turn 2, somehow managing to bring the crippled machine to a halt just metres away from the safety barrier.
A forlorn Davies, and the rest of the team, were left to rue what might have been if not for the tyre blow out.
"Man, that is a really tough one to cop, let alone accept. We were looking good, real good and the right rear tyre just blew without warning. I had a bit of a slide at the final corner of the previous lap but had no idea at all what was about to take place. It sure was a wild ride and I was doing over 225ks when it let go. Thankfully I managed to wash some speed off and pull the car up without hitting the barrier, which I was convinced I was going to make contact with.
"I know there was still over an hour to go but when you've come so far, learnt so much, dodged so many bullets and raced hard to help put the car in a genuinely competitive position it's just soul destroying. Marcus was all primed and ready to jump in for the final stint and we would have been fuelled-up until the end, so he could have challenged the class leaders and been on for sixth place outright.
"This weekend has been an amazing experience and to be a part of the five-car MPC operation has been fantastic. Competing with top international and local drivers on track, who are top drawer, was a massive thing and I've learnt so much over the last four days working with the team. I just wish we could have repaid their hard work with the result we feel we deserved. That's the game we play though and we move on, but I really want to be back here again in 12 months time having another crack at this truly challenging race."