We went into weekend feeling confident after showing good speed in testing. The team did a great job to prepare the car and get to the race after getting the ‘green light’ to pursue the race only a month ago.
Initially we thought that if we squeezed into the the top 10 in Qualifying then that would be a great result.
Out of the truck, the car showed great speed and had good balance. The only changes we made to the car over the weekend was a slight ride height change and a rear anti-roll bar adjustment.
All 3 drivers were very competitive in practice and were quite close to each other in lap times.
Reigning Bathurst 1000 Champion, Luke Youlden felt very comfortable early on in practice and the majority of the session time was allocated to ex Formula One driver Tomas Enge - who was making his 2nd appearance at the Mountain and the Team owner Yasser Shahin to get as many laps in as possible.
Mainly due to his Mountain experience, Luke Youlden was chosen to perform qualifying duties and shocked the field by finishing 9th on the time sheets with a 2.02.9 second lap and ensuring a spot in the prestigious Top Ten Shootout.
Luke would go out 3rd in the Shootout after being bumped up a spot by the disqualification of Timo Glock’s BMW.
Luke put in a very quick 2.03.3 lap and that time would be good enough to jump up the grid a further 4 spots and meant the 777 car would start the race from position 4 - a phenomenal effort by the Buik Motor Works ‘The Bend’ crew and arguably exceeded even the team’s expectations.
It was Luke’s first Shootout lap and with no mistakes, put pressure on a lot of the factory drivers and goes down as one of Youlden’s best laps of his career.
A lot of internal team discussion was held about who would start the race. The decision was made, literally a minute before the 5pm Saturday deadline, that Luke should start. Yasser was feeling very positive about starting but ultimately the decision was made to minimise the risk of an incident in the dark and rely on Luke’s 22 years of experience at this circuit.
The start of the race was trouble free with the 777 running most of the first stint in 3rd position and was one of the fastest cars on the track.
With an hour down and on his ‘in lap’ Luke was ran into by a lapped car with the touch breaking a left rear shock absorber and causing a lengthy 30 minute pitstop for repairs.
The team didn’t give up and we set about doing the best job we could and getting as many laps back as possible.
Yasser and Tomas would share the next few stints and would spend a lot of laps under Safety Car conditions due to the unusually high number of accidents.
Unfortunately a few minor mechanical issues meant unscheduled pitstops marred the remaining laps of the race for the 777 but it was blindingly fast and could easily match the leader’s pace when running trouble free.
Ultimately we would retire with a gearbox issue with less than an hour and half to go - a disappointing end to the race that started with great promise.
I think the team can hold its high in the knowledge that we could mix it with the world’s best GT teams on the world stage in one of the world’s toughest races.
The team did a great job in their first 12hr attempt and with lessons learnt, will come back to the Mountain armed with greater knowledge, experience and all the better for a future attack on the great race.