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Features

Looking back at the 2023 Repco Bathurst 1000

A review of the 2023 Repco Bathurst 1000 in SupercarXtra Magazine issue #131.

11 December 2023

The 2023 Repco Bathurst 1000 was a race weekend of many parts. SupercarXtra Magazine issue #131 features an extensive review of the event.

CLICK HERE to purchase SupercarXtra Magazine issue #131.

The first was a political battle before a wheel had even turned in anger. It turned into a young championship leader with an underrated co-driver, both with blinding speed and a catch-us-if-you-can mentality. Finally, it turned to race day with one story of redemption and another a dominant possible farewell. Let’s start with the first.

Ford went to Bathurst believing its seventh generation Mustang was battling from behind. The data was pretty clear, albeit debatable; only once on the track in 2023 had a Mustang taken the chequered flag first. That was once in 23 races.

It was said it was slower in a straight line and had an aero imbalance that made for a narrow set-up window and gave it more rear tyre wear. If you got the car in the window, qualifying was okay, but then, when the racing began, the Camaro took over.

The counter-argument from most of the Chev teams, except for the championship leading Erebus Motorsport team, said the cars were okay, and that maybe even the Fords had an advantage, they just weren’t doing a good enough job. But, in the end, no amount of data, evidence or debate would change a thing. The only way a change for Bathurst could come about was for every owner of a Teams Racing Charter to vote for it. That wasn’t going to happen and didn’t happen. So the cars raced as they did at Sandown.

Triple Eight’s Shane van Gisbergen and Richie Stanaway controlled the race pretty much from the first safety car. Triple Eight made all the right calls for this car, while the other one had done an amazing job to even be in podium contention when it struck trouble. Erebus Motorsport’s Brodie Kostecki just didn’t have the speed to combat them and left relatively content with second place, which also kept the championship in his control.

For van Gisbergen, it was his third win in four years in possibly his last run at Bathurst as he prepares to head to the US to start his NASCAR career. His racing nous and connection with engineer Andrew Edwards proved the key to the win, along with the drive of Stanaway.

For the co-driving Kiwi, this was redemption. A star in everything he had ever raced, Stanaway struggled in his first run in Supercars. Some said he wasn’t supported and the teams weren’t professional, but he didn’t help himself.

But the 2023 Stanaway differs from the 2019 version that walked away from motorsport. After his run at Bathurst last year with Greg Murphy, he returns to the sport with a new maturity. Some claim credit for his apparent transformation, but it is down to him and we look forward to seeing what he can do at Grove Racing next year.

He didn’t have to star this weekend; he just had to do his job, and the discipline of the Triple Eight team worked with him on that. He’s quiet, and a bit like van Gisbergen in that respect, but he got the job done and has now climbed the highest ground in Australian motorsport.

It would be easy for Kostecki to be disappointed with second place. The speed from that car in the lead-up had it as the car to beat, but on race day, there were two cars quicker, so second was a good outcome. Erebus would have been disappointed not to have two cars up there, especially after the blistering opening stint by Will Brown, but it was happy to bag good points for both cars and to run away and think about cleaning up both titles.

The Gen3 racers held up despite dire warnings. That both first and second limped home with ailments was not too surprising, and in the end, there was only one DNF to a mechanical issue, although there were plenty of running repairs.

The 2023 Repco Bathurst 1000 won’t go down as a classic but it will historically record the first race of the new era as a tense battle and possibly the last win for a NASCAR-bound van Gisbergen and a weekend where a bitter class war threatened a divide. He leaves with three titles, and Triple Eight’s 10th draws it to the top of the tree on its own.

In the days after the race, Triple Eight revealed that van Gisbergen’s gear lever mount was broken too, and it could have been only seconds from complete failure. Perhaps proving once again, that the Mountain chooses its master.