Shane van Gisbergen says that securing pit priority was a must to win the Repco Bathurst 1000, even if strategising against team-mate Broc Feeney made for an uneasy atmosphere.
There were three cars genuinely in the fight for victory in the 60th anniversary edition of the Great Race and two of them were Triple Eight Race Engineering's Red Bull Ampol Racing Camaros.
The #97 entry of van Gisbergen/Richie Stanaway scored victory after a fight just as much against the #88 entry of Feeney/Jamie Whincup, if not more, than the team's key rival, the #99 Erebus Motorsport Camaro of Brodie Kostecki/David Russell.
Feeney had put his car on the front row whereas van Gisbergen had qualified sixth, but the order swapped during the first pit stop cycle and the second occurred under a Safety Car period.
From that point on, Car #97 was always in front of Car #88, which was forced to stack a second time when the third and final Safety Car period came.
Van Gisbergen said was of great significance, especially given how much slower the fuel fill rate is in the Gen3 era.
“The stacking risk here is killer,” he noted.
“We had to get in front of double-eight and it wasn't a real nice atmosphere at the start of the race, you know, working out strategies to try and get in front of your team-mates so you don't have to stack.
“But yeah, that's the fill time of this car, and once we had that that pit priority, there was no dramas; we were away.”
Triple Eight still managed to strategise itself into a position whereby it was set to score a one-two finish, until Car #88 broke a gear lever mount with 25 laps to go.
The failure left Feeney unsurprisingly devastated even if he appeared only an outside chance of victory by then, as van Gisbergen confirmed.
“They said we had 15 seconds' more fuel – 10 to 15 – and I was five ahead of him,” he explained.
“So, we were very heavy at that stop because we did brakes, so he was pretty quick in that stint, but mainly because of fuel.
“Yeah, I just wanted to stay in front so we kept the pit priority, but I knew that our stop was going to be shorter, so we would be okay, but I think they were pushing hard to try and clear the 99.”
Brodie Kostecki/Russell in Car #99 had been considered by many to be a red-hot favourite based on practice and qualifying performance, but van Gisbergen maintains he was always confident in the long game which they played.
“We were on the under the radar, pretty much, in practice,” he remarked.
“We really did a lot of race runs and focused on that; you know, the soft tyre here [for the first time at Mount Panorama] and trying to make the car last a stint.
“I knew it would be a bit hotter today and we really didn't have much speed in quali trim.
“Every time I went out on good tyres and low fuel, the car was really bad, but [on] race runs, I was pretty happy.
“We tried a few combinations of set-ups and stuff, but our long runs looked pretty good.
“When we compared to Dave [and Brodie's times, we knew we we're going to be strong in the race.
“My shootout lap was pretty boring; just sat in the middle of the road and drove around and really conservative.
“I just knew that our race car was going to be okay.”
The victory makes three for van Gisbergen in the Bathurst 1000, all in the space of four years, while it is Stanaway's first triumph in the Great Race.