A title fight of epic proportions best described the 2018 Bathurst 1000.
Over the last 60 laps, reigning Bathurst champion David Reynolds went blow for blow with six-time winner Craig Lowndes.
No more than two seconds separated the pair who for two-and-a-half hours lapped the iconic circuit in race record lap times.
Neither made a mistake whilst pushing the other to the max, Reynolds trying to outrun Lowndes who was having none of it.
The most popular drivers in Australian motorsport put on a show for the ages – could the young gun show the old master how it’s done in 2018?
With 27 laps remaining, Lowndes made his move and went up the inside of Reynolds at Griffins Bend, but there was still an hour of running to go.
Reynolds was starting to slow due cramping in his calf, and, with one pit stop remaining, he had to push through five more excruciating laps before stopping to ensure they would have enough fuel to make it the end.
He exited pit lane with 21 laps to go after receiving a sports drink to alleviate the cramping. Two seconds behind, he began the chase to give himself rare back-to-back Bathurst victories.
But after fighting the best in the business and his own body, it was an error in his last pit stop where his rear wheels were spinning when the car was on the jacks, resulting in drive through penalty being applied, which dropped him down to seventh, 30 seconds off the lead - it was a cruel blow.
A distressed Reynolds eventually had to get out of the car and, with 14 laps to go, handed it to co-driver Luke Youlden – they eventually finished 14th.
He had started from pole and led the race all day.
“I’m so, so devastated, we had the fastest car and my leg was cramping big time,” Reynolds told Fox Sports.
“When Lowndes passed me I couldn’t tell if I was on the brake or on the throttle.
“I’ve never had that before in any car I’ve ever driven.
“The first 15 laps I wasn’t mentally there, I was lost and then my body gave up.
“I’m just so disappointed for everyone involved.
“I just can’t believe it.”
Lowndes went on to win his seventh Bathurst title in his farewell year, having announced he’ll retire from full-time racing at year’s end.
Brad Jones Racing didn’t have the pace to go with the front-runners this year.
Nick Percat and Macauley Jones started seventh but had to contend with steering issues mid-race which hampered their ability to mount a serious challenge.
Both Jones and Percat drove near faultless races, but 2018 was not to be their year at the great race, eventually finishing where they started.
Tim Slade and Ash Walsh couldn’t find the speed of last year with race laps times well over a second slower than the front-runners.
“It was a missed opportunity really,” BJR boss Brad Jones said.
“The steering issue hit Nick and Macca early and hurt our speed.
“My hat’s off to Nick to put the car in the top-ten today, it’s a cracking drive to get the car to seventh place and in the end his lap times were very competitive.
“Tim and Ash just didn’t have a great day – I don’t think the car was ever quite right this week, so 13th is about where it’s at.”
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