‘One hell of a ride’: Local drivers conquer the Mountain
The Northern Rivers has left its mark on the Mountain over the weekend, with three local drivers climbing onto the podium over the Bathurst 6 Hour weekend.
Byron Bay man Shane Smollen, his lifelong friend Rob Rubis , and V8 Supercar driver Shane van Gisbergen steered Smollen's BMW M4 to victory in the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour held on Sunday, the first race meet for the car.
He said it was fantastic to see so many local drivers among the placegetters over the weekend.
But it was a nailbiting finish for Smollen's team, with the driver shedding tears of joy when van Gisbergen crossed the line first.
"It was down to the wire. The win was so exciting … so suspenseful, but a safety car would have seen our lead disappear," Smollen said.
The anxiety was over a pending five-second penalty the team picked up after a safety car restart.
Smollen said he was behind a lapped car and misjudged the restart which led to the penalty.
He said it was like a black cloud hanging over the rest of the race, and was relieved to see the team maintain the lead at the finish line.
Smollen had nothing but praise for van Gisbergen and his preparation and approach to the race, saying it was "something else to work through someone of his calibre".
And van Gisbergen is certainly at his best - he's unbeaten in the V8 Supercar series this year and has racked up a number of wins in different cars in 2021, including the New Zealand Grand Prix in an open wheeler.
The Bathurst 6 Hour win completes the Bathurst triple crown for van Gisbergen who has won the Bathurst 12 Hour as well as the Great Race, the Bathurst 1000.
Smollen, an experienced GT and Porsche racer, had won many races, "but nothing like this".
Joining Smollen on the podium was another familiar face for Northern Rivers race fans.
David Russell, who grew up in Lismore, took third place with teammate Grant Sherrin for Sherrin Racing in a BMW M4.
Russell set the fastest lap times of the final stint in pursuit of Leahey in 2nd place, the two embarking on an epic battle to the line.
It is the second podium for Russell in the Bathurst 6 Hour.
"It is great to be on the podium with Grant, he did a fantastic job in his second stint to get our strategy back on track. The Sherrin Racing team did a phenomenal job with our pitstops all day. It's satisfying to bring our car home in third, ultimately we didn't have the power on the straights, but we gave it all we had", Russell said.
Also impressing on the weekend was Lismore's Nathan Herne, who claimed a win in the National Trans Am Series.
Herne said: "What a race! Came away with the win in the final race at Mount Panorama this weekend. Worked hard for it and after the fourth lap, I was hanging on for dear life. I couldn't wait to see the chequered flag come around".
"A massive thank you to the Dream Racing Australia team Valvoline and Garry Rogers Motorsport for the support, it's been one hell of a ride."
The win in the third race, and two second placings see Herne sit just two points adrift of series leader Aaron Seton.
Smollen said he looks forward to defending his title next Easter at Bathurst, but in the meantime, he will be back on track in Sydney in May for Round One of the Australian Production Car Series.