The date was the 20th of October, 2018. This was the date the Atomic would make its first attempt at the Bathurst 1000 in a hosted event run by the Pacific Majors, and right out of the bat we would like to thank the guys at Pacific Major for hosting the event after finding out that iRacing wouldn’t be hosting one themselves this year. First Bathurst 1000, but not the first endurance race Atomic has competed it.
The choice of weapon the FG Ford, why the Ford? Our two drivers Velo and Kikz were both Ford fans, so it was there call, another brilliant livery completed by Millen, it was bound to stand out on track with Atomic’s colour scheme.
Kikz was a regular feature in the Pro Mazda iRacing series, so a switch to the V8 Supercar wasn’t a jump in and drive it hard and fast, but a question of commitment could not be questions with over 200 laps completed on the lead up, improving this lap times by over 2 seconds, and as we all know in endurance racing, his consistency and confidence in the car. Velo himself had completed 50+ laps in practice, but more focus on qualifying.
Qualifying: a combined average time of 2:05.8 for 20th, both Kikz and Velo worked hard to achieve this time, then a last minute call to change qualifying to be complete pre-race meant that those times were all for nothing. However it wasn’t all bad news for Atomic with Velo in the car he did a 2:04.6 putting Atomic’s first assault at the Bathurst 1000 11th on the grid in a 38 car field, with only 3 of those cars not setting a qualifying time.
Velo stayed in the car for the start, knowing it’s a 161 lap race and not a 1 lap sprint, was conservative and let those who were in the Bathurst 1000 sprint race do their thing and wait for the race to come to them. Saving fuel and tyres Velo was able to stay out longer than other and not pit till lap 24, good signs on the strategic battle. Kikz jumps in the car running in a solid 12th position, doing nice consistent laps and staying out of trouble.
On lap 32, Kikz has a very slight lock up at Forest Elbow defending from the car behind and only just tagged the wall on the exit, with the long run down Conrod he didn’t put up a fight and stayed off line, slipping in behind car #66 to continue the fight later in the race, still early days. As for the damage, slight damage to the front and rear right hand corners of the car, but felt fine to stay out till the scheduled pit stop.
Lap 37 saw great battle with car #32 across the top of the mountain with a slip streaming and a slightly better drive out of the Elbow #32 passed just before the Chase to take the racing line for position. With pit stops and incidents ahead we were still in 11th, knocking of the door of the top 10.
Lap 39 would see things go foul for Atomic a quote from Kikz the drive in the car:
“The move was compared to Simona De Silvestro's from 2016, where she drifted wide and collected the wall at the exit of the final turn. I chose the wrong time to check my mirrors for the following car. I was intending to stay right and let him up the inside into turn 1. I looked up too early and lost slipped on the dirt.”
Forced to get a tow back to the pits, it was a 10 minute pit stop for repairs.
Kikz stays in the car back out on track in 26th position, out of position on track with the top 10 cars coming through, but nothing Kikz couldn’t handle. But having to lift, keeping off the racing line and stay out wide to let them through hurts a driver’s rhythm, which is never good, but around Bathurst, in what is only Kikz 2nd every official race in the V8 Supercar, the challenge all that much harder.
Lap 44 having already let car #7 in 8th pass up mountain straight Kikz has a weird spin out of The Cutting, trying to recover but knowing he was blocking the track and with 9th only 5 seconds behind before the spin, he made the call to get a tow back to pits to avoid wrecking the race for someone else, another 10 minutes for repairs + the tow time.
Velo jumps back in the car after the pit stop, slowly gaining position lap after lap going from P26 to P18 by lap 79, with car #010 who was in 10th ran wide before the Elbow, Velo saw his chance to un-lap himself, keeping as wide as possible to give him space on the inside, but was still taken out. But only JUST, care #010 hit the wall and had a spin and only just managed to tag the back left quarter of our car sending it up in the air, “Shit Happens!”.
But this is endurance racing, you keep going, but now with no pressure, it was about keeping their heads down and doing the laps and picking up whatever position they could. Again back in P26, Atomic worked their way back into 17th with 16th a chance still. But Velo was forced to make a double stint towards the end of the race with a lapse on strategy, Kikz wasn’t ready to jump in for a driver swap. However a few laps into the 2nd stint Velo’s efforts in the race so far started to have a physical effect:
“…my left knee started to get shooting pain so Kikz got ready and jumped in”
However Atomic’s “luck” would continue for Kikz in the car, this time the engine decided it had had enough and expired coming out of The Chase, Kikz did a great job and coasted the car back into the pits and avoid a tow. With only 12 laps left of the race to go, it was going to be touch and go to get back out after the repairs, yes engine can be repaired/replace in iRacing (not the first time Atomic has had an engine change in an endurance event, hopefully the last? But doubt it) 21 minute pit stop, Kikz stayed in the car managing to complete the race coming home in 20th.
Atomic first and certainly not last attempt at the Bathurst 1000 saw Velo and Kikz complete 133 laps out of 161. Not a bad result if anyone has driven the V8 Supercar before knows it is not an easy car to tame with the added challenge that is Bathurst, 20th out of a 38 car field is a great result.
Final words from our “unofficial team manager”
“I'm not bitter in the slightest. Kikz put so much practise and work into this I'm happy where we ended up and finished the race. Not to mention Kikz's improvement since Monday this week has been astounding. If we continue on the V8 Supercar path we'll be a team to be reckoned with. I was pretty happy with my own performance though the lap 79 crash I should have been more cautious seeing how far left the purple car went.”
See you in 2019 Bathurst, Atomic WILL be back, maybe this time with more than just one car in the field.