MARK Winterbottom survived a late surge from Jamie Whincup and was forced to dodge an eager fan who ran onto the circuit to take out the 2013 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama yesterday.
Making light of the rogue fan who ran onto the track during the last lap waving a Ford flag, Winterbottom said the last 20 laps were especially demanding.
“I wasn’t comfortable with the car all day ... I just tried to battle on,” he said.
“A bloke ran at me with a Ford flag and I had to go around him,” he laughed.
Reflecting on his win, Winterbottom said it was amazing to finally take Bathurst.
“I have been trying so hard for 10 years ... it was a battle at the end but to do it with Richo [co-driver Steven Richards] and FPV [Ford Performance Vehicles] is amazing,” he said.
Winterbottom recalled the first time he raced - in a kart at Lithgow - saying he remembered getting car sick on the drive up.
“I still feel sick on the drive up to Bathurst,” he laughed.
Co-driver Richards also spoke how demanding the race was.
“I’ve never had so many near misses for absolutely no reason,” he said.
“The intensity of the race was unbelievable.”
V8 Supercars Australia communications manager Cole Hitchcock described the race as tremendous.
The 2013 Great Race marked the return of Mercedes and Nissan cars to the grid, and the launch of the “Car of the Future” V8 Supercar.
And the race again attracted bumper crowds, with more than 183,000 fans filing on to the Mountain for the four days of the event.
That was down on the 207,000 who joined in last year’s 50th anniversary celebrations but organisers were pleased to top the 180,000 figure from 2011.
“We turned on another classic like last year,” Mr Hitchcock said.
“It was tremendous. The weather was great and the crowd fantastic.”
Mr Hitchcock said the race being held outside school holidays did not appear to have a major impact on crowd numbers.
“The only effect it may have had was people were arriving a little later then usual,” he said.
“But the crowd is definitely bigger. Perhaps if it were in school holidays we would have got even more."
Mr Hitchcock said it was great so many families were attending the race.
“We are getting more families - more females and more grandmas and grandpas. It's a great thing,” he said.
“Our fans are at the heart of our sport. They are the future.
“Who knows, there could be young kids watching in the crowd today that could be future V8 champions.”
Mr Hitchcock said a debriefing session would be held next week to look at what changes, if any, could be made to improve the race.
“We are ecstatic with the way this year’s event has gone. The 2013 Bathurst 1000 was a cracker,” he said.