In the space of several minutes, David Reynolds’ dream of defending his Bathurst crown fell to pieces in gutting fashion.
- David Reynolds set the pace for much of the Bathurst 1000, only to succumb to severe cramp
- The cramp allowed eventual-winner Craig Lowndes to overtake him
- Sleep-deprived Reynolds accidentally spun his wheels in the pits as his Bathurst tilt crumbled
The 2017 winner of the Bathurst 1000 had dominated the race for much of Sunday, leading for 112 of the first 134 laps before his race crumpled in a heap with the finish in sight.
The story of 2018’s version of The Great Race will forever be Craig Lowndes’ fairy tale finish, winning a seventh Bathurst crown in his final year as a full-time driver.
But where Lowndes shed tears of joy alongside his father Frank and co-driver Steven Richards, it was a tale of exhaustion, anguish and despair in the Erebus Motorsport garage.
On the 135th lap, with just 26 laps to go, Reynolds — who was fastest in qualifying and started in pole position — succumbed to debilitating cramp, allowing Lowndes to scream past him and claim a lead the veteran driver would not relinquish.
Reynolds’ body was melting down, and the signs had been there from early on in the piece.
As defending champion, Reynolds had an extremely busy lead-up, including putting in nearly 400 kilometres behind the wheel, leaving him sleep deprived and battling anxiety. While his co-driver Luke Youlden was on track, Reynolds was pictured on the broadcast napping in the Erebus garage.
That lead-up had taken its toll.
“I’ve had a very big lead-up, we’ve had terrible sleep, and I just haven’t looked after myself that well,” Reynolds said.
“Yesterday I was probably running on 70 per cent, this morning I was probably 50 per cent, [during] the race I was pretty much at zero.
“The biggest race of the year, I had the fastest car, I’m just bitterly disappointed, just so bitter.
“We’ve been the best performing team all week, everyone’s put their heart and soul into it, and I failed at the end of the day.”
The cramp was a killer, and derailed Reynolds’ race spectacularly as his “mind started to go”. His right leg seized up as Lowndes approached and Reynolds tried to shift into first gear, only for his left leg to also cramp up, making it even more difficult to engage his clutch.
To make matters worse, Reynolds’ vision had become progressively blurry throughout the race.
Erebus tries electrolytes, only for pit stop disaster to kick in
“I’ve got the biggest cramp in my leg in my life,” Reynolds said over the radio as Lowndes raced away. The Erebus garage had a choice — gamble on electrolytes giving Reynolds one final jolt to finish the race, or sub the driver out for Youlden.
They opted for electrolytes, but even in the pits, the cramps proved far too costly.
David Reynolds led for 112 of the first 134 laps before things went decidedly pear-shaped on The Mountain. (AAP: Brendan Esposito)
The leg cramped again, causing Reynolds to inadvertently spin his wheels while the car was jacked up and getting refuelled — a black-flag penalty costing him 30 seconds.
“I thought my screen was foggy, but then they [removed] the tear-off and it didn’t get any better, and that’s when I realised my vision was stuffed,” he said.
“The vision was diminishing, so I was in a bad state, but I’m too competitive for my own good and I just didn’t want to give up.
“At the end of the day, if I stayed out, I would have crashed the car, 100 per cent.”
The race was over. Reynolds served the penalty, then subbed out for Youlden as Erebus’s tilt at defending their title crumbled into dust.
An emotional David Reynolds was left to wonder what might have been after cramps ended his hopes of going back-to-back. (AAP: Brendan Esposito)
Reynolds was distraught. An incredible amount of work, both by him and the rest of his team, had come to nothing and sapped him of everything.
“I’m just so disappointed for everyone involved. We had the best car, I just can’t believe it,” he told broadcasters in the garage.
“When Lowndes passed me I was at 50 per cent throttle, I couldn’t tell if I was on the brake or on the throttle.
“I’ve never had that before in anything I’ve ever driven, it was just bizarre.”
Reynolds, who was briefly helped towards the garage by a mechanic before sitting down amid consoling teammates, said it was a situation he had never encountered before.
“Sometimes you just try and be mentally strong and your body just gives up,” he said.
“That’s what gave up — my body just gave up at the end of the day.
“I’ve never had that. I’ve done half Ironman stuff, run for three or four hours straight, and never had anything like that in my life.
“I was pushing really hard, though, for the whole race. Every time I got in I was giving it everything I had.”