Whanganui motorsport fans got to see some of the grit and determination which has made expat Earl Bamber such an in-demand driver around the world after he and lead driver Shane van Gisbergen finished fifth on a tough Sunday afternoon in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
The story of the great race will ultimately be the emotional victory of V8 Supercars legend Craig Lowndes and Kiwi-born co-driver Steven Richards for Autobarn Lowndes Racing, with Lowndes claiming his seventh Bathurst win to tie Richards father Jim Richards for second of all-time, behind Lowndes' mentor the late Peter Brock with nine.
Lowndes, 44, is retiring from the fulltime Australian V8 Supercar Championship this season, although he will be back at Bathurst as a co-driver.
The winning Holden pair has an alliance with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, which consists of the all-Kiwi team of Bamber and van Gisbergen, along with perennial Bathurst favourites Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell.
Mechanical issues were looking like the day would be a disaster for Red Bull, as Dumbrell lost a tyre early in the race and had to guide the car right back around the entire circuit on three wheels, along with then accidently putting the Holden off the road several times as they tried to make up the gap after repairs.
Earlier, Dumbrell had passed Bamber for second place when the Whanganui driver had to check up on the braking race leader Luke Youlden, who was co-driving for David Reynolds.
Having got into the car for van Gisbergen on Lap 20, Bamber had a slow second pitstop to fall further back into sixth, which he had fought back to fourth spot by the next driver changeover on Lap 58.
However, Whincup and Dumbrell's team issues then migrated across the garage as Bamber was left just sitting in the car after the Lap 77 changeover, waiting for the pit crew to desperately try to fix a break issue, costing precious time and spots.
The team fell all the way back to 16th place, yet by the time van Gisbergen took the car back from Bamber after Lap 94, they were third again and started off fifth following the pitstop, as Bamber had driven the wheels off the Holden to give his team a shot at the podium.
In front of the second largest Bathurst crowd in history of 206,755 plus with millions watching live on prime time Australasian television, the commentators highlighted the 28-year-old Bamber's impressive moves, making key passes all along the circuit to fight his way through the traffic.
Ulimately, the car didn't have enough for van Gisbergen to get it on the podium, as his Top 5 placing keeps him leading the Australian Supercars points championship, but by a reduced margin of 19 points to fellow Kiwi Scott McLaughlin, who took his Ford to third in Bathurst.
The fifth placing follows Bamber and van Gisbergen coming second at the Sandown 500 in September, which means they are currently in second place for the Pirtek Enduro Cup, a seperate championship consisting of the three endurance races in the overall series.
The third and final race for the Enduro Cup is the Vodafone Gold Coast 600 on October 19-20.
Watching it all back home was Avon McDonald, who along with fellow motorist enthusisast Lyndsay Tait had set up the Wheels Trust for local businesses to give finanical support to the-then 19-year-old Bamber so he could pursue options on the world stage.
"It was an amazing drive," McDonald said of Bamber's second stint.
"From 16th to 3rd. I can't remember how many laps he did it in, but it was an incredible drive."
Bamber has already had a MotorSport New Zealand Wall of Fame career with two Le Man's victories, the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship, two Porsche Carrera Cup championships and being the official Porsche factory test driver.
However, McDonald was delighted that casual Kiwi sports fans, who only follow races like Bathurst, finally got to see what the Wheels Trust has always known.
"Bathurst is arguably the biggest event in the racing calender in the southern hemisphere.
"We're enormously proud of what he's doing. Earl's dear to our heart.
"All those people that supported Earl in the early days, when we were crunching it up....super proud of Earl.
"We've got sportspeople all over the world from Whanganui doing the business. Just humble people geting on with it."
Pirtek Enduro Cup Points
1. Craig Lowndes & Steven Richards, Autobarn Lowndes Racing, 558; 2. Shane van Gisbergen & Earl Bamber, Red Bull Holden Racing, 498; 3. Scott McLaughlin & Alexandre Prémat, Shell V-Power Racing, 498; 4. Scott Pye & Warren Luff, Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing, 480; 5. Jamie Whincup & Paul Dumbrell, Red Bull Holden Racing, 456.