When Tim Leahey steered the #23 BMW M3 past the finish line in the 2019 Hi-Tec Oil Bathurst 6 Hour, it was a victory that meant more to the team than just any other race win.
For three years prior to that moment, Leahey along with team owner and co-driver Beric Lynton had worked so hard to take out the Easter endurance race but had never prevailed – despite coming so close on numerous attempts.
On two occasions, they had started on pole and had even led in the final stages, only for their campaign to come to a crashing halt due to a host of mechanical errors, a problem which always seemed to be the downfall in their chase for glory.
However, in 2019 it was different story as a combination of good luck, strategy and consistent driving finally saw them claim that prize they’d been chasing for so long. For Lynton, there were two significant moments which proved pivotal in that six hour race.
“We got lucky during the event’s first safety car period,” Lynton said.
“I was about to pit when I saw a car in the fence at Forest Elbow and I knew there would be a safety car soon. We only had about three laps of fuel left in the car so we decided to take the risk.
“The risk paid off because the safety car came out not long after and we were able to pit which eventually gave us a major advantage.
“The other moment was a bit more controversial within the team. Tim was driving at the time when another safety car was deployed. Nearly a lap ahead, the team were wanting to pit him then and there, but I instructed Tim to stay out unless the other race contenders stopped themselves.
“No one agreed with me, especially Tim, but being the car owner and the boss, they didn’t have a choice but to listen. I really felt we could use that to our advantage because we could keep the others behind us and not give them a sniff.
“At the time none of them were happy, but it ultimately worked in our favour again and they realised after the race it was the right strategy. Our two big risks paid off which was fantastic.”
It was a performance which Lynton admits was aided by the fortunate lack of safety cars, which had been a major factor of the result in recent years, as well as a victory which was made sweeter by their heartbreak the year before.
Having made nine pit stops in 2018, the duo somehow worked their way into the mix and on track to take out the victory. Lynton was behind the wheel with 25 minutes to go and looked like he was going to seal the deal.
But disaster soon struck when the M3 lost a wheel and their dream was quickly over. While it was a difficult situation, little did they know they would finally taste success 12 months later.
“That year (2018) was gut wrenching. The car had pace and we had done the fastest lap of the race, so to go out the way we did was just difficult. It was very emotionally draining,” Lynton added.
“I think the win actually means a little more now because of how close we came in the past. I was thinking about it recently. It was more a feeling of relief than joy.
“We broke so many records last year (2019). We were the first to win from pole and the first car to lead every lap. We got rid of so many monkeys off our back as well. It truly was a huge effort from the team to do what we did.
“It took us four years to do it and we’re just looking forward to hopefully getting it again. Whether that be this year or next, it doesn’t matter.”