Claiming a Sandown podium on his famous father’s birthday – at a circuit he made famous – proved a special moment for James Moffat following a torrid enduro campaign with Chaz Mostert.
The duo linked up for a second year in the #55 Supercheap Auto Racing entry, and loomed to take home some silverware from the outset at Bathurst – something Mostert made very clear in the lead-up to the event.
However, a Mostert clash with Tickford teammate Cameron Waters left Moffat crestfallen in the garages, with nothing to show for his and Mostert’s effort to stay in contention.
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Two weeks later, Moffat could again only watch on as last-man-out Mostert crashed heavily in the Saturday Top 10 Shootout at the Gold Coast 600. The crash not only ruled the car out of the weekend, but sent the car to the scrapheap.
At Sandown last weekend, it got no better when Moffat damaged the car in another intra-team tangle, before Mostert brought the car from last to eighth on the grid for the 500km enduro on Sunday.
The 161-lap classic was a race of two halves for the two drivers, with Moffat bringing the car in on Lap 57 third on the road. Mostert then set about chasing the final place on the podium, with the two Red Bull Holdens clearing out in front.
His main rival became Tickford teammate Lee Holdsworth in the #5 The Bottle-O Racing entry, who took his decisive final stop on Lap 123. Mostert pitted two laps later and emerged just behind, and suddenly, the tension rose in the Tickford garages.
There would be no Bathurst – and day-on-day – repeat as Mostert cleared Holdsworth on Lap 137 after the former was slightly baulked by Simona De Silvestro.
When leader Shane van Gisbergen suffered a cruel late-race suspension failure, Mostert moved up to second, and Holdsworth third. While the Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes win was a fairytale of sorts, Tickford at least left behind the enduro season with some smiles as Holdsworth also grabbed his first podium for five years, and rookie Thomas Randle his first.
“It was an absolute nightmare of an enduro campaign for us,” said Mostert, who was relieved to reward Moffat.
“Bathurst, then Gold Coast, not even being able to race there. For me, the best part about today and getting atrophy late here is for Moff.
“He’s been on the wrong end of the stick because of the accidents in the enduro campaign with myself.
“Today was awesome to be able to get a trophy for Moff and thank him for the year.”
It was a particularly significant result for Moffat, who on his father Allan’s 80th birthday, carried the famous 1969 Trans-Am colours to the podium which Allan graced six times as a winner.
“It was a great thrill to be up on the podium,” Moffat junior said.
“My first memories as a kid growing up were coming to the racetrack and sitting in the grandstand here watching Lowndesy and those type of guys … that shows you how old Lowndesy is.
“I guess also, from a sentimental point of view, to do it on dad’s 80th birthday is something I’ll look back on fondly in the years to come.”
Whether Mostert and Moffat drive on together from 2020 remains to be seen, with Mostert tipped to join Walkinshaw Andretti United.
Moffat, meanwhile, hasn’t raced in Supercars full-time since he left Garry Rogers Motorsport – which will exit the sport this season.
Regardless, Moffat was satisfied with his two-year tenure alongside Mostert, with their highlight coming with victory on the Gold Coast in 2018.
“I’ve got to get Chaz a shoulder massage, he carried me today that’s for sure,” Moffat said after Sunday’s race.
“He drove the absolute wheels off it. I had a real battle on my hands when I was in car, just struggling with rear grip and rear tyres going off.
“I wasn’t too confident about we’d end up when I first hopped out of the car, then with about 50 laps to go, it looked like it was possibly coming towards us, thanks to the pace he had.
“It’s nice that Chazzie and I were able to get another trophy together, it’s been enjoyable working alongside him. He’s an absolute freak.”