History tells us that David Besnard was the winner of the final race of the weekend at Symmons Plains back in 2004.
However, one of the biggest upsets in Supercars history was resolved a week after the chequered flag fell in Tasmania 16 years ago.
The Symmons Plains circuit, which was set to host a championship round at the weekend prior to its postponement amid the COVID-19 outbreak, played host to perhaps the most bizarre sequence of events leading to a win ever.
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When you think of motorsport, you think of the best possible technology when it comes to timing. At times, we’ve seen drivers separated in qualifying by ten-thousandths.
Back in 2004, a lap scoring drama saw Besnard and the cellar-dwelling WPS Racing squad initially robbed of what loomed as the win no one saw coming – all because of a simple timing mix-up.
The red carpet had been rolled out for Marcos Ambrose to wrap up a second drivers’ title on home soil, with ‘The Devil Racer’ in with a chance to seal the championship at the penultimate round.
Ambrose was a man in other drivers’ sights, with the Stone Brothers Racing ace earning the ire of Kmart Racing’s Greg Murphy for an alleged brake test on teammate Rick Kelly at the previous event on the Gold Coast.
Ambrose looked well and truly on track for the title in Tasmania, following Kelly home in Race 1 before winning Race 2. However, an engine failure in Race 3 forced him to wait until the Eastern Creek season finale to claim title No. 2.
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It was the Tasmania weekend finale, though, which garnered much attention due its farcical results process. In the final race, the head-scratching began when the Safety Car was deployed on Lap 11 of the 42-lap race after Paul Weel crashed having slipped on oil from Todd Kelly’s car.
In response to the oil spill, the Safety Car was scrambled in front of the first car to arrive. That was Greg Murphy, who was in fifth.
The Safety Car then had to pick up the leader, which was Besnard. The WPS Racing driver, Jason Bright, Anthony Tratt and Mark Skaife were able to pit and slot back in to the top four positions.
Later, during a second Safety Car intervention, officials took action after rival teams teams claimed a timing and scoring error had led to confusion, and Murphy was believed to be the true leader.
Besnard, Bright and Skaife were waved through, and finished 18th, 20th and 21st respectively. All three drivers had recorded 43 laps in the 42-lap race, which was won by Murphy on the day.
Russell Ingall was adjudged the round winner despite recording finishes of seventh, fifth and fifth across the three races – but that wasn’t even the biggest talking point.
A stewards enquiry revealed, nearly a week later, that the original timing had been correct, and Besnard was declared the victor. A review of Network 10 vision, in-car camera footage and timing printouts revealed the No. 23 Falcon as the true winner.
It came from nowhere, with Besnard coming into the weekend 30th in the standings. His weekend in Tasmania hadn’t gone to plan either, the driver qualifying 25th and finishing the previous two races eighth and 29th.
Yes, Besnard won the race having started 29th.
It marked the only win for WPS Racing in its short history, which ran under businessman Craig Gore. Besnard had won the Queensland 500 with Simon Wills and Stone Brothers Racing two years earlier, and claimed two Bathurst 1000 podiums with the team and a young James Courtney in 2007 and 2008.
The WPS squad’s weekend also saw its own controversy, with both cars black-flagged during the Sunday morning warm-up due to ‘No money from Ford’ banners across their windscreens.
For Besnard, a second career win came down to “timing”, but the driver told Motorsport News magazine at the time he believed he had the pace to win the race, regardless of the results fiasco which soaked up the attention.
“We decided to take a later pitstop and everything just played right into our hands, strangely enough,” he said.
“Obviously you want to win a race on speed rather than strategy, but I had Bright and Skaife behind me and was pulling away from both of them, so there is merit in it.”