Chaz Mostert has another mountain to climb
CHAZ Mostert describes his experiences on Mount Panorama as more akin to a roller-coaster ride.
"Very up and down," he tells Australian Regional Media.
To say the least.
There's been the incredible ascension to the top in 2014, before a stunning drop in 2015 and then another upward trajectory in 2016.
The Gold Coast-based Supercars driver was just 22 when he etched his name into the history books as a Bathurst 1000 winner with co-driver Paul Morris.
It was one of the biggest upsets in the competition's history, the Prodrive Racing Australia pair becoming the first to claim the chequered flag after starting at the back of the grid - 25th place.
Mostert had previously won only twice, at Ipswich in 2013 and Barbagallo earlier in 2014.
The 2015 edition of the great race brought a far different outcome for Mostert, however, with a horror crash in qualifying leaving him with a fractured femur and busted wrist - and an air-lift to Orange hospital.
The sun on the horizon, and a wall that had been painted from white to black, contributed to him misjudging a corner in the Forrest's Elbow section of the circuit and slamming his Ford FG X Falcon into it at 150kmh.
"I remember the whole thing," he recalled. "It happened really quickly. Normally when you crash, everything slows down, (but) I think because I was so unaware of crashing it was over really nice and quick."
Both he and the car were "banged up and bruised".
But "coming to a halt in a big steaming wreck", Mostert said, he was more "devastated that the car was destroyed for the boys" on the team.
Mostert still has the scars to show from the incident - one about 10cm long just above his knee.
Importantly, though, there's no mental scarring.
"It was one of those things ... there was no regrets," he says.
"These things that knock you down hopefully make you stronger, and I'm looking forward to going up there and trying to tame this mountain again this year."
Mostert returned to the scene of the crime - and exorcised any lingering demons - for the inaugural six-hour race (for Group 3E Series Production Cars) in February.
"We had a win there with my mate Nathan Morcom in the BMW 335," he said. "It was pretty good to get back up there nice and early before this year (in the Bathurst 1000) and get another result."
After a relatively slow start to their 2016 Supercars campaign, Mostert and his team have been slowly clicking into gear as they get accustomed to the soft tyres that are now standard. Five successive top-five finishes have moved him into seventh in the driver standings.
"The start of the year really didn't go to plan for us,' he says.
"But we've been working hard. Our biggest thing was just trying to put some weekends together.
"We'd have one day where we'd have a pretty good result and then the next day something would happen - a crash or I'd make an error and put us right back.
"We've got to keep working on this car and making it faster and faster. Every round we're learning something new about it on this soft tyre.
"It's a real credit to the team ... they've been flat out, changing bits on the car, trying to find more pace.
"Lucky enough it's been working. It's good to have a good team around me. You see the progress on the track. It's really rewarding."
Mostert's attention turns back to Bathurst, where he will compete with veteran co-driver Steve Owen, who is set for his 18th start in the great race.
"I'm pumped to get back," Mostert said.
"It's about the whole atmosphere up there - I treat it as a bit of a camping slash racing weekend.
"When I was a young kid racing go-karts, generally I had a race meeting on at the same time, but I remember getting up there when I was about 12 years old for the first time.
"Experiencing it in person, I was just blown away by how big the place is and watching these Supercars go toe to toe ... all the big names."
Mostert is now one of them himself as he looks for more success - or, at the very least, to finish.
"You draw on every bit of experience you've ever had at Bathurst to try and prepare yourself for the following year," he said.
It's all about "running your own race", he adds.
"Sometimes luck goes your way and you pop up at the front when you need to if you've got your strategy right.
"You've just got to keep ticking your boxes.
"And hopefully it can be a bit more kind to me this year than what it was last year."