All is forgiven for Holden superstar Jamie Whincup at the Bathurst 1000 – well, with bookies at least.
Whincup’s team boss Roland Dane sensationally blamed the record six-time championship winner after running out of fuel in the 161st and final lap of last year’s epic enduro, all but gifting Ford young gun Chaz Mostert a memorable maiden win.
Whincup’s luck has not changed in 2015, sitting in eighth spot in the championship standings on 1586 points behind Ford pace setter and arch rival Mark Winterbottom (2215pts).
Yet the four-time Bathurst champion is still favourite with the bookmakers for this year’s Great Race with co-driver Paul Dumbrell ahead of defending champion Mostert (with Cameron Waters) and 2013 winner Winterbottom, who will partner Steve Owen.
Whincup was repeatedly urged by engineer David Cauchi and team manager Mark Dutton to ease his pace in the dying stages of last year’s Bathurst enduro but like all champions he kept pushing.
It didn’t end well.
Whincup enjoyed an overall Bathurst lead of almost three seconds before his fuel gaffe, eventually limping over the line in fifth.
There was no love either in this year’s opening enduro – the Sandown 500.
Whincup and Dumbrell started on pole and led for 86 of the first 100 laps but a puncture turned their race on its ear.
They finished 15th.
Perhaps in a more worrying sign, arch rivals Ford’s Pro Driving team Winterbottom has extended his overall championship lead to 198 points over Mostert with his Sandown 500 triumph – his first since 2006.
Mostert finished second at Sandown, completing Prodrive’s first ever V8 enduro quinella.
Prodrive are vying for a third straight Bathurst win.
Yet bookies are still confident Whincup can seal Holden’s 30th Bathurst victory and first since 2012.
Holden and Ford are tied for most pole positions in Bathurst history with 21 apiece.
Meanwhile, former V8 champion Marcos Ambrose will start at Bathurst for the first time in a decade.
He is one of only two drivers to take pole position on debut (2001) but has never finished better than fourth.
And for the first time since 1998 an all-female driving team has entered the epic enduro.
International driver Simona De Silvestro and second tier Dunlop Series racer Renee Gracie make their Mount Panorama V8 debuts.
The last time a sole female driver raced in the event was Leanne Tander back in 2009.
Practice starts on Thursday.
The Great Race begins at 11am AEDT on Sunday.