Whichever way you spin it, this year’s Bathurst 1000 has all the hallmarks of an absolute classic. While one team has dominated the 2015 V8 Supercar season, history says that points and form often count for little once the lights go green at Mount Panorama.
Here’s everything you need to know about the latest edition of the great race.
The nature of a 1000km race means that the winner could quite literally come from anywhere on the grid, but don’t be surprised if the top step of the podium is occupied by blokes with Pepsi Max logos all over their race suits. Prodrive Racing Australia, sponsored as the Pepsi Max Crew, has won the last two editions of the Bathurst 1000, with young gun Chas Mostert and Paul Morris saluting last year and Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards crossing the line first in 2013. Winterbottom currently sits atop the V8 Supercar standings, having dominated the season so far with nine wins, while Mostert is only just behind him with five victories. Mostert will team with 21-year-old co-driver Cameron Waters, who has swept all before him in the second-tier Dunlop Series this year, with seven wins from 10 races.
The most likely challengers to the Pepsi Max Crew’s dominance are Red Bull Racing duo Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, who are the only other drivers with multiple race wins this year. Whincup is a four-time Bathurst winner at Mt Panorama, while Lowndes has won five – three of which were with Whincup as his co-driver – so both drivers know what it takes to get the job done over 161 laps of the mountain. Whincup will pair up with Paul Dumbrell, while Lowndes joins forces with Steven Richards.
Expect Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander and Warren Luff to be in amongst it after they proved their enduro form by finishing fourth at the Sandown 500 in mid-September. TEKNO Autosports’ Shane Van Gisbergen and Jonathon Webb were third in that race and could come close this weekend, while The Bottle-O Racing Team’s David Reynolds hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in his last 20 V8 Supercar starts.
They won’t win, but count on the pairing of Swiss driver Simona De Silvestro and Dunlop Series competitor Renee Gracie getting plenty of airtime across the weekend. They’re the first all-female driving team to enter Bathurst since 1998, and De Silvestro has reasonable form this year, too, having finished fourth at an IndyCar race at Louisiana. Gracie sits in 19th place in the Dunlop Series.
The race will be without 2010 V8 Supercars champion and three-time Bathurst podium finisher James Courtney, who is yet to recover after breaking five ribs and puncturing a lung in a freak pit lane accident at Sydney Motorsport Park in August. Jack Perkins will step into the Holden Racing Team’s primary driver role, with ex-racer turned commentator Russell Ingall set to co-drive again after filling in at the Sandown 500.
He’s barely raced a V8 Supercar in the last decade, but two-time series champion Marcos Ambrose will still be the highest-profile driver in the pack at Mount Panorama this weekend. After a guest stint at the Australian Grand Prix event earlier this year, the NASCAR superstar jumped behind the wheel with DJR Team Penske at Sandown last month as part of a three-race enduro stint that includes Bathurst and the Gold Coast 600. However, his best result at the great race is fourth and he’ll likely struggle to better that alongside Scott Pye, who currently occupies 19th place in the series standings.
LIKE BROTHER, LIKE BROTHER, LIKE BROTHER
Sibling rivalry is nothing new in Australian motorsport, but rivalry between three sets of siblings is something we haven’t seen at Bathurst since 1984. Will and Alex Davison will team up for Erebus Motorsport, Rick and Todd Kelly will fly the flag for Nissan Motorsport, while Aaren and Drew Russell will race as wildcards for the family-owned and run Novocastrian Motorsport team. There’ll be a few people praying the Bathurst rookies have a clean race, too, given they’ve leased their Holden Commodore from Dragon Motorsport for the weekend.
History says that having a foreign driver on board is the quickest way to ensure you don’t win at Bathurst, with Swede Rickard Rydell the last international driver to win on the mountain when he partnered Jim Richards in a Volvo in 1998. But that won’t stop a number of teams trying. Headlining the overseas contingent is four-time Champ Car series winner and ex-Formula One driver Sebastien Bourdais, who returned to V8 Supercars for this season’s enduro races and will make his Bathurst debut with Lee Holdsworth and Walkinshaw Racing.
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