WHO WILL EMERGE AS THE 2016 KING OF THE MOUNTAIN?
CRAIG LOWNDES-STEVEN RICHARDS (HOLDEN)
All eyes are on Peter Brock’s protege Lowndes ahead of the 56th Great Race.
An emotional Lowndes won the inaugural Peter Brock Trophy in 2006 by claiming the Great Race.
Now, as the motor racing community marks the 10th anniversary of Brock’s death, Lowndes will chase Bathurst title No.7.
That would equal Jim Richards’ Mount Panorama haul – and leaving him trailing only Peter Perfect’s remarkable record nine wins on the mountain.
Oh, and defending champion Lowndes is combining again with no slouch – Richards’ son Steven, who has bagged four Bathurst crowns of his own.
JAMIE WHINCUP-PAUL DUMBRELL (HOLDEN)
He may have won four Bathurst titles and a record six Supercars crowns but Whincup has plenty to prove in this year’s Great Race.
He is enduring a rare winning drought on the mountain, not savouring Bathurst success since 2012.
And critics say he may only have himself to blame.
Last year Whincup infamously appeared to defy team orders to pit and passed a safety car, relegating him from second to the back of the field with 20 laps left in the Great Race – he finished 18th.
And in 2014 he again ignored his team’s instructions and ran out of fuel on the 161st and final lap while leading.
SHANE VAN GISBERGEN-ALEX PREMAT (HOLDEN)
Flying Kiwi van Gisbergen has speed to burn and now plenty of confidence after snatching the series lead ahead of the Great Race.
He has never won the legendary Bathurst enduro but has been buoyed by his breakthrough triumph on the mountain, claiming February’s Bathurst 12 Hour for McLaren.
From the same Holden team garage as the lightning quick Whincup, van Gisbergen is expected to set the bar for drivers this weekend.
MARK WINTERBOTTOM-DEAN CANTO (FORD)
The man dubbed “Frosty” isn’t feeling so hot after a disastrous 23rd finish in the opening enduro, the recent Sandown 500.
Winterbottom has dropped to fifth in the series standings after co-driver Canto hit the wall at a wet Sandown.
But few would discount the defending series champion’s chances of adding to his 2013 Bathurst crown.
Winterbottom has made it clear he wants to honour workers from Australia’s Ford manufacturing plants that will permanently close their doors on Friday.
CHAZ MOSTERT-STEVE OWEN (FORD)
Mostert may only be young but he already knows the highs and lows of Mount Panorama.
The Ford gun pulled off a shock 2014 Great Race triumph with veteran Paul Morris.
However, his Bathurst title defence ended in tears – and a trip to the hospital.
Mostert broke his leg in a horror qualifying crash that ended his weekend early last year.
Mostert’s winning hopes now hinge on how he faces his Bathurst demons 12 months on.
GARTH TANDER-WARREN LUFF (HOLDEN)
Veteran Tander has not won a bunch of races recently – his recent Sandown 500 triumph with Luff snapped a 72-race winless streak.
But few would be surprised if he added Bathurst title No.4 this weekend in response to the recent extraordinary call by his Holden Racing Team.
The once mighty factory flagship told former championship winner Tander his contract would not be renewed next year four days after standing on the Sandown podium.
It is believed a fuming Tander is ready to make a point on Australian motorsport’s biggest stage on Sunday.
RICK KELLY-RUSSELL INGALL (NISSAN)
Nissan’s Kelly may not have threatened many podiums of late, winning his last Bathurst crown way back in 2004.
But few are discounting Kelly after teaming up with fellow two-time Bathurst champion Ingall, affectionately dubbed “The Enforcer”.
Kelly is a baby faced 33 year old – Ingall is not.
The most experienced driver in the field, former championship winner Ingall – now a spritely 52 – will line up for a remarkable 25th Great Race this weekend.
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO-RENEE GRACIE (NISSAN)
Swiss star de Silvestro returns to the mountain for a second straight year in an all-female team ahead of her much anticipated full-time gig in 2017.
The former Formula One test driver admits she has plenty to prove before becoming the first female full-time touring car driver since Christine Gibson in 1975 next year.
The pair finished last on their Bathurst debut last year in a Ford as the first all-female team on the mountain in almost 20 years, albeit after another six teams failed to finish.
But the pair are fired up to impress on Sunday after enduring sexist comments from past and current male drivers during last year’s Great Race.
TOTAL FIELD: 27 cars (Holden 14 entries, Ford six, Nissan five, Volvo two)
TOTAL LAPS: 161
INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS: Two – de Silvestro (Switzerland), Premat (France).
BATHURST ROOKIES: Five – Shae Davies, Chris Van der Drift, Matt Campbell, James Golding and Richie Stanaway