Another year, another 1000km classic awaits as the Supercars championship arrives in Bathurst. The annual pilgrimage to the famed Mt. Panorama circuit is always the hallmark event of the season. With 27 entries this year vying for their place in Bathurst 1000 history who will rise to the challenge of The Mountain?
Picking a favourite is no easy task, anything can happen on The Mountain and almost always does, but the season so far has shown that there are a few in the field that we can expect to see in the thick of the battle over the epic 161-lap encounter. Jordan Mulach looks through some of the major contenders hoping to make their mark in the 2016 edition of ‘The Great Race’.
Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards
Only an insane person would write off Craig Lowndes at this time of the year, especially at the one place that he has recently shown to have great form. The combination of Lowndes and Bathurst is a special one, with “The Kid” winning six times (96, 06, 07, 08, 10, 15) and co-driver Steven Richards winning four times (98, 99, 13, 15). The reigning champions, together with the quirky, but effective strategies of Ludo Lacroix, could well go back-to-back at Bathurst.
Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell
One pairing that is undoubtedly out for redemption is that of Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell. For a pairing that seems to never slow down, they’ve only had one win together here back in 2012. A second place finish in 2013 is their best result in the current generation cars. THAT race in 2014 meant the pair rolled home in fifth place, though Whincup’s defiance and colour-blindness meant they finished a lowly 18th place. Dumbrell’s eagerness to get out of the #88 machine at Sandown gave them a penalty, losing the championship points lead. This year, they’ll be looking to put the past behind them to claim another big win.
Shane van Gisbergen and Alex Premat
Speaking of redemption and 2014, no one knows heartbreak on the Mountain like Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen. After being on the best strategy at the time, the Tekno Commodore stalled when it dropped off the jacks. The starter motor picked the worst point to stop working, meaning the race was lost. 2015 gave nothing to write home about but he and now co-driver Alex Premat put in a good showing at Sandown. The internationals have been consistent and the Giz is looking to prove that he can beat his Triple Eight team-mates in his first year with the team.
Garth Tander and Warren Luff
After their 2015 Enduro Cup win and 2016 Sandown 500 victory, the Holden Racing Team made the shock announcement that they wouldn’t be retaining Garth Tander for their 2017 season. The decision, coupled with Tander’s and Warren Luff’s recent pace, could well see them yet again get on to the podium at Bathurst. Tander is gelling well in the HRT Commodore and Luff is pretty much on par with the main game drivers. Being one of the most experienced combinations certainly helps the cause, as does wanting the “lead” HRT car to win on a weekend where we mark 10 years since the passing of Peter Brock.
Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen.
Finally, going in to the most important race of the year, there is no one that will want to stand on the top step more than Chaz Mostert. The Ford young gun posted his most memorable win to date in 2014, leading only the last lap. Going in to last year’s race, he was in a good championship position and was the fastest in the practice sessions until he had a massive crash at the top of the Mountain in qualifying. A broken leg kept him out of the rest of the season. He has not had a win yet this season and will be looking to translate his strong finish at Sandown with Steve Owen into Bathurst glory.
This year’s 1000 will also mark 10 years since the passing of Peter Brock, nine time winner of the Great Race. Lowndes will be looking to honour his mentor by repeating his 2006 win, the most memorable and emotional in the history of Bathurst.