Pirtek Enduro Cup Combinations

Chaz Mostert celebrating his maiden Bathurst 1000 win in 2014. Photo by Rhys Vandersyde
Chaz Mostert celebrating his maiden Bathurst 1000 win in 2014. Photo by Rhys Vandersyde

V8 Supercars longer dual-driver endurance races have the ability to make or break a season. With the Pirtek Enduro Cup kicking off with the Sandown 500 this week, we take a look at the combinations ready to take on the often pivotal, championship-defining endurance races.

A lot of regular faces will reappear, searching for glory in the most important three rounds of the championship, while many new faces will come to the fore, providing a stage for them to show their skills in front of punters and team-owners alike. We rate the combinations with a summary of their relationship and a score out of ten.

Car 1: Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell
Since first teaming up in 2012, Whincup and Dumbrell have always been a strong combination. While Whincup is just getting back to form now, Dumbrell has been putting in impressive results in the Dunlop Series. Winning Bathurst in 2012 and Sandown in 2013 and 2014, as well as proving two more competitive Bathurst results, the pair will yet again be a force to be reckoned with come the Enduro Cup. 8.5/10

Car 888: Craig Lowndes/Steven Richards
Despite having the most combined Bathurst experience out of all the combos in the paddock, this is only the second year that Lowndes and Richards will share the #888 Commodore. After a late-race incident in Bathurst last year dropped them out of contention, they’ll be looking to fight back harder this year. Their experience was unable to net them a win last year but with eight Bathurst wins between them, their old heads could see them make a return to the top step. 8/10

Car 5: Mark Winterbottom/Steve Owen
Winterbottom and Owen first raced with each other last year but before that, Owen was a co-driver for FPR/PRA for many years. Despite just having one win at the mountain between them, Winterbottom undoubtedly has the best car in the field with one of the most consistent co-drivers. Even though they’ll be pushing for the win, Owen’s main job is to keep the car on the tarmac which he has sometimes struggled with in the past. 8.5/10

Car 6: Chaz Mostert/Cameron Waters
Mostert and Waters will pair up for the first time this year, making them one of the youngest combinations in the field. The two have only raced in two Enduro Cups each, though Mostert pulled off one of the greatest Bathurst victories of all time last year. While many think t5hat this youthful combination will be prone to errors, Mostert’s ever growing maturity and Waters’ blinding speed in the Dunlop Series will put them as one of the top 5 favourites this time out. 9/10

Car 55: David Reynolds/Dean Canto
The self-confessed “odd couple” will start their fourth endurance assault together this year. Despite their odd traits, Reynolds and Canto have achieved great results in previous seasons. A nail-biting second at Bathurst in 2012, their first wins at the Gold Coast in 2013 and leaders until an alternator failure at Bathurst in 2014 show that these two loveable larrikins always rise to the top. 8/10

Car 111: Andre Heimgartner/Ant Pedersen
Last year, the Super Black Racing squad made their first start as a wildcard entry. This year, they’re back again with an unchanged line-up of Kiwi’s Heimgertner and Pedersen. Both drivers were consistent and fast last year with a strong eleventh place finish, just barely missing out on making the top ten. This time, with more experience for them both and a fast car, they could well make a statement throughout the Enduro Cup. 7/10

Car 2: Garth Tander/Warren Luff
Yet another experienced pairing is that of Tander and Luff, teaming up for the second year in a row. Even though HRT is suffering a slight slump in form, the two will be looking to better their results from last year after a crash in Saturday morning practice ruled them out of the 1000. They’ll be looking to do better this year and return to form after a dismal 2014. 7.5/10

Car 22: Jack Perkins/Russell Ingall
With a freak accident at Sydney Motorsports Park putting James Courtney out of contention for the Sandown 500, it was announced that Perkins will be joined by V8 Supercar’s legend that never leaves: Russell Ingall. Twenty years after Ingall famously won the Bathurst 1000 with Jack’s father Larry, the two pair up to give motorsports writers the story of the year. Ingall will be out to prove that he’s not too old yet while Perkins knows that he’ll have to show his talent if he’s ever going to get a full-time seat in the future. 6/10

Car 18: Lee Holdsworth/Sebastien Bourdais
Holdsworth and Bourdais are undoubtedly one of the strangest pairings this year, though not the weakest. Bourdais enjoyed success with Whincup in the Surfers Paradise races a few years ago (wins on Saturday in both 2011 and 2012) and Holdsworth will be looking to at least finish after crashing out at both Sandown and Bathurst last year. With the Frenchman’s pace at the Gold Coast and Holdsworth’s determination to finish well at Bathurst, they could be a dark horse at the end of the endurance season. 6/10

Car 47: Tim Slade/Tony D’Alberto
Another second year combination is that of Slade and D’Alberto, partnering again in the SuperCheap Commodore. A podium at the Gold Coast was their greatest achievement last year though a DNF at Bathurst wasn’t on the cars. While young, they’ve both been around the series for a good amount of time which, hopefully, means they’ve got the smarts if not the speed. 6.5/10

Car 14: Fabian Coulthard/Luke Youlden
Youlden returns for a third year to join Coulthard in the Freightliner entry. While both are quite experienced with endurance races, Youlden has had his fair share of odd moments and mistakes over the years. However, Coulthard set the Bathurst lap record last year and will be keeping everything crossed that he can emulate Greg Murphy to be the first Kiwi since him in 2004 to win at Bathurst. 7.5/10

Car 8: Jason Bright/Andrew Jones
It’s been a long time since Bright tasted Bathurst success and Jones will be looking to add his family name to the winners list for the first time. Both have amassed many laps in V8’s over the years, making them another extremely experienced combination. BJR’s form has been hit and miss but if they get a good setup, they could be genuine underdogs. 7/10

Car 21: Dale Wood/Macaulay Jones
BJR team owner Brad Jones has elected to put his son Macaulay behind the wheel for the first time this year. Jones has been performing well in the Dunlop Series and could be a shoe-in for a seat at BJR should one pop up. Wood is fighting for his career after a lacklustre two years at BJR, meaning he will be aiming to step up for the endurance races so he gets a seat somewhere next year. 6.5/10

Car 97: Shane van Gisbergen/Jonathon Webb
Van Gisbergen may be leaving Tekno Autosports at the end of the year but that won’t stop his hunger to win Bathurst after heartbreak last year. Team owner Jono Webb will again be doing the lunch stints, which he has done with much success in previous years. The pairing have always been quick at the enduros, van Gisbergen claiming pole for Bathurst last year. Even though their pace can be erratic at times, they will absolutely be fighting for the Pirtek trophy. 8.5/10

Car 17: Scott Pye/Marcos Ambrose
Perhaps the most talked about and anticipated driver pairing for the Enduro Cup lies in the famous #17 with Pye being joined by two-time champion Ambrose. While Pye is fighting to keep his seat at DJR TP next year, Ambrose is just looking to gain confidence in the car and have a genuine shot at Bathurst, one of the few events he hasn’t won in V8 Supercars. Pye has been fast over the past few races and Ambrose’s speed has been good. They should come home somewhere in the better half of the field after the Gold Coast. 7.5/10

Car 23: Michael Caruso/Dean Fiore
The shortest driver pairing in the field returns for another year, fielding the #23 Nissan Altima. The pint sized rockets are quick and have a good working relationship which will pay off for the long races. Fiore came out on top in the co-drivers only practice session at Sydney Motorsport Park, giving the two confidence going into Sandown. 7/10

Car 99: James Moffat/Taz Douglas
Moffat and Douglas are back to go one better this year. After finishing an amazing second in last year’s Bathurst 1000, despite being stuck in the wall twice, they’ll both be hoping to take not only Nissan back to the top step at the mountain but also the Moffat name. Despite health concerns and a brief battle with cancer a few years ago, Douglas is fighting fit for the Enduro Cup. 7/10

Car 15: Rick Kelly/David Russell
David Russell gets another chance to prove himself this year, yet again helping Rick Kelly’s efforts to win in the endurance season. Kelly hasn’t won at Bathurst since 2004 with Greg Murphy and is hungrier than ever to get a good result in Nissan’s third year. While the updated Altima has netted a pole position this year, Kelly will be wanting to do even better by putting his car on the podium or even on the top step. 7/10

Car 7: Todd Kelly/Alex Buncombe
Brit Alex Buncombe will team up with Todd Kelly for a second year running after his impressive results in last year’s endurance races. Many believe this year will be Todd’s last as a full-time driver and he’ll hope to beat brother and team co-owner Rick to show that big brothers are better brothers. 6.5/10

Car 33: Scott McLaughlin/Alex Premat
The charismatic and culturally diverse combination of McLaughlin and Premat will be spearheading Volvo’s endurance campaign again this year. The Kiwi and his pal “Frenchy” have one of the best relationships on the grid, making the pair a dynamic duo and genuine contenders to take out the Pirtek Enduro Cup. They both have great speed though will be hoping that the Volvo can last the distance under immense and constant strain. 8.5/10

Car 34: David Wall/Chris Pither
Chris Pither will join David Wall in the second Volvo entry. After impressing at the non-championship round at Albert Park, Pither was picked over long-time GRM co-driver Greg Ritter to partner Wall for the enduro races. While most of the hype and attention will be on the #33 entry, these two could prove to be dark horses if they play the right strategies. 6.5/10

Car 9: Will Davison/Alex Davison
The brothers Davsion get their second chance to nab a podium finish this year after just barely missing out last year, finishing a highest of fourth last year in the Bathurst 1000. Their family has great racing heritage: grandfather Lex won the Australian Grand Prix four times and father Richard is regularly competitive in F5000 machines. Will has had one win so far this year but the rest of his season has been marred by inconsistent results. Both boys will be looking to add another title to the family history, making it even more special if they did it together. 7.5/10

Car 4: Ash Walsh/Jack Le Brocq
Young guns Walsh and Le Brocq will be driving together for the first time when they reach Sandown for the 500. Walsh is doing a strong job this year in the #4 while Le Brocq is putting in strong performances with Erebus’ GT Champioship team. While Walsh has had starts in the Enduro Cup for the past two years with DJR, this will be his first as a team leader. Le Brocq will be wanting to not only keep the car off the wall but also put in a strong performance in front of team owners that are looking for a young driver. 6.5/10

Car 222: Nick Percat/Oliver Gavin
The combination of Percat and Brit Ollie Gavin netted impressive results last year, finishing an unbelieveable second in the Bathurst 1000. While Gavin’s day job is racing GT-spec Corvettes, he adapted quickly to the Commodore last year and put Percat in a strong position to mount a challenge at the front. Percat’s 2011 win will remain as a career highlight, something that he’ll be looking to repeat this year. 7/10

Car 3: Tim Blanchard/Karl Reindler
Tim Blanchard will be fighting for his career after bad luck and poor results have marked his year. He and co-driver Karl Reindler will be looking to impress with both looking to secure a full-time drive in the series next year. While Blanchard will be fighting for his seat next year after consistently being beaten by team-mate Percat, Reindler will be aiming to put in a strong performance to regain a full-time seat next year. 5.5/10

Bathurst Wildcards

Aaren Russell/Drew Russell
Dunlop Series driver Aaren Russel and brother Drew will be making their Bathurst debut this year. The only Newcastle-born drivers on the grid, the pair will be racing an ex-GRM Commodore (Scott McLaughlin’s candy red Bathurst 2013 car), prepared by their team Novocastrian Motorsport. Last year the car was going to be raced by Dragon Racing before they pulled out, leaving the car unused until now. Aaren will be clocking up a lot of mileage over the weekend, not only racing in the 1000km race but the 250km Dunlop Series race. 5.5/10

Renee Gracie/Simona De Silvestro
Australian Dunlop Series racer Renee Gracie will be joined by Swiss IndyCar driver Simona De Silvestro in a Prodrive prepared Falcon FG-X, becoming the first all-female Bathurst combination since 1998’s Castrol Cougars. Gracie is looking to progress her career by getting a lot of experience at Bathurst, probably being the main driver for the team. De Silvestro has a very minimal amount of tin-top experience, throwing her in the deep end for the 1000. However, their lack of experience may force them to drive cautiously, meaning that with a good bit of strategy and luck, they might just be able to pick through the pack and put in a strong finish. 5/10

The action will begin this weekend at the Wilson Security Sandown 500, the local round for the Melbourne based teams. V8 Supercars practice will begin on Friday with qualifying on Saturday.

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