(Australian Associated Press)
TOP CONTENDERS FOR BATHURST 1000
JAMIE WHINCUP-CRAIG LOWNDES (HOLDEN)
Fans will no doubt turn out in droves to see Lowndes back behind the wheel after the seven-time Bathurst champion retired from full-time driving last season. Whincup will arguably be just as excited to welcome back the 45-year-old. Whincup may be a seven-time series champion but he has not had much luck at Mount Panorama since winning the last of his four Great Races back in 2012. He’ll be hoping some good fortune rubs off from Lowndes who is defending champion and claimed six of the last 10 Bathurst crowns to be just two short of the record held by his idol Peter Brock. The pair are back together after winning three straight Great Races from 2006.
SCOTT MCLAUGHLIN-ALEXANDER PREMAT (FORD)
Flying Kiwi McLaughlin has adopted a “win it or bin it” approach as he looks to finally break his Bathurst duck on his eighth attempt. The defending series champion can afford to throw caution to the wind in an all-or-nothing crack at Mount Panorama success thanks to a record-breaking season run. McLaughlin holds a 598-point lead over his nearest rival after 17 race wins in 2019, setting a new mark for most victories in a single season. He can afford to crash out in the next two rounds and conceivably still hold the series lead. But it is the King of the Mountain crown that McLaughlin desperately craves after going oh so close in recent years, only to leave heartbroken. Only made the podium for the first time with third spot alongside Frenchman Premat last year.
SHANE VAN GISBERGEN AND GARTH TANDER (HOLDEN)
There are no shortage of heartbreak stories at Mount Panorama but van Gisbergen can be more gutted than most over his near misses. The former series champion claimed pole and led the race late in 2014 only to be denied by engine dramas. In 2016 he was pipped for line honours by Will Davison by 0.1434 of a second. And in 2017 van Gisbergen again led late only to spear off. But the Kiwi is quietly confident of conquering the mountain on his 13th attempt after renewed form at last round’s Auckland SuperSprint, claiming a victory and a second placing to jump from fourth to second in the championship. He teams with three-time Bathurst champion Garth Tander who returns for his 21st Great Race after surprisingly being dumped from his full-time driving gig in January.
DAVID REYNOLDS-LUKE YOULDEN (HOLDEN)
It takes a lot to wipe the wicked smile off Supercars funny man Reynolds’ face. But the joker cut a shattered figure when his bid to clinch back-to-back Bathurst titles was snatched away last year by cramps. Reynolds led in a scrap with Lowndes in the closing stages, only to be forced to retire. An exhausted Reynolds was consoled by his crew in the garage as Lowndes claimed his seventh title. It was in stark contrast to 12 months earlier when Reynolds was a popular winner after overcoming his big money rivals and taking line honours with his “little team that could” Penrite Racing. Reynolds will be fired up to produce his trademark Shoey on the podium this year after a running battle in the media with McLaughlin and recently signing a staggering 10-year contract extension with Penrite.
CHAZ MOSTERT-JAMES MOFFAT (FORD)
Mount Panorama can giveth and it can taketh away – just ask Mostert. The Ford gun started the 2014 Great Race in last place but ended it celebrating a stunning triumph with veteran Paul Morris. The next year he found himself watching the 1000km classic enduro from a bed in Orange hospital after a spectacular qualifying crash left him with a broken leg and wrist. It hasn’t stopped Mostert dreaming of more Mount Panorama success and few would bet against him after he cruised to third in the 2019 championship standings. He will team up again with Moffat – son of four-time Bathurst champion Allan – after they finished fourth on the mountain last year. It may be the last time off-contract Mostert is seen in Ford colours at Bathurst after being linked to Holden’s Walkinshaw Andretti United stable next year, replacing James Courtney.
MARK WINTERBOTTOM-STEVEN RICHARDS (HOLDEN)
The historic switch to Holden this year has not gone to plan for former Ford hero and 2015 series champion Winterbottom. The popular Frosty sits a distant 13th in the drivers’ standings. But few would bet against him adding to his 2013 Bathurst crown after reuniting with veteran Steven Richards. The 38-year-old Winterbottom has seen better days. From 2006 to 2015 he finished out of the top three in the championship just three times but he hasn’t been sighted near the pointy end since. Yet he has emerged as a Bathurst dark horse alongside five-time King of the Mountain Richards. The last time they combined at the Great Race they emerged victorious six years ago. And Richards – son of seven time Bathurst winner Jim – is no doubt still buzzing from winning two of the last four Great Races with Lowndes, including last year’s title.
THE GREAT RACE BY THE NUMBERS
MOST BATHURST 1000 VICTORIES
Nine – Peter Brock (1972, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987)
Seven – Craig Lowndes* (1996, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2015, 2018), Jim Richards (1978, 1979, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1998, 2002)
Six – Mark Skaife (1991, 1992, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2010), Larry Perkins (1982, 1983, 1984, 1993, 1995, 1997)
Five – Steven Richards* (1998, 1999, 2013, 2015, 2018)
Four – Jamie Whincup* (2006, 2007, 2008, 2012), Bob Jane (1961, 1962, 1963, 1964), Harry Firth (1961, 1962, 1963, 1967), Allan Moffat (1970, 1971, 1973, 1977), Greg Murphy (1996, 1999, 2003, 2004)
Three – Garth Tander* (2000, 2009, 2011), Dick Johnson (1981, 1989, 1994)
Two – Will Davison* (2009, 2016), Rick Kelly* (2003, 2004), John Goss (1974, 1985), Allan Grice (1986, 1990), John Bowe (1989, 1994), Russell Ingall (1995, 1997), Tony Longhurst (1988, 2001).
MOST BATHURST 1000 WINS BY MANUFACTURER
33 – Holden
20 – Ford
2 – Nissan
1 – Jaguar
1 – BMW
1 – Volvo
MOST BATHURST 1000 PODIUMS
14 – Craig Lowndes* (1994-2018)
12 – Peter Brock (1969-87), Larry Perkins (1977-98), Jim Richards (1974-2002)
MOST BATHURST 1000 STARTS
35 – Jim Richards
32 – Peter Brock
30 – Bob Holden
MOST BATHURST 1000 POLE POSITIONS
Six – Peter Brock
Five – Mark Skaife
Four – Allan Moffat
YOUNGEST BATHURST 1000 WINNER
Rick Kelly, 20 years 268 days (2003)
OLDEST BATHURST 1000 WINNER
Jim Richards, 55 years 41 days (2002)
* Denotes current driver