How do you pick a Co-Driver for the Bathurst 1000?
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One of the most anticipated aspects during the build-up to the three races comprising the Pirtek Enduro Cup segment of the V8 Supercars Championship is the announcement of the co-driver assignments.
For 2015 the Supercharp Auto Bathurst 1000 grid continues three familiar sourcing themes for co-driver talent — a mix of former V8 Supercar ‘‘main game’’ players, rising stars from the V8 Development Series and a sprinkling of internationals.
The ranks of experienced drivers with a solid history of top level V8 Supercar form has been thinned a little this year.
Greg Murphy, Paul Morris and Steven Johnson are missing from the driver line-ups this year and another familiar name without a 2015 enduro drive is Kiwi Craig Baird.
But drivers such as Steven Richards, Paul Dumbrell, Warren Luff, Luke Youlden, Dean Canto and Steve Owen have all retained key co-driving roles as the most experienced of the endurance series co-drivers.
IndyCar racer Simona De Silvestro makes her V8 Supercar debut at Bathurst.
And the Holden Racing Team has reached out for experience by calling up two-time race winner Russell Ingall as the replacement for the injured James Courtney.
Continuity has emerged as a theme for this year’s endurance races with only one partnership change among the top 10 finishers from Bathurst in 2014. That sees Cameron Waters join defending champion Chaz Mostert while the teams that finished second-through-tenth in 2014 are unchanged.
The co-driver can play a crucial role in the race outcome with rules stating driver’s can’t exceed two-thirds of the scheduled race distance. It means the co-drivers are in the cars for a minimum of 54 laps on Sunday.
This year six of the top-10 drivers in the V8 Development Series standings are set to take part in the Great Race.
Development series leader Cameron Waters gets the prime assignment with Prodrive Racing Australia as co-driver for defending champion Chaz Mostert in the Pepsi Max Falcon FG/X.
Paul Dumbrell — currently second in the Development Series — again teams with Jamie Whincup at Red Bull Racing Australia while Jack Le Brocq who runs third in the second-tier series gets a chance with the Erebus Motorsport team alongside Ashley Walsh.
Chris Pither (above) is part of the Volvo line-up at Bathurst teamed with David Wall.
Kiwi Chris Pither runs fourth in the Development Series and has landed a Volvo opportunity alongside David Wall.
Young Kiwi racer Ant Pedersen is seventh in the Development standings and again teams with Andre Heimgartner in the Super Black Racing Falcon and there also ‘‘Great Race’’ roles for Development Series racers Andrew Jones, Aaren Russell, Maucauley Jones, Taz Douglas and Renee Gracie.
The international roster in 2015 comprises two British drivers, two Frenchman and a highly rated Swiss female racer.
Status as a factory Nissan GT driver puts British racer Alex Buncombe into a Nissan Altima alongside Todd Kelly in a move that firms up links between the Nissan V8 Supercar programme and the NISMO international racing activities.
Fellow Brit Oliver Gavin gained his fifth Le Mans GT class victory earlier this year as a factory Corvette Racing driver and is again teamed alongside Nick Percat in a Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Commodore.
Frenchman Alexandre Premat has a varied career that includes a Macau Formula 3 GP victory, Team France A1 GP duties and Le Mans 24 Hours outings as a factory Audi driver.
Premat also drove for Garry Rogers Motorsport in the 2012 and 2013 V8 Supercar Series and returns to the team for the endurance races to share the Volvo S60 with young Kiwi star Scott McLaughlin.
Indycar front-runner Sebastian Bourdais makes his Bathurst debut teamed with Lee Holdsworth.
Another driver with not only Le Mans experience but as a Formula 1 driver and an IndyCar winner is US-based Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais who makes his Bathurst debut with Walkinshaw Racing partnering Lee Holdsworth. Bourdais won two IndyCar races this year with KV Racing Technology and also won the Sebring 12 Hours endurance race.
Swiss racer Simona de Silvestro, 27, is the high profile star for the Harvey Norman Supergirls wildcard programme alongside young Australian racer Renee Gracie.
A seat in the Prodrive Racing Australia Ford Falcon FG/X is a new career move for her after making her name in Formula Atlantic and IndyCar Racing where she has a best race result of second and has made five starts in the Indianapolis 500.