Bathurst 1000 could be most competitive in history
Tomorrow’s 2015 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 looks likely to be one of the most competitive in the event’s 53-year history, with potential winners littered throughout the star-studded 27-car field.
Among the proverbial book-keeper’s favourites will be the dual pairings from Prodrive Racing Australia — reigning Bathurst champion Chaz Mostert and new co-driver Cam Waters, and the formidable combination of Mark Winterbottom/Steve Owen — and from Red Bull Racing Australia — Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell and Craig Lowndes/Steve Richards. The Holden Racing Team (HRT) may also spring a threat, although 2010 series champ James Courtney will be unable to compete for the historic squad due to injuries he recently sustained during a freak accident at Sydney Motorsport Park. Former Bathurst winner Russell Ingall (1995, 1997) will be his super-sub in the second HRT Commodore, partnered by Jack Perkins.
Leading the strong Kiwi contingent will be the trio of Fabian Coulthard (Freightliner Racing Holden), Scott McLaughlin (Polestar Racing Volvo), and Shane van Gisbergen (Tekno Autosports Holden). Each driver approaches the Great Race with a formidable co-driver, as well as outright speed. However each of them will also have 2014 demons to slay — all three cars folding under pressure during last year’s Hollywood blockbuster.
The most notable of the three was van Gisbergen, losing a near-comfortable lead in the dying laps after a surprise starter-motor failure in pit lane. However, the incident is unlikely to be repeated, with the team recently developing safeguards to prevent the failure from happening again in 2015.
Another car to keep an eye on will be the Super Black Racing Ford Falcon FG-X driven by the New Zealand pairing of André Heimgartner and Ant Pedersen. The team made it’s debut in the series 12 months ago at Bathurst as a wildcard entry, and came within a whisker of pulling off a top six effort — their car running out of fuel with only a few laps to spare. Despite the success of their 2014 effort, the pairing still remain humble about their chances for 2015.
“[Our goal] would be the same as it was last year — stay on that lead lap, get to about lap 130–140, then just have a dip,” said Ant Pedersen.
“We all said [last year that] if we could finish on the lead lap, we would be in the top 15, because history’s proven that if you just stay clear of the crap and on the lead lap, you’ll be somewhere in the 15. But we woke up on Sunday and the car was fast, and we were passing cars.”
Rounding out the New Zealand competitors is Chris Pither in the second of the Polestar Volvo S60s. Having put forward a competitive showing at the recent Sandown 500, Pither should also show solid pace at the Mountain, with the S60s reliability more likely to be a critical factor.
The flag is scheduled to fall on the 1000km marathon at 12.00pm New Zealand standard time, an hour later than last year.