Motorsport: Mighty on the mountain
The most competitive Bathurst grid
Tomorrow, 27 cars piloted by 54 drivers take on the famous Mount Panorama circuit to compete for Australian motorsport's biggest prize — the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
The driver line-up spans the full spectrum, with former champions balanced out by rookies, journeymen, and overseas stars. What it all adds up to is one of the most competitive grids seen in the history of the race.
Can Red Bull be beaten?
Red Bull Racing enters as favourite with its potent combinations of Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell and Shane van Gisbergen/Alex Premat.
The lead drivers are 1-2 in the championship standings, however neither has had a good run at Bathurst in recent years.
Whincup has denied his team and his co-driver two assured victories in 2014 and 2015 through his own unforced errors, while van Gisbergen has never won it.
These elements could give both drivers further impetus to win, but could also pressure them into dropping the ball.
What about Prodrive?
Last year's series champion has struggled to defend its crown, with Mark Winterbottom even conceding that he “may as well peel off” the #1 from his car. Chaz Mostert has also battled; his Supercheap Falcon one of the fastest over the one-lap dash but to date not a race winner.
Both will be fast, with quick hands in Dean Canto and Steve Owen riding shotgun, but all were outclassed at the Sandown 500.
The team's third entry of Cameron Waters and Jack Le Brocq could run in the top 10, but the most interesting car in the Prodrive camp could be the all-Kiwi Super Black Racing Chris Pither/Richie Stanaway entry. Pither has been a leading co-driver at the mountain over the last few years, while Stanaway's name is on everyone's lips after a stellar debut at Sandown.
Dark horse perhaps?
Is HRT the best of the rest?
Potentially. James Courtney and Jack Perkins will be as solid as ever, however it's Garth Tander and Warren Luff who are most likely to threaten the top step.
The pair comes off a defiant Sandown win, where it won on pace, strategy, and a dash of luck. Tander has struggled for most of 2016, but appears reborn in his new car. Genuine chance.
Scott McLaughlin and David Wall will be quick — Wall having shone as one of the best co-drivers at Sandown.
Brad Jones Racing will play every strategic ace it can, but expect only Tim Slade and Ash Walsh's Freightliner Commodore to rise to the front.
Nissan Motorsport will be faster than it’s ever been at Bathurst with its five-strong squad, but it's hard to say whether that will be enough. The same goes for DJR Team Penske, though its two lead drivers are among the hungriest on the grid.
Oh, what about the guys that won last year?
Of course, we can't forget about them.
Write off Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards at your peril.