The 2016 Bathurst 1000 Formguide
This weekend is the 59th running of the Bathurst 1000, Australia's premier endurance race and one of the world's greatest touring car races. 54 drivers in 27 cars representing four manufacturers will start Sunday's race, and every driver pairing has been briefly discussed here. The favourites will be usual suspects from Triple 8, Prodrive and Walksinshaw, who always do well at Bathurst despite their performance at other circuits. Tekno Autosports, Garry Rogers Motorsport, DJR Team Penske and Brad Jones Racing also have a reasonable chance at winning. The others will need varying degrees of good luck to win, but anything could happen at Bathurst.
#1: Mark Winterbottom & Dean Canto, Prodrive Racing Australia (Ford)
A co-driver reshuffle at Prodrive Racing Australia has paired 2015 champion and 2013 Bathurst winner Mark Winterbottom with Dean Canto. These two should do well and have a very good chance at winning. Canto finished second in 2012 with David Reynolds in one of the closest ever finishes and he and Reynolds were leading late in the 2014 race before their alternator failed. Car #1 didn't come good until Sunday at Sandown but the last two years at Bathurst demonstrated that you can win off a bad qualifying.
#2: Garth Tander & Warren Luff, Holden Racing Team (Holden)
Garth Tander is driving to save his career but he received a new Commodore at Sandown and appears to be very happy with it. Warren Luff is also an excellent co-driver, as his Sandown performance showed. It’s also worth remembering that Tander and Luff were last year’s Enduro Cup winners in a year that wasn’t particularly good for Walkinshaw. They’re of to a great start in defending it, expect a podium at minimum.
#3: Andre Heimgartner & Aaron Russell, Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport (Holden)
It's been a tough season for Heimgartner and an even tougher one for Russell, who got into Erebus Motorsport as a pay driver and lost his drive when the money ran out. Heimgartner is talented but he doesn't have the equipment or the co-driver needed for a good result.
#4: Shae Davies & Chris van der Drift, Erebus Motorsport (Holden)
A finish would be a good result for this rookie pairing consisting essentially of two co-drivers. Erebus won’t have much time for this car, which they’re basically only running out of obligation, and Davies is only a placeholder until someone like Garth Tander comes along next year. They’ll focus almost all their efforts on Reynolds and Baird and the results will be reflected in both cars.
#6: Cameron Waters & Jack Le Brocq, Prodrive Racing Australia (Ford)
Two young and talented drivers in a well run and well funded car. They'll be quick and on paper could do a good job. They're unlikely to get strategy priority over Winterbottom and Canto under any circumstance though so a top 10 seems like the most likely outcome.
#7: Todd Kelly & Matt Campbell, Nissan Motorsport (Nissan)
Former Bathurst winner Todd Kelly will be looking to show that he is still just as good as the other Nissan drivers, and Matt Campbell is an extremely talented young driver looking to make an impression. The fact that they were the highest placed Nissan pair at Sandown, finishing 7th, suggests that they can deliver.
#8: Jason Bright & Andrew Jones, Brad Jones Racing (Holden)
They've been racing together for six years, but this could be their last together. Bright advancing age and dropping speed suggests his retirement is imminent. Bright and Jones are capable of a reasonable result, but will rely on bad luck for other drivers to get a top five. Bright will be motivated to prove that if he does retire, he can be a competitive co-driver.
#9: David Reynolds & Craig Baird, Erebus Motorsport (Holden)
They’re unlikely to win but Reynolds has form at Bathurst will do well relative to Erebus’s past results. Erebus have endurance experience with the Bathurst 12 Hour and achieved a fourth in 2014 with Will and Alex Davison. Craig Baird is also familiar with Erebus, driving for them in the GT Championship and taking the place of Aaren Russell in car #4 at Ipswich. Erebus will be completely focused on this entry, giving them pit lane priority, which could be worth a few positions for them. While they're unlikely to win, they are capable of a good result..
#12: Fabian Coulthard & Luke Youlden, DJR Team Penske (Ford)
Recent results, particularly at Sandown show that DJR Team Penske are right on the cusp of success. Fabian Coulthard brings his long time co-driver, Luke Youlden, over from BJR and they'll be a fast combination at Bathurst. This might be the year DJR wins Bathurst for the first time since 1994.
#14: Tim Slade & Ash Walsh, Brad Jones Racing (Holden)
This is actually quite a good pair. Tim Slade won his first two races at Winton this year and is doing much better in the BJR Commodore than he did in the Erebus E63 or Walkinshaw Commodore he has driven previously. Ash Walsh ran full time last year with Erebus and did well at Sandown racing against Luff and Dumbrell. BJR usually do well at Bathurst and this is their strongest pairing.
#15: Rick Kelly & Russell Ingall, Nissan Motorsport (Nissan)
An outside chance but don't rule them out. Kelly and Ingall have plenty of experience, but the Nissans, which are stronger at street circuits, might not be as well suited to Bathurst as the Triple 8 Holdens and Prodrive Fords.They’ll need a lot of luck to win, but it's not impossible.
#17: Scott Pye & Tony D’Alberto, DJR Team Penske (Ford)
Scott Pye will be feeling much happier having secured his future in Supercars with a two year deal at Walkinshaw. He was impressive at Bathurst last year before a mechanical failure and he has a capable co-driver in Tony D’Alberto. They have just as good a chance at winning as their teammates in the #12, though a DJR Team Penske victory would be somewhat unexpected.
#18: Lee Holdsworth & Karl Reindler, Team 18 (Holden)
They’ve got a Triple 8 car and Lee Holdsworth is a good driver, but Team 18 remains at very long odds to win Bathurst. Co-driver Karl Reindler is not the worst choice, but he’s not the best either. He has had more time in a main game Supercar than the other co-drivers, but that’s because Holdsworth missed several rounds due to injury. They have the hardware, but the small team, out of practice main driver and average co-driver might not be able to make the most of it. A win isn’t impossible, but they’ll need a lot of luck.
#19: Will Davison & Jonathon Webb, Tekno Autosports (Holden)
Will Davison went through a form slump at Queensland Raceway and Sydney Motorsport Park, and Jonathon Webb has no regular racing program. But a third place at Sandown shows that they are capable of winning. Their biggest obstacle will be getting a ahead of Lowndes and Richards to avoid double stacking.
#21: Tim Blanchard & Macauley Jones, Brad Jones Racing
The reality of this entry is that Tim Blanchard is there as a pay driver, not because of his talent. He’s an Australian Formula Ford champion could be that he’s never had the right car, but he’s never regularly had decent results. Again this year he hasn’t got the car he needs. Brad Jones’ son Macauley returns to car 21 for his second attempt at Bathurst and is a promising young driver. This year represents a chance to get some valuable experience in a relatively low pressure to help get a better endurance drive next year.
#22: James Courtney & Jack Perkins, Holden Racing Team (Holden)
Despite his results this season and a recent contract renewal, James Courtney is the less likely of the two Walkinshaw drivers to win Bathurst. Perkins always performs well there as a co-driver but Courtney has never won Bathurst. Tander on the other hand is always strong at Bathurst and was very comfortable in his new car at Sandown. Getting in front of car #2 and getting strategy priority is going to be hard work
#23: Michael Caruso & Dean Fiore, Nissan Motorsport (Nissan)
The lead Nissan pairing have a lot going for them. Caruso will have a confidence boost from himself and Nissan re-signing with Kelly Racing, which will remain Nissan Motorsport for at least two more years. Additionally, Dean Fiore is a good co-driver and they have been together for three years now. They were beaten by both Kelly brothers at Sandown, but Caruso is the only Nissan driver in the top 10 in the championship. A top 10 is easily achievable, and with a bit of luck they might just make the top five. Questions about the Nissan’s straight line speed still linger, but they don’t seem to be far off, if they’re behind at all.
#33: Scott McLaughlin & David Wall, Garry Rogers Motorsport (Volvo)
If a Ford or Holden doesn't win Bathurst, it will be the Volvo of McLaughlin and Wall. They were fast at Sandown and David Wall has settled back in at Garry Rogers Motorsport very well. The long race reliability concerns appear to be dealt with as well.
#34: James Moffat & James Golding, Garry Rogers Motorsport (Volvo)
James Moffat has been consistently beaten by McLaughlin this year but the gap is closing. Unfortunately a lap one puncture at Sandown meant that co-driver James Golding missed out on valuable experience. While perhaps not not expected to do as well as the other GRM Volvo, they could get a good result and finish in the top 10.
#55: Chaz Mostert & Steve Owen, Prodrive Racing Australia (Ford)
Chaz Mostert is only 24 and he's already won Bathurst in what was regarded as the greatest Bathurst ever. In 2014 his co-driver Paul Morris started last after Mostert was excluded from qualifying. The made 10 pit stops instead of the usual 7, crashed twice and still won. Mostert is possibly the fastest driver around Bathurst and Owen isn't bad either, having finished second last year. Mostert had a season ending crash at Bathurst last year but that shouldn't slow him down once he gets going. The Supercheap Auto Falcon will be up the front.
#88: Jamie Whincup & Paul Dumbrell, Triple Eight Race Engineering (Holden)
These two have always been fast at Bathurst but in the last three years Jamie Whincup has made a habit of losing the race on the last lap. In 2013, he tried to overtake Winterbottom and got it wrong, in 2014 he pushed too hard and ran out of fuel on the last lap while leading and in 2015 he ignored team instructions, didn't pit when the safety car was triggered, then drove past the safety car to get a drive through penalty. If Whincup can avoid these end of race mistakes and Dumbrell puts in his usual solid performance they could win it.
#96: Dale Wood & David Russell, Nissan Motorsport (Nissan)
Dale Wood has had an ordinary season this year, but don’t rule him and David Russell out. Wood made the shootout at Bathurst two years ago and he has had moments of speed at other tracks. Russell is also a solid if not spectacular choice of co-driver familiar with Nissan Motorsport. They won’t win the race, but they won’t do too badly, at least relative to the other Nissans.
#97: Shane van Gisbergen & Alex Premat, Triple Eight Race Engineering (Holden)
These two surprised a few people finishing second at Sandown this year. Premat was much faster than expected, so he and championship leader van Gisbergen will be among the favourites. Being evenly matched with their teammates Whincup and Dumbrell will make double stacking an important issue for car #97, but speed should not be an issue. Van Gisbergen needs to qualify ahead of Whincup to give Premat the best chance of keeping Dumbrell behind him..
#111: Chris Pither & Richie Stanaway, Super Black Racing (Ford)
The performance of Super Black rookie co-driver Stanaway at Sandown in the rain on slick tyres was impressive and raised expectations coming into Bathurst. The chance of Super Black winning is slim, they’re inexperienced, they haven’t got the biggest budget and sharing a garage with Chaz Mostert will put them at risk of double stacking right from the start. Both Pither and Stanaway will be out to impress in order to lock down a full time drive next year, so they’ll be trying hard. A top 10 finish is possible.
#222: Nick Percat & Cameron McConville, Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport (Holden)
Nick Percat won Bathurst in 2011 as a rookie co-driver alongside Garth Tander, but don’t expect him to repeat that this year. The LDM Commodore may be built by Triple 8, but it’s run on a small budget. McConville is good, if a little out of practice, and they did get into the top 10 at Bathurst. They can do well, but a top 10 is probably the best they can do and would be an amazing effort for a small team.
#360: Simona De Silvestro & Renee Gracie, Nissan Motorsport (Nissan)
They’re highly unlikely to win the race, but they should be able to improve on last year’s result. They’ve both got more experience this time around and Nissan is an easier car to drive than the Ford. De Silvestro will be keen to get close to the full time drivers ahead of her own full time debut, but Gracie’s progress in the Dunlop Series has stagnated. It will be interesting to see how they go.
#888: Craig Lowndes & Steven Richards, Triple Eight Race Engineering (Holden)
The reigning Bathurst champions might be the oldest pairing in the race, but they're still favourites to win. They have a combined 10 Bathurst victories, Lowndes sits third in the championship, and Richards is running competitively in both Australian GT and the Carrera Cup. Double stacking behind Jamie Whincup has cost Lowndes before but this year he shares a pit with Will Davison, who he has regularly beaten.