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October 4, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Bathurst

The biggest event on the Australasian motorsport calendar gets underway this weekend, as the V8 Championship Series heads to Mount Panorama for the Bathurst 1000. Kiwi and Aussie petrol heads alike will be glued to their screens throughout “The Great Race” on Sunday, with yet another nail-biter on the cards. While the overall series itself is shaping up as somewhat of a four horse race, Bathurst is, as usual, wide open.

The somewhat controversial decision to prohibit teams from using their two ‘main game’ drivers in a single car had the potential to change the dynamic of this season’s endurance races—the goal of the organisers being to make the likes of Bathurst more even. In reality, however, the move looks set to have little to no effect. The relative pull of the teams has already proved significant when it comes to finding co-drivers, with the top teams able to secure the services of better helmsmen.

Mount Panorama has been home to a proud history of motor racing, for New Zealand as well as Australia. Kiwi driver Jim Richards is the second most prolific winner of Bathurst—his whopping seven titles only bettered by legendary “King of the Mountain” Peter Brock. In more recent times, Greg Murphy has more often than not carried the Kiwi Bathurst flag, having accumulated an impressive four titles.

Plenty of teams have a legitimate shot at making the podium. Despite this, my resident V8 connoisseur, “Tequila Pete” Hutchings, expects that one of the Team Vodafone cars will more than likely to take it out. Hutchings couldn’t decide between Whincupp and Lowndes’ cars, up until Philip Island, when Lowndes and co-driving super-sub Mark Skaife took the chequered flag. Given current form, his prediction is hard to argue against.

Lowndes’ chances in the enduros were given a massive boost after securing the services of ex-partner and multiple-Bathurst winner Skaife. As defending Bathurst champions, Whincupp and Lowndes’ chances cannot be downplayed, especially given their form has continued into this season (currently lying second and fourth respectively in the championship). Despite championship leader James Courtenay clearly being the in-form driver, his co-driver Warren Luff does not quite have the calibre of some of the other wingmen.

Although the V8s have been dominated by Aussies in recent years, there is certainly hope for Kiwi fans at Mount Panorama. Despite a few disappointing years, Murph is always a threat at Bathurst—still holding the fastest lap record set during the top ten shootout of his title-winning performance in 2003—and recently has had two fourths and a second in his last three digs. Another podium possibility is Jason Richards, who finished third at Philip Island with co-driver Andrew Jones, and also has an impressive recent record at Bathurst, including second the past two years, and fourth in 2007.

Aside from Team Vodafone and the aforementioned Kiwi drivers, Mark “Frosty” Winterbottom—who finished second at Philip Island, and is third in the championship—is another in-form driver in with a shot at Bathurst.

In my opinion, the value money has to be on Richards and Jones, and the safe bet on Lowndes and Skaife. Having said that, my heart is adamant either Murph or one of the Jack Daniels cars will bring it home.

I hope you’ll be joining me in front of The Great Race this coming Sunday—with a slab of cold VB—to cheer on HOLDEN!

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