The Supercars season of endurance is upon us, with the opening round of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup having just been run and won at Sandown. It ended in a one-two-three for Holden, but with a surprise winner in the Holden Racing Team with Garth Tander and Warren Luff – in an unexpected return to form for the HRT and a welcome boost that’s come hard on the heels of the news that Holden will not be supporting the once-all-conquering HRT beyond the end of this year. So, all of a sudden, another Holden team has stepped up to the plate in a 2016 season that’s been dominated by Holden drivers. The men from The General will go to the Mountain statistically best placed to bag the Bathurst 1000, but what of their challengers? Let’s look at the Ford forces.
The Bottle O Racing
# 1 Falcon FGX - MARK WINTERBOTTOM
For a while it looked like Winterbottom might go down in history as the greatest driver never to win either the championship or Bathurst. He’s since won both, and with those two monkeys off his shoulders ‘Frosty’ can go to this race perhaps more relaxed than ever. Perhaps, except that off the back of a bad run at Sandown, he has slipped to fifth in the points, and thus far in 2016 has only scored one race win. On current form, Winterbottom and the PRA team will need to find that little bit extra at Bathurst.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 1st; 2nd.
Career Best: 1st in 2013 Bathurst 1000; 2015 Australian Touring Car Champion; 2nd in 2015 Bathurst 1000; 2nd in 2008 V8SCS; 3rd in 2006, 10, 11, 12 & 14 V8SCS; 1st in 2006 & 15 Sandown 500; 2nd in 2010 Phillip Island 500; 2nd in 2012 Sandown 500; 2nd in 2002 Australian Formula Ford Championship.
# 1 Falcon FGX - DEAN CANTO
There’s a remarkable symmetry between Canto and fellow PRA co-driver Steve Owen – they’re both two-time DVS winners who were never quite able to crack it for a long-term permanent seat in V8 Supercars. They’re both yet to win Bathurst, and alongside Winterbottom, Canto knows he could hardly be better placed to bag the big one.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 2nd.
Career Best: 2nd in 2012 Bathurst 1000; 5th in 2001 Bathurst 1000; 5th in 2007 Sandown 500; 6th in 2006 & 12 Sandown 500; 1st in 2000 & 05 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series; 2nd in 2008 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series.
Monster Energy Racing
# 6 Falcon FGX - CAMERON WATERS
A lack of experience might be the only thing counting against Waters in what will only be his third Bathurst start. But the youngest driver ever to start the race (remember the Shannons Showdown reality TV series?) has had a good year, and already has one pole position to his name. The Monster Falcon is an interesting contender: it’s a good car, it’s got two very good young drivers – anything might be possible here.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 20th.
Career Best: 2011 Australian Formula Ford Champion; 2nd in 2015 Sandown 500; 1st in 2015 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series; 2nd in 2014 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series.
# 6 Falcon FGX - JACK LE BROCQ
Waters won last year’s Dunlop Series with PRA and his 2016 Bathurst co-driver, Jack le Brocq, is well on the way of following in his footsteps this year. So there’s a neat symmetry between these two, and no doubt they make a strong, young partnership – and le Brocq brings to the table plenty of Bathurst experience both in V8 Supercars and in GT3 in the Bathurst 12 Hour.
Best in Bathurst 1000: DNF.
Career Best: 2012 Australian Formula Ford Champion; 3rd in 2014 Bathurst 12 Hours; 2nd in 2011 Australian Formula Ford Championship; 5th in 2015 Bathurst 12 Hours; 3rd in 2015 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series.
DJR Team Penske
12 Falcon FGX - FABIAN COULTHARD
In terms of bare result, so far the move to DJR Team Penske has not really borne fruit for Coulthard. It is, however, early days; one suspects that the Penske powerhouse will sooner or later produce a race-winning package. To that end it would be foolish not to consider car 12 a potential winner at Bathurst.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 4th.
Career Best: 2005 Carrera Cup Champion; 1st in 2002 NZGP; 2001/02 New Zealand Formula Ford Champion; 2nd in 2005/06 NZ Porsche GT3 Cup; 3rd in 2004 Carrera Cup; 4th in 2006/07 NZ Porsche GT3 Cup.
12 Falcon FGX - LUKE YOULDEN
Coulthard has swapped teams but he has taken his co-driver of the past three years with him. Luke Youlden is held in high regard up and down pit lane as a dependable and quick co-driver – in his 17th start he is surely due for a result to at least match his previous best, that third place with Steven Ellery way back no less than 13 years ago.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 3rd.
Career Best: 2000 Australian Formula Ford Champion; 2nd in 2003 Sandown 500; 2nd in 2010 Phillip Island 500; 3rd in 2003 Bathurst 1000; 3rd in 2011 Phillip Island 500; 2nd in class in 2016 Bathurst 12 Hours.
DJR Team Penske
17 Falcon FGX - SCOTT PYE
Since this race last year the luckless Scott Pye has suffered a string of accidents, most of which were not his fault, but rather the result of mechanical issues. It’s already been announced that he will be making way for new team signee Scott McLaughlin next year; Pye will surely be aiming to leave Bathurst this year on a high.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 6th.
Career Best: 2010 British Formula Ford Champion; 1st in class in 2012 Bathurst 12 Hours; 5th in 2014 Sandown 500; 6th in 2013 Bathurst 1000; 2nd in 2012 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series; 3rd in 2009 Australian Formula Ford Championship.
17 Falcon FGX - TONY D’ALBERTO
He was once an owner/driver but now dabbles in sportscar racing as well as fronting up for the enduros. Like a lot of other former main gamers, D’Alberto in ‘retirement’ is getting a run with teams with a more serious chance than his own did when he was a full timer – and the Penske name on the door means this is a very serious outfit.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 6th.
Career Best: 6th in 2007 Bathurst 1000; 6th in 2015 Sandown 500; 1st in 2007 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series; 5th in 2005 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series.
Supercheap Auto Racing
#55 Falcon FGX - CHAZ MOSTERT
It might have been said that Mostert has unfinished business at Bathurst after his horror qualifying crash that sidelined him for the rest of 2015. But his second race back from injury was the Bathurst 6 Hour, which he won, so it should just be a case of business as usual this October. The fact he’s not in the title hunt means Chaz can shoot for a result without contemplating championship considerations.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 1st.
Career Best: 1st in 2014 Bathurst 1000; 2010 Australian Formula Ford Champion; 2nd in 2015 Sandown 500; 1st in 2016 Bathurst 6 Hours; 3rd in class in 2011 Bathurst 12 Hours; 5th in 2016 Sandown 500.
#55 Falcon FGX - STEVE OWEN
Owen is surely one of the best of the hired help that’s yet to win this race. His record in Supercars is very strong – so much so that it’s surprising that he was never able to consolidate himself as a long-term full-time championship driver. He was second with Winterbottom last year and he’s been second here before. He and Mostert make a very strong driver combo.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 2nd (twice).
Career Best: 1st in 2015 Sandown 500; 2nd in 2010 & 15 Bathurst 1000; 1st in 2008 & 10 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series; 2nd in 1999 Australian Formula Ford Championship; 3rd in 2013 Sandown 500; 2nd in class in 2016 Bathurst 12 Hours; 5th in 2016 Sandown 500.
Super Black Racing
# 111 Falcon FGX - CHRIS PITHER
Pither’s been around for a while but has and t this has been his first opportunity as a permanent player in the main series – and he’s making the most of it. He’s got good equipment in Super Black’s PRA Falcon; pole at Queensland Raceway means he has to be one to watch.
Best in Bathurst 1000: 14th.
Career Best: 1st in class in 2012 Bathurst 12 Hours; 4th in 2007 Bathurst 12 Hours; 4th in 2014 Dunlop V8 Supercar Series; 1st in 2011 V8 Utes series.
# 111 Falcon FGX - RICHIE STANAWAY
Stanaway is new to V8 Supercars but he’s known to Nick Percat, Chaz Mostert and Scott Pye – all of them rivals in Formula Ford in 2009. Stanaway had looked on course perhaps for F1 until sidelined by a massive crash in Formula Renault in 2012. Since then he’s been impressive in sportscars – and he was stunningly good in his Supercar debut at Sandown. It’ll be fascinating to see how he goes at Bathurst.
Best in Bathurst 1000: Rookie.
Career Best: 1st in 2011 German F3 Championship; 1st in 2008/09 NZ Formula Ford Championship; 1st in 2009 NZ Toyota Racing Series; 1st in 2010 ADAC Formel Masters; 6th in class in 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours.
So far in 2016 for Ford…
Two days after Ford’s Australian engine manufacturing operation at Geelong shuts its doors for good, a fleet of six Falcon FGX Supercars will face the challenge of 1000km at Mount Panorama. As if to emphasise the end of era of local car manufacturing, the Ford teams go to Bathurst with support from thousands of Ford fans, but not from the actual company itself. Still, while it’s been a tough year for the Blue Oval both on and off the track, there is more than one serious contender among the six Fords – even if the win tally thus far in 2016 amounts to the solitary triumph enjoyed by Winterbottom in Perth. One win against 13 podiums shows that they’re not far away; you could mount a sustainable case for any of the six winning Bathurst this year.