We had a fast weekend in Bathurst and now we turn our attention to the Gold Coast 600, the final race in the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
With the Whincup penalty under appeal, the championship lead is in a state of flux, but it’s still a two horse race between the #88 and #97.
SVG won a race here last year and Whincup was on the podium for both races in 2014. With two events to go after the completion of the GC600, now is the time for this year’s championship to step forward and assert their charge for the trophy.
TRIPLE EIGHT RACE ENGINEERING:
How quick was the #88 all weekend at Bathurst? They rolled out of the truck quick and seemed to be quick regardless of the session time or driver. The shootout lap was one of the great laps around the mountain and then he and Dumbrell had pace throughout the race. While they were heavier on fuel than those around them, the pace they showed was undeniable.
Whincup doing 2.06’s lap after lap during the race was incredible to witness, and showed how much confidence he had in the car.
Flicking towards the GC, Jamie and PD had a best finish of 7th over the two races. They will need to stay ahead of the #97 in the stops to avoid double stacking, but if they bring half the pace they had at Bathurst, they’ll be hard to catch.
Question marks that hung over the pairing of Shane Van Gisbergen and Alex Premat at the start of the enduro season were whisked away at Sandown and well and truly buried at Bathurst. The Frenchman paired with Van Gis has done a magnificent job and will go into the GC600 full of confidence. SVG won the Saturday race here last year and celebrated it with a monster burnout against the fence. The punters at the track sure remembered it, and I would envisage more of the same this weekend with a win. I’ve been impressed with SVG this year and the inconsistency that has dogged him in previous championship tilts has been reduced in his first season at T8. With two 2nds at Sandown and Bathurst, they are the form combo of the enduros. While they don’t have the outright pace of the #88, they have eliminated the errors and banked points. The concrete doesn’t get softer at the GC.
The disaster enduro campaign for Lowndes continued at the Mountain. The #888 battled for pace most of the weekend and qualified down the back. A rare failure in the car cost them laps and while they continued to circulate, they were barely sighted thereafter. To salvage a result at the GC would be vital for Lowndes to hold onto 3rd in the championship. Looking forward to that race, I can’t recommend this car over any of the other T8 entries. It’s been a lean endurance season for the Vortex team, and while they could be on the podium, I can’t see a win for this car unless they get near the pace of the other entries in the stable.
Championship: Whincup 2nd, Van Gisbergen 1st, Lowndes 3rd.
PRODRIVE RACING AUSTRALIA:
Mark Winterbottom’s championship was on life support as he entered Bathurst and now it is officially without a pulse. The 2015 champ never looked as a real challenger on race day, despite having pace at times over the weekend. A lack of results have dogged the #1 PRA Falcon lately and Winterbottom hasn’t been in the top 10 since the last race in Queensland. It’s been a torrid run for the Bottle-O pilot, and he has slowly slipped down the championship since leading it after the Winton round. He now sits sixth after a DNF at Bathurst. He and Dean did a solid job, but didn’t seem to be likely race winners at any stage. Looking forward to the GC, I would wait to see how the first sessions go and whether PRA have found some pace for this car. My preference for the enduros so far from PRA has been the #55, and it seems to be the quicker car in both race and qualifying trim.
Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen nearly had a bent car after Owen’s big moment coming down the mountain at Bathurst. Luckily Owen missed the fence and they continued on with a reasonable weekend at Bathurst. I was pleased with the pace of this car and it was clearly the pick of the PRA stable over the weekend. They were in the hunt for a podium on raceday before the throttle issue, and subsequent break of the throttle cable left them finishing 19th. Coming into the GC, they would be my pick to unsettle the T8 trio. Mostert has built into this season well and is one to watch on the GC. While Owen doesn’t have the raw pace of Premat and Dumbrell, his experience and reliability in getting the car back in one piece will serve him and Mostert well.
I like this car for a podium chance at the GC.
Who saw this car being the top PRA car at the Mountain? Not me… Kudos to Cam Waters and Jack LeBrocq for getting a top five place however. They stayed out of trouble all day and rewarded with that finish. I can’t see them repeating their mountain success at the GC. While they are in the frame for a top 10 finish, there were too many DNF’s of quality pairings ahead of them at Bathurst. I was wrong on this pairing before, but lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Chris Pither and Richie Stanaway were unable to repeat the highlights of Sandown at the Mountain. They were reasonable on race day, but seemed to never be a factor. I had my hopes for Stanaway and Pither at Bathurst after a solid 12th in qualifying. However, they seemed a little away from the pace they showed at Sandown in the changeable conditions. They finished 12th however, which banked points for Pither.
I am really interested in seeing how this duo go at the GC. They could have a top 10 car if they stay on the right strategy, but double stacking could be an issue.
Championship: Winterbottom 6th Mostert 7th, Waters 17th, Pither 19th.
HOLDEN RACING TEAM:
What can you say for Garth Tander and Warren Luff. They qualified in the ten, but were adamant it was a better racer than qualifier. They stayed out of trouble early, but a slow stop put them behind the #22 at stages, however the recovered to get pit priority. A quick stop jumped the Red Bull #97 and set them up well. Tander was in the trio that tangled on the fateful lap 150. While Tander and Luff didn’t finish the race, they were on for a podium if not better had the incident not occurred. While they were one of the hard luck stories of Bathurst, they will be hard to beat at the GC. Luffy will be as safe as houses, and that HRT engine has plenty of grunt. One to watch.
I said in my Bathurst preview, its hard to see them beating the #2 after the one sided result at Sandown. While they jumped the #2 on a few occasions, had car #2 not exited the race on Lap 150, they would have been behind it. Courtney qualified the car in 16th, which was the second race in a row Tander has outqualified the #22. Courtney and Perkins trucked along all day, and while they popped up a few times, they were never really in contention. They were given a PLP for driving too slow under safety car and then docked 25 points for a messy move on Todd Kelly near the end of the race. Looking to the GC, this pairing won last year, but it’s hard to see it happening again, given the pace of the other entries and stablemate #2.
Championship: Courtney: 11th, Tander 12th.
GARRY ROGERS MOTORSPORT:
Scott McLaughlin and David Wall were a great combination at the mountain and were in the front pack for most of the day. Scott qualified well and David did what he had to do when in the car. Plonking it on the front row in the shootout did car #33 no harm, and they were always within reasonable distance of the #1. The incident at lap 150 has been unpacked by all and sundry, but I’m wondering if the #33 would have made it home on fuel. All of the others in the pack stopped twice in the 130s, whereas car #33 stopped once. In the end, they got the #33 back out on track to get points, but another good result at the mountain went begging for Scotty Mac.
James Moffat has to be the unluckiest driver in this year’s championship. He has had a torrid run in the season so far, and despite building into some form has not been able to convert the effort into results. A disaster race at Sandown followed a great qualifying performance earlier in the weekend. It didn’t get much better at Bathurst with Moffat qualifying the car in 23rd. They worked their way into the race and were making good headway before an engine blew, ending their day on lap 108. Moffat will be again paired with James Golding at the GC, but it’s hard to recommend this car with any certainty. Too many things have gone wrong for Moffat this year and the concrete walls along the streets of Surfers bite.
Championship: McLaughlin 5th, Moffat 23rd.
DJR TEAM PENSKE:
Fabian Coulthard and Luke Youlden had a solid weekend on the mountain. They were reasonable in most sessions over the weekend, giving hope to the DJRTP fans who have been devoid of success at the Mountain for a while. Fabian put the #12 Ford 4th for the great race and they trucked along all day. They hit the lead in the latter stages, but were on a different fuel strategy to the pack and finished 6th.
He and Youlden showed that their synergy at BJR had followed to DJR for this enduro season. Looking forward to the GC, I like this pairing and their chances. I’d expect a top 10 at worst for this duo. DJRTP are building as the season progresses.
Scott Pye secured his 2016 seat at the Mountain last year and despite already having signed for WR for 2017, he put in another great performance at Bathurst. Scott got the DJRTP car into the shootout and despite not raising much fanfare in the race, he and Tony D’Alberto ended up in front of the more favoured Couthard/Youlden pairing at the finish. It was good to see Pye having some luck and Tony D did a good job keeping the car straight. I can’t see them replicating their Bathurst efforts at the GC, but a top 10 would be a good reward.
Championship: Coulthard 10th, Pye 15th.
BRAD JONES RACING:
Tim Slade and Ash Walsh did a terrific job all weekend at the mountain. They were on the pace all weekend and were a real contender on race day. Unfortunately for the #14, a brake issue in a pitstop and resultant fire cost them a few laps to fix. A monster fight-back through quick laps, good strategy and help from safety cars put them back on the lead lap at the finish. Walsh did a perfect job as co-driver and has impressed me this enduro season. He will be one of the first signed up for next year if the whispers I hear are correct. I really like what this pairing has produced this endurance season, and while the results haven’t reflected it fully, this car has been one of the standouts so far. I really liked this pairing for the GC and can see a podium if it all goes perfectly.
Jason Bright and Andrew Jones had a reasonable weekend at Bathurst until the race. They just missed the top 10 shootout, but it was race day where it fell apart for the BOC car. Andrew Jones was slightly off line at the top of the mountain when the car hit the barrier hard. Andrew was lucky to be cleared of any injuries as the car reported a force of over 25G in the impact. For Surfers, I can’t see this pairing getting any sniff of the podium. I’m expecting mid teens placings for the #8 at the GC. Anything better would be a real coup.
Tim Blanchard and Macauley Jones teamed up in the Cooldrive Commodore, and despite an indifferent weekend and poor qualifying position were able to make headway in the race. Macauley was able to keep the pace at most stages and Tim kept the car straight in his time in the car. They finished a well deserved 10th, which was his best result of the season. His previous best of 11th was at Clipsal. Another top 10 would be a dream for the #21 crew, but a spot in the mid to high teens is more likely for the Cooldrive Commodore.
Championship: Slade 8th, Bright 16th, Blanchard 22nd.
Rick Kelly and Russell Ingall were one of the most watched combinations coming into Bathurst and left battered and bruised. Qualifying was poor for Rick and they ended up starting the race from 20th. An early redress penalty was not followed due to radio issues with the #15 and was then subsequently upgraded to a time penalty. The car remained outside contention for most of the day and Rick let the team know how unhappy he was with their pitstops. A crash for Rick at the elbow put pay to what was an ordinary day for the Sengled car.
Mark Skaife rated them as the best chance at the GC, but I would like to see more from qualifying before I commit too heavily to this car. More pace will be needed as well as keeping it off the fence. I’d say a top 10 is reachable for this car, but a win would be unlikely.
I said “A top 10 is needed from this combo at Bathurst to not let Caruso’s season be a waste…” and he and Fiore did just that. The #23 looked smart in a retro 1991 tribute livery and Caruso put the car in the shootout. He and Fiore did a good job all day, keeping the #23 circulating. They never really seemed to be in a podium position and ended up 8th at the flag. Looking forward to the GC, I can see this combo being the best top 10 chance of the Nissan’s if Caruso puts the car into the ten in qualy. If Fiore and Caruso keep the car straight and they will be Nissan’s best chance.
Todd Kelly and Matt Campbell were on for a solid finish at Bathurst before a clash with James Courtney left the #7 bogged at the chase late in the race.
While they qualified towards the back, they were able to work their way forward on race day. Campbell did his future no harm keeping the Carsales Altima on reasonable pace throughout the day. Todd in the past few races has driven as well as I’ve seen in a long time. I hope this bodes well for him continuing with the team fulltime in 2017.
Looking towards the Gold Coast 600, this pair are one to keep an eye on. While it wont have the outright pace of the T8 trio and PRA Falcons, the tight and twisty track will suit the Altima better. I feel a good result coming on for this car.
I said prior to Bathurst that Dale Wood and David Russell “…are not a contender for the win, podium or even top 10…” Whoops. After qualifying 18th and floating around in the order throughout the race, Wood brought the #96 home in 9th. It was his best finish of the year and added some good points in what had been a tough season for him.
I can’t see them replicating their top 10 finish at the Gold Coast.
They are more likely to finish in the middle to the rear of pack.
Championship: Caruso 9th, R Kelly 13th, T Kelly 14th, Wood 21st.
David Reynolds and Craig Baird teamed up in the #9 Penrite Erebus Commodore for an average weekend at the Mountain. Expectations weren’t high given the inconsistency of the Erebus car this year, but David qualified a solid 14th for the big race, ahead of some big names.
I must admit I didn’t keep much of an eye on the #9 throughout the day, however I did notice it when it lit up the timesheets and recorded the fastest lap of the day late in the race. Reynolds and Baird finished 18th at Bathurst, which was a lot better than their Sandown disqualification.
I can’t see this being a top 10 car at Surfers. While Davey has won their before, there is too many cars ahead of this one in race pace and development. He may have set the fastest lap at Bathurst during the race, but Surfers is a completely different ball game.
Shae Davies and Chris Van Der Drift qualified last for the great race and were never a factor. They were 17th at the flag, one position ahead of the lead Erebus car. Davies is keen to sign with Erebus for 2017, but I’d like to see more results. Starting from this weekend, Davies must aim to be inside the top 20 and beat at least one of the LDM cars home.
It’s hard to see these guys getting inside the top 20 without dramas for the cars ahead.
Championship: Reynolds 18th, Davies 43rd.
LUCAS DUMBRELL MOTORSPORT:
Nick Percat and Cam McConville were the feel-good story of Bathurst Sunday. I said in my Bathurst preview column “…I like this pairing, but it won’t be a winner. A top 10 is achievable, but a top five would be like a win for this team…” A third was ever better and this team knows how to celebrate. Percat and McConville worked their way into the race and got a result. After a qualy where Percat wasn’t happy with the car, they were able to tune the car to get to the finish. You wouldn’t know McConville had missed a few years at Bathurst from the way he drove, and I think he will be back on the grid as an enduro driver in 2017.
I really like what this pairing could produce on the GC. They won’t be the quickest car, but after two great results at Sandown and Bathurst, they are in some good form. A definite look for a top 10.
Andre Heimgartner and Aaren Russell had a torrid weekend at the mountain with car issues and a lack of pace plaguing the #3.
They never really got going in the race as the car chewed tyres and then mechanical issues struck. Looking towards this weekend’s event, you can’t expect more than a top 15 at best.
Championship: Percat 20th, Heimgartner 24th.
In my Bathurst preview, I said the #19 was “…A left field podium choice, but don’t discount this car from your thoughts..” Nobody could have foretold the result, but what a wonderful win for the small team. Webby and Davison worked their way into the weekend and after a poor qualy were concerned about race pace. Their concerns were unfounded as in the race the #19 got going. The removal of the #888 Vortex from contention aied with pit priority and they were in the right spot at the right time after the lap 150 crash. Looking forward to the GC, It’s hard to discount them again, but the GC is a different beast to Bathurst. A top 10 certainty if the car is kept off the fence.
Championship: Davison 4th.
CHARLIE SCHWERKOLT RACING:
Lee Holdsworth returned to the Mountain and it broke his and the team’s heart. A broken rocker ended their race early after a decent effort in qualy for 15th. Whilst they were out early, there is reasonable synergy with Lee and his co-driver Karl Reindler, which will help at the GC. It’s hard to place these guys for the GC after their early Bathurst exit, but I’d expect around 15th to be the aim or better.
Championship: Holdsworth: 25th.