Leaders have much to play for, writes Eric Thompson

The fight for the V8 Supercars title is tight heading into the series within a series at Sandown, near Melbourne, this weekend for the first of the Pirtex Enduro Cup races.

Just 72 points blanket the top four drivers heading into the first of three races that make up the cup, followed by the Bathurst 1000 and the Gold Coast 600.

Defending V8SC champion Jamie Whincup leads Will Davison by 55 points, with Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes trailing by 70 and 72 points. In 2012, the same four were also at the top but were separated by 154 points, while in 2011 the top four drivers (Whincup, Lowndes, Shane van Gisbergen and Rick Kelly) were separated by a huge 477 points heading into the first endurance event.

There are far more players challenging for a title this year with 245 points - less than a weekend of racing (300 points are available every V8SC weekend) - covering the top nine drivers.


At the same time last year, 952 points covered the top nine drivers in the series. Everything can change in the endurance events, with the introduction of new drivers who are not allowed to be regular drivers. Title contenders now have to put their title aspirations in the hands of others for three races in a row.

We run a ruler over the leading pairings.

Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell (Red Bull Racing Australia)

Dumbrell quit full-time V8 racing in 2011 but had a dig at Bathurst last year, with Whincup picking up the win. Dumbrell knows his way around all three tracks very well.

Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff (Red Bull Racing Australia)

The pair had a great start to the endurance rounds in 2012, picking up the Sandown 500 and finishing on the podium at Bathurst. Luff is having a good season in the Porsche Carrera Cup.

Fabian Coulthard and Luke Youlden (Lockwood Racing)

Youlden has been a solid campaigner since 2001, finishing on the podium with Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison. He helped Davison to pole in 2011 and van Gisbergen in 2012, and wants a hat-trick.

Shane van Gisbergen and Jeroen Bleekemolen (Team Tekno VIP Petfoods)

Dutchman Bleekemolen has raced at Bathurst in the 2012 12 Hour and the Bathurst 1000 Porsche Carrera Cup races. The pair were together at Stone Brothers Racing in 2012, finishing in the top 10 at the Gold Coast 600.

Mark Winterbottom and Steve Richards (Pepsi Max Crew FPR)

The pair are together for the third year in a row. Although New Zealander Richards isn't in the main game any more, he is still racing on a regular basis in the Porsche Carrera Cup and lies fourth on the table. They finished second at Sandown in 2012.

David Reynolds and Dean Canto (Bottle-O Racing Team FPR)

Canto has been in the FPR enduro line-up since 2008 and is a two-time Development Series champion and finished second at Bathurst in 2012.

Garth Tander and Nick Percat (Holden Racing Team)

Percat is again with 2011 Bathurst-winning teammate for a third consecutive season. After three years in the Development Series, Percat is currently plying his trade in the Porsche Carrera Cup.

James Courtney and Greg Murphy (Holden Racing Team)

Four-time Bathurst winner Murphy has been without and V8SC full-time drive this year after 15 years in the main game. The Kiwi won back-to-back Sandown 500 titles for HRT in 1996/97 and was recently crowned V8 SuperTourers Sprint Series champion.

Will Davison and Steve Owen (Pepsi Max Crew FPR )

Owen got the gig after Davison asked the team to partner him with the former Bathurst 1000 podium finisher and Gold Coast 600 winner.