V8 Supercars: New car tipped to add thrill on track

By Eric Thompson

The Bathurst 1000 endurance race at the Mt Panorama circuit is the mecca of V8 racing.  Photo / Getty Images
The Bathurst 1000 endurance race at the Mt Panorama circuit is the mecca of V8 racing. Photo / Getty Images

Formula One has the Monaco Grand Prix, sportscar racing has its Le Mans 24 Hour and IndyCar has its Indianapolis 500 - as far as saloon car racing goes, it's the Bathurst 1000 that everyone wants to win.

About 29 cars and 58 drivers will be going at it hammer-and-tongs around the Mt Panorama circuit on Sunday to see just who has the car, the co-driver, the cojones and the pit crew to keep going flat out on the ragged edge for six-plus hours to claim this year's bragging rights.

Jamie Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell will start as favourites no doubt, with Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff as close contenders. Both believe the fastest lap record, with the records for qualifying and race lap, will be under serious threat in the new Car of the Future.

While the all-new car for 2013 doesn't develop any more horsepower than its predecessor, the purpose-built chassis, independent rear suspension, bigger wheels, bigger brakes and lighter weight will make it more nimble across the top of the mountain.

There is also talk the technical bods may allow taller gearing to be used that will give the more sorted cars an extra 10km/h down Conrod Straight.

Most of the field made it through the Sandown 500 mechanically unscathed, but Bathurst is twice the distance and the track's a hard mistress who'll find the weakest link in any car less than perfectly prepared.

Along with championship leaders Whincup and Lowndes, most eyes will be on the next three Australians on the points table; Will Davison, Mark Winterbottom, and especially James Courtney who is definitely in with a chance of being partnered with four-time Bathurst winner New Zealander Greg Murphy.

And speaking of Kiwis, you'd be a tad foolish not to keep an eye on the three full-time Kiwi drivers in the main game who all happen to be in the top 10 in the championship. Fabian Coulthard leads the charge in sixth with Shane van Gisbergen right behind and recent addition to the series Scott McLaughlin in 10th.

"I'm really excited to be back at Bathurst and it's surprising how excited you can be about a place that has not been very kind to me,' said Coulthard, who's driving with Luke Youlden.

"We've been fast here in the past but just haven't had the luck in the race. We've been in the top 10 shoot-out on numerous occasions and qualified well in the past. But the race just doesn't seem to like me.

"This race can really affect your championship points-wise.

"We're having a strong series this year and we need to finish the race this time.

"On my past performances I'd just like to finish a race but it's a hard race. We haven't had any luck in the past and surely it's going to change this year," said Coulthard.

Someone who had lady luck looking over his shoulder was McLaughlin, who finished a brilliant sixth on his debut as a rookie last year.

The young Kiwi has posted three wins in the Development Series on the Mountain in the past. This year he's sharing driving duties with another youngster, Jack Perkins.

"There's no point in putting pressure on yourself," said McLaughlin. "I'm just looking forward to going out there and giving it a red hot go like I normally do and see where we end up.

"Our cars have shown good pace all year and I've got Jack in the car with me, who I think is one of the best co-drivers out there so it's all good.

"It took a few years to get comfortable around Bathurst and last year helped a lot.

"I think we'll be all right. It's a long day and you don't have to do your fastest lap at the start of the day. You just have to make sure you're there at the end."

The last, and by no means the least, of the Kiwi main driver contingent is Shane van Gisbergen who has hit his straps again with his new team Tekno Autosports, but he may be hampered slightly by his co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen.

The Dutch driver has quite a pedigree in open wheelers, sports cars and DTM, but hurling a V8 Supercar around Bathurst for the first time is a different kettle of fish. "I'm just looking forward to getting out there," said van Gisbergen. "It's a great place to race with so much action and drama and you can make up so much time by just driving as hard as you can.

"At this track if your car isn't the best you can still make up so much time with your driving. Over the top there is just so much to it and if you get it right you can carry so much speed even in a big car. "You also get an extra day to sort the car if it's not handling properly ..."

Although no longer plying his considerable talents full-time in V8 Supercars, Murphy will be a huge asset to the HRT team and Courtney. The pair will be a big threat, now the team is getting their heads around the new car.

- NZ Herald

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