Motorsport: Ten teams to watch at Bathurst

Our top ten pairing picks for this weekend's Bathurst 100 at Mount Panorama.
Kiwi hope Shane van Gisbergen during a very wet Bathurst practice session. Photo / Getty Images
Kiwi hope Shane van Gisbergen during a very wet Bathurst practice session. Photo / Getty Images

Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife
Car: TeamVodafone Commodore (No.888)

Driver stats: Lowndes - 17 starts, best result 1st (1996, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010). Skaife - 24 starts, best result 1st (1991, 1992, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2010).

Defending champions and winners of the recent Phillip Island 500, the veteran pairing of Lowndes and Skaife is again the team to beat at Mount Panorama. This year Lowndes has added incentive, going into the race just 93 points behind stable-mate Jamie Whincup in the championship standings. Clear favourites.

Jamie Whincup and Andrew Thompson
Car: TeamVodafone Commodore (No.88)

Driver stats: Whincup - Nine starts, best result 1st (2006, 2007, 2008). Thompson - Four starts, best result 7th (2007).

Whincup and Thompson make a good pairing and given the quality of the cars TeamVodafone always run out they'll be a front-runner.

The key will be if Thompson can keep close to Skaife to ensure Whincup is in a position to hunt down Lowndes in the closing laps. Whincup is desperate to get his driver's championship back and knows a Bathurst win will go a long way to achieving that.

Garth Tander and Nick Percat
Car: Toll Holden Racing Team Commodore (No.2)

Driver stats: Tander - 13 starts, best result 1st (2000, 2009). Percat - Bathurst debut.

Tander and Percat delivered a bright day in a dark year for HRT to finish fourth at the Phillip Island 500 last month. Tander is as good a driver at Bathurst as any of his contemporaries but it's the rawness of highly-rated youngster Nick Percat and his own team's struggles in 2010 that could hold him back.

Shane van Gisbergen and John McIntyre
Car: SP Tools Falcon (No.9)

Driver stats: Van Gisbergen - Four starts, best result 13th (2009). McIntyre - Five starts, best result 19th (2009).

2011 has been a breakthrough year for young New Zealander van Gisbergen, securing his first race wins at V8 Supercar level to mean he's the top ranked Ford driver in the championship going into Bathurst. Experienced Kiwi John McIntyre is a good foil for the 22-year-old as their fifth-place finish at Phillip Island showed. A big dark horse for Holden fans to be wary of.

Will Davison and Luke Youlden
Car: Trading Post FPR Falcon (No.6)

Driver stats: Davison - Seven starts, best result 1st (2009). Youlden - 11 starts, best result 3rd (2003).

Davison's 2009 Bathurst win alongside Garth Tander remains the highlight of his V8 Supercar career. After a tough 2010, the former Holden Racing Team pilot seems reinvigorated by his switch to Ford Performance Racing and showed by finishing third at Phillip Island that he and Youlden can be a force at Mount Panorama.

Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards
Car: Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon (No.5)

Driver stats: Winterbottom - Eight starts, best result 4th (2008). Richards - 18 starts, best result 1st (1998, 1999).

Every year someone will suggest this year must be the one when Winterbottom will finally realise his talent and claim a Bathurst 1000 crown. His former team-mate Richards is a two-time winner and, given his qualifying ability and raw race pace, there's no reason Winterbottom can't win it. Despite this, his results in 2011 have been okay but not spectacular and a disappointing 17th place finish at Phillip Island suggests work needs to be done in the FPR garage if `Frosty' is to realise his dream.

Rick Kelly and Owen Kelly
Car: Jack Daniels Racing Commodore (No.15)

Driver stats: Rick Kelly - 10 starts, best result 1st (2003, 2004). Owen Kelly - Nine starts, best result 6th (2005).

Rick Kelly and his brother Todd have been reaping the rewards of patience as their team reaps rewards in their third season, with Rick delivering the teams first race wins as a V8 Supercar team. The two-time Bathurst winner certainly knows what it takes to deliver at Mount Panorama while he and Owen Kelly (no relation) are now in their second year as a partnership.

James Courtney and Cameron McConville
Car: Toll Holden Racing Team Commodore (No.1)

Driver stats: Courtney - Six starts, best result 2nd (2007). McConville - 18 starts, best result 2nd (1999, 2009).

Courtney's championship defence has turned into a disaster but a lot would be salvaged from his first year at HRT if he delivers a Bathurst win. In McConville he's got one of the best co-drivers out there, a man who has been on the podium at Mount Panorama the past two years and has 18 starts in the great race. Courtney's own form and the reliability of his Commodore remain the big question marks however.

Steven Johnson and David Besnard
Car: Jim Beam Racing Falcon (No.17)

Driver stats: Johnson - 17 starts, best result 3rd (2007). Besnard - 11 starts, best result 2nd (2007)

The son of legendary three-time Bathurst champion Dick Johnson has stepped up to be his team's No.1 driver following Courtney's defection to Holden. Jim Beam Racing will be desperate to bounce back from a very disappointing Phillip Island outing. Johnson will be boosted by co-driver Besnard, who put in one of the drives of last year's race in holding off Craig Lowndes for 50-laps before fading tyres resulted in a fifth-place finish.

Alex Davison and David Brabham
Car: Irwin Tools Falcon (No.4)

Driver stats: Davison - Seven starts, best result 8th (2007). Brabham - Seven starts, best result 1st (1997).

Davison, if you believe pit-lane rumours, is driving for his job. The elder of the Davison brothers has failed to make an impact on the track with Stone Brothers Racing and will be keen to show his current, or any prospective employers, what he can do at Mount Panorama. Brabham, youngest son of Formula One great Sir Jack and a Bathurst winner in 1997, will just be out to add another day of glory to his family's iconic motorsport name.


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