V8 Supercars: Strategy the key to conquering the mountain - Murph

By Terry Maddaford

Australia's Great Race at Bathurst celebrates 50 years of petrolhead heaven.

Perth driver Garth Tander is favoured again at Bathurst this year. Photo / Getty Images
Perth driver Garth Tander is favoured again at Bathurst this year. Photo / Getty Images

The 50th anniversary of the Great Race, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, is upon us this weekend and the general consensus is this is best race on the V8 Supercars calendar.

Not only does the Mount Panorama circuit have the history, it's the one every driver wants to win.

In nearly all the sprint rounds, the team with the fastest car will be odds-on favourite to win, especially if they qualify well.

Bathurst is a slightly different kettle of fish for two reasons.

First, you need about 20 per cent luck to cross the finishing line first after 161 laps of balls-to-the wall racing.

The race is an endurance event in name only, to the drivers it's a full-on sprint from whoa to go.

Second, if you don't qualify too well but still have a good car, there's a good chance you can crawl your way to the front and be poised to make a move in the dying stages of the race.

Because of this, past experience plays a big factor on the mountain and the more fancied form drivers of 2012 may not have it all their own way. This could play well into the hands of drivers such as Kiwi four-time winner Greg Murphy (with Owen Kelly), who hasn't had the best of seasons so far.

"The race has changed so much over the years and now it just comes down to the last stint," said Murphy. "You'll be racing all day to put yourself in the right position for that last phase.

"It comes down to the strategy where you've got to have the shortest pitstop at the last stop to gain position. Also you've got to have a car that's fast enough in the last stint.

"Last year, we were in a good position but didn't have the car to challenge for the win.

"The lead-in to the race year has been non-existent. I'm quite happy to say it's been pathetic. However, there's been a massive amount of work done in the last couple of weeks and we'll just have to see what happens.

"If we turn up and the car's good and we're comfortable, it'll be like anywhere and things will go good. At least at Bathurst you can turn up with a car that's not quite perfect and not the fastest car, you've still got a chance to run well during the race and if the strategy is right it can play a big part. It's [strategy] more import here at Bathurst than anywhere else."

Ford Performance Racing is desperate to get their hands on their first Peter Brock Trophy, and with Mark Winterbottom (with Steven Richards) they have their best chance in a long time.

Winterbottom has been on fire this year and sits second on the championship table just 32 points behind Jamie Whincup.

He thinks the place to gain the most on the rest of the field is across the top of the mountain.

"Everyone talks about 300km/h down the straight and sure it's an impressive number. That's the easiest part of the track, the hardest part of the track is from the cutting to Forrest," said Winterbottom.

"You always feel you can push that little harder over the top. The time you try it is the time you end up in the fence.

"It's part of the track you never master and it always gets the better of you. It's the most fun part of the track but it's also the scariest by a mile.

"That's were you gain all your time during the race.

"We've got a bit pressure this weekend but having Richo sharing the driving is great as he just switches on at Bathurst and goes really well."

•Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff have been installed as favourites and series leader Whincup will be keen to win a Bathurst without Lowndes, with whom he's won his three trophies with. However, his co-driver Paul Drumbell has been out of the car for nearly a year.

- NZ Herald

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