Supercars championship leader Shane Van Gisbergen lines up as New Zealand's best chance of winning tomorrow's Bathurst 1000.
Not since Greg Murphy in 2004 has a New Zealander stood atop the podium at the Great Race (Steven Richards was born in New Zealand but considers himself Australian after moving there as a youngster) but the last man to do it thinks a Kiwi is the most likely this year.
Van Gisbergen has won more races than any other driver this season and came agonisingly close to victory at Mt Panorama in 2014 but a late mechanical failure cruelly ended his chances with only a few laps remaining. Now in the leading team - Red Bull Racing - the 27-year-old Aucklander looms as the favourite of several leading Kiwi drivers.
"Without a doubt, this year we have some guys in some very good positions to take this one," Murphy said. "With Shane at Red Bull Racing now and with his desire and commitment to win this race, he is a very good chance to win.
"I would struggle to go past him as a favourite to win this race. He is probably equal favourite with his team-mates [Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes] along with their respective co-drivers to take this out."
DJR Team Penske driver Fabian Coulthard has featured prominently in the practice sessions already this weekend and is in the mix, as is Volvo star Scott McLaughlin.
"I would probably put them at a level below Shane," Murphy said. "The Volvo boys keep pushing and pushing and trying hard but I just don't know that they have the overall package to be able to make it happen. We could be surprised. They might just nail that set-up at the weekend.
"I think David Wall with Scotty is a very strong combination and, if it comes down to a final stint, as it usually does, and they are in a good position, Scott will be able to do things with that car that not many other drivers are able to.
"DJR have been a little bit hit and miss. I have been a little surprised by their performance this year. It is nothing to do with Fabian, it is more to do with the fact they have missed the boat with a couple of areas. They have had some mechanical issues with their cars, which is a little surprising. If they can get the set-up right and it comes down to the driver they will be in with a good chance, for sure."
Super Black Racing, the Kiwi-owned outfit with an all-Kiwi driver line-up of Chris Pither and Richie Stanaway, are dark horses for the race according to four-time champ Murphy, especially on the back of Stanaway's spectacular debut showing in the category at Sandown three weeks ago when he upstaged more experienced drivers in very difficult conditions.
"Richie's performance didn't surprise me one bit. It did surprise others, which shows how insular the championship can be. I knew Richie would get in a Supercar and be incredibly fast and efficient so I have been excited about the prospect of him driving for a while now.
"He has so much experience now. He has won in so many different categories around the world now. He is probably on the radar of a number of teams."
Cars to watch
Shane Van Gisbergen and Alex Premat (Red Bull Holden)
The series leader has been close before but is yet to win a Bathurst title. He has stated that winning the title means more to him than a Bathurst win and that he wouldn't risk his championship lead for a shot at winning the race but the young Aucklander is ultra-competitive and knows only one way to drive a car. He would go a long way towards a maiden championship if he were to bag 300 points at the end of Sunday. Co-driver Alex Premat drove full-time in the series two years ago and should be a capable supporting act.
Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell (Red Bull Holden)
They looked in control of the Sandown 500 until Dumbrell inexplicably took his seatbelt off before the car had stopped in the pits. The drive-through penalty ended their victory chances. Whincup has had a tough time on the Mountain in the past couple of years but has four victories to his name. Dumbrell is probably the pick of the co-drivers and this team will certainly be one of the teams to beat.
Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards (Team Vortex Holden)
Both drivers have enjoyed multiple success at Mt Panorama. Lowndes was the protégé of the late great Peter Brock and this year marks 10 years since his tragic passing. Lowndes fittingly claimed the Peter Brock Trophy just weeks after his mentor's death - it would be apt if he bagged a seventh Bathurst crown a decade later.
Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen (Supercheap Ford)
Mostert suffered a horror crash a year ago that ended his Supercars season. A broken leg and a number of bumps and bruises saw him watch the Great Race from a hospital bed. He returns this year with some good recent form behind him and an experienced co-driver in Owen to help make him the leading Ford.
Mark Winterbottom and Dean Canto (Bottle-O Ford)
The reigning series champion endured a horror Sandown 500 with veteran co-driver Canto making a mistake in qualifying that saw them start towards the back of the grid. He compounded that with more errors in the race. He has said he's out of the running to defend his title, which makes him a more dangerous proposition today. The #1 is on his door for a reason.
Simona de Silvestro and Renee Gracie (Harvey Norman Nissan)
The Supergirls will enter a wildcard Nissan this weekend when they hope to improve on last year's Bathurst debut when they finished last. Swiss star de Silvestro will make a full-time entry into the series next season and fans will be eager to see her Formula 1 and IndyCar form in the Southern Hemisphere's greatest series.