(Australian Associated Press)
TOP CONTENDERS FOR BATHURST 1000
JAMIE WHINCUP-CRAIG LOWNDES (HOLDEN)
Fans will no doubt turn out in droves to see Lowndes back behind the wheel after the seven-time Bathurst champion retired from full-time driving last season. Whincup will arguably be just as excited to welcome back the 45-year-old. Whincup may be a seven-time series champion but he has not had much luck at Mount Panorama since winning the last of his four Great Races back in 2012. He’ll be hoping some good fortune rubs off from Lowndes who is defending champion and claimed six of the last 10 Bathurst crowns to be just two short of the record held by his idol Peter Brock. The pair are back together after winning three straight Great Races from 2006.
SCOTT MCLAUGHLIN-ALEXANDER PREMAT (FORD)
Flying Kiwi McLaughlin has adopted a “win it or bin it” approach as he looks to finally break his Bathurst duck on his eighth attempt. The defending series champion can afford to throw caution to the wind in an all-or-nothing crack at Mount Panorama success thanks to a record-breaking season run. McLaughlin holds a 598-point lead over his nearest rival after 17 race wins in 2019, setting a new mark for most victories in a single season. He can afford to crash out in the next two rounds and conceivably still hold the series lead. But it is the King of the Mountain crown that McLaughlin desperately craves after going oh so close in recent years, only to leave heartbroken. Only made the podium for the first time with third spot alongside Frenchman Premat last year.
SHANE VAN GISBERGEN AND GARTH TANDER (HOLDEN)
There are no shortage of heartbreak stories at Mount Panorama but van Gisbergen can be more gutted than most over his near misses. The former series champion claimed pole and led the race late in 2014 only to be denied by engine dramas. In 2016 he was pipped for line honours by Will Davison by 0.1434 of a second. And in 2017 van Gisbergen again led late only to spear off. But the Kiwi is quietly confident of conquering the mountain on his 13th attempt after renewed form at last round’s Auckland SuperSprint, claiming a victory and a second placing to jump from fourth to second in the championship. He teams with three-time Bathurst champion Garth Tander who returns for his 21st Great Race after surprisingly being dumped from his full-time driving gig in January.
DAVID REYNOLDS-LUKE YOULDEN (HOLDEN)
It takes a lot to wipe the wicked smile off Supercars funny man Reynolds’ face. But the joker cut a shattered figure when his bid to clinch back-to-back Bathurst titles was snatched away last year by cramps. Reynolds led in a scrap with Lowndes in the closing stages, only to be forced to retire. An exhausted Reynolds was consoled by his crew in the garage as Lowndes claimed his seventh title. It was in stark contrast to 12 months earlier when Reynolds was a popular winner after overcoming his big money rivals and taking line honours with his “little team that could” Penrite Racing. Reynolds will be fired up to produce his trademark Shoey on the podium this year after a running battle in the media with McLaughlin and recently signing a staggering 10-year contract extension