Drivers look to rule roost

THE Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is almost here and is the event drivers and fans have been waiting for.

This year for the endurance races, especially Bathurst, the main talking point has been the new co-driver rules.

These rules state that teams can no longer pair their two regular drivers in the one car.

Each driver is required to team up with a driver from outside the V8 Supercar Championship Series.

This has shown to be a big adjustment for teams and fans, with some favouring the change and others not.

While everyone has been concentrating on the co-driver situation, there is another issue that will affect driver stints and that’s the fuel strategy.

Pit stop strategies will be vital because of the required use of E85 fuel, which was introduced to the race last year.

This year will see the smallest amount of Falcons in the field since 1997 when just nine took on 31 Commodores.

This year there will be 31 V8 Supercars and 62 drivers racing for the victory, 11 of these cars being Fords and 20 Holdens.

Garth Tander and Will Davison go into this race as defending champions.

But, due to the co-driver rule Tander and Davison will not be able to make it two in a row as partners. Tander, however, is paired up with second place winner at the mountain, Cameron McConville.

Jamie Whincup goes to the mountain having won Bathurst three times in a Ford and wanting a fourth, but this time in a Holden.

He’s had an amazing season so far this year with the debut of his brand new Commodore with wins in the season’s four opening races.

Whincup has accomplished a lot of the milestones drivers hope to conquer at Bathurst including his first podium finish and a total of three Great Race wins.

This year the two-time V8 Supercar Champion heads to the mountain in a new, yet surprising role as the underdog. He is not leading the championship and is racing in a Holden not a Ford.

The new Holden Motor Sport engines have not had the time to develop compared to the Ford motors they ran last year which could make a big difference in this race.

It was a fire that destroyed Mark Winterbottom’s Bathurst dreams last year and in 2007 it was rain that helped stopped what would have been his first Great Race victory.

This was due to Winterbottom sliding off the chase in the partially damp conditions while in the lead with just over 10 laps to go.

This mistake has helped to make him a better driver and brought him some renewed focus.

As a result, in less than a month, Winterbottom received his first round win. This excluded the ’06 Sandown win shared with Jason Bright. He has won 12 races including two this year and has taken just as many pole positions.

Last year’s embarrassing up-in-smoke early retirement from the race for the Winterbottom/Richards car was a bad as you’d like it to get.

All eyes are on the leader of the 2010 V8 Supercar Championship, James Courtney, who had his first Bathurst race in 2005.

Commentator Mark Skaife often points out that he believes Courtney’s 2010 results are because he has ‘matured’ as a driver.

Bathurst is one of Courtney’s favourite tracks and is one where he has performed well ‘most of the time’. As the event approaches it is the first time he will go there with a championship at stake.

Well, Bathurst seems like it’s going to be an interesting yet memorable event and with the championship at stake anything can happen.

Will Whincup snatch back the top spot on the championship? Will Courtney be able to hold on or will Winterbottom come into the spotlight? Will Garth Tander or Will Davison defend their title? Will it be Holden or Ford?

The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 starts this Friday with the great race on Sunday.

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