The focus switches to endurance mode this weekend as 25 co-drivers join forces with the V8 Supercars regulars in the battle for the PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
The annual Sandown 500 kicks off the three-event run of long distance races at Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway followed by the Bathurst 1000 and Gold Coast 600 in October.
The Pirtek Enduro Cup will be awarded to the driver and co-driver combination scoring the most points over the course of the three events, but with 300 points on offer at each round, it can go a long way to defining the season for many drivers in the Championship hunt, placing extra pressure on the shoulders of the co-drivers.
Seven endurance pairings remain from last year’s event with just one debutante in the field of 50 drivers and a wildcard entry thrown in for good measure at Bathurst…
Triple Eight Race Engineering
Triple Eight has a proven partnership in Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell and will hope the new partnership of Craig Lowndes and Steve Richards can be just as successful…
#1 Red Bull Racing Australia Holden – Jamie Whincup / Paul Dumbrell
Paul Dumbrell left the championship as a full time driver in 2011 but has continued to enjoy success as a co-driver with Jamie Whincup. The pair won the 2012 Bathurst 1000 and last year’s Sandown 500 meaning they’re sure to be hot favourites for the Pirtek Endurance Cup.
#888 Red Bull Racing Australia Holden – Craig Lowndes / Steven Richards
Reigning Bathurst champion Steven Richards will partner with five-time Bathurst winner Craig Lowndes for the endurance season. Richards’ victory alongside Mark Winterbottom last year was his third victory in The Great Race. Richards’ impressive CV at the mountain also includes two Bathurst 24 Hour victories.
Erebus Motorsport opt for stability and familiarity with its lineup…
#4 Erebus Motorsport Mercedes E63 AMG – Lee Holdsworth / Craig Baird
Porsche expert Craig Baird will partner Lee Holdsworth for a third season in a row. The pair came fifth overall in the 2013 Endurance Cup standings with a fourth place at Sandown being the highlight. Baird’s impressive CV includes 11 Porsche Championship titles but a Bathurst victory remains elusive.
#9 Erebus Motorsport Mercedes E63 AMG – Will Davison / Alex Davison
Alex Davison will be treating the Endurance Cup as a job interview for next season after missing out on a full time drive for 2014. Alex brings plenty of V8 Supercar experience to the table, competing in the championship as early as 2004. While the siblings have been teammates before, this year’s Endurance Cup marks their first time sharing a car.
Brad Jones Racing
BJR has had a solid year in the series with two of its three drivers in the top ten. A victory in the Endurance Cup could see the team put serious pressure on some of the bigger teams heading into the pointy end of the year…
#8 Team BOC Holden – Jason Bright / Andrew Jones
2014 marks the fourth consecutive year that Jason Bright and Andrew Jones have tackled the enduros together. Jones currently races for BJR in the Dunlop series and brings extensive Bathurst experience making his 12th consecutive appearance at the Mt. Panorama circuit. Can this partnership deliver BJR their maiden Bathurst victory?
#14 Lockwood Racing Holden – Fabian Coulthard / Luke Youlden
Luke Youlden will join Kiwi Fabian Coulthard for the second year in a row after a podium finish on the Gold Coast proved they have the potential to mount a serious challenge for the top step. Youlden is another driver with no shortage of experience, racing V8 Supercars as a co-driver since 2001.
#21 Team ADVAM/GB Holden – Dale Wood / Chris Pither
Another Brad Jones regular Chris Pither will join Dunlop Series Champion Dale Wood in the ADVAM Commodore. Pither partnered David Wall in the endurances in 2012 and 2013 and will hope to build on last year’s top ten finish on the Gold Coast. Pither has links with BJR that stretch back as far as 2006 so he should feel at home in the car for the tough races ahead.
Ford Performance Racing
The defending Bathurst champions boasts a wealth of experience within its ranks as it looks to use the endurance races to close the gap on rivals Red Bull Racing in the driver’s championship…
#5 Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford – Mark Winterbottom / Steve Owen
2014 will be Steve Owen’s second consecutive year contesting the Enduro Cup with FPR and this year he’ll have the added pressure of pairing up with the defending Bathurst champion in Mark Winterbottom. The two-time V8 Development series champion has considerable co-driver experience and previous podium finishes taking second alongside Jamie Whincup at Bathurst in 2010 and a Gold Coast win in the same year.
#6 Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford – Chaz Mostert / Paul Morris
Paul Morris may have retired as a full time driver from the V8 Supercars at the end of 2008, but he has never been far from the action. The 46-year old still competes in the Dunlop series and has continued to compete in the main series’ endurance events. Morris’ Bathurst debut was way back in 1991 which will give young gun Mostert a wealth of experience and knowledge to draw from in the lead up to his second attempt at conquering the Mountain.
#18 Team JELD-WEN FPR Ford – Jack Perkins / Cameron Waters
Cameron Waters holds the interesting distinction of being the only reality television winner contesting the Pirtek Endurance Cup. The 2011 winner of Shannons Supercar Showdown has competed in two previous Bathurst 1000s but will compete in the Sandown 500 and Gold Coast 600 for the first time. Waters doesn’t bring the same level of experience as the other FPR co-drivers, but has proven to be capable in everything from open-wheelers to V8 Supercars in the past.
#55 The Bottle-O Racing Team FPR Ford – David Reynolds / Dean Canto
2014 marks an incredible seventh straight year in which Dean Canto will join Ford Performance Racing for the endurance season. The two time development series champion came within 0.3 seconds of clinching his first Bathurst win in 2012 and claimed a solid sixth place in the 2013 Endurance Cup alongside David Reynolds. Reynolds has had a tough year so far in 2014 and will be hoping this familiar partnership can help him return to form.
Tekno Autosports only has one car to worry about in 2014 and has taken the safe option of having one of its former full-time drivers join them for the endurance season…
#97 Team Tekno VIP Holden – Shane van Gisbergen /Jonathon Webb
Jonathon Webb will be in familiar territory this endurance season as he returns to the team he raced full time for in 2013. Webb had a consistent endurance season last year finishing 13th in the Pirtek Enduro Cup alongside German Marc Lieb. For 2014. Endurance success has eluded both drivers, but a strong 2014 season for van Gisbergen so far means this could all change in the coming races.
Walkinshaw Racing boasts a diverse range of co-drivers in its 2014 line-up which includes everything from multiple Bathurst winners to 24 Hours of Le Mans class winners.
#2 Holden Racing Team – Garth Tander / Warren Luff
2014 sees a change of team for Warren Luff after claiming victory in the Pirtek Endurance Cup in 2013 with Craig Lowndes. The former V8 Ute champion currently sits second in the Carrera Cup standings behind Richards who replaced him at Red Bull Racing Australia. Luff has won endurance races at Sandown and the Gold Coast in the past but is still missing that elusive maiden Bathurst victory. HRT has seen a resurgence in its form in recent rounds, and this combined with Luff’s extensive co-driving experience should bode well for the coming races.
#22 Holden Racing Team – James Courtney / Greg Murphy
No driver in the field has experienced the highs and lows of Bathurst like Greg Murphy has. The four-time Bathurst 1000 champion has set records both good and bad in his many years on the mountain. A pit lane infringement in 2002 saw the Kiwi slapped with a whopping 5 minute penalty, while 2003’s ‘Lap of the Gods’ saw him set a shootout record of 2:06.8594 which would remain unbeaten until 2010. Murph has been unable to recreate these moments of brilliance in recent years and two heavy crashes in the 2013 Pirtek Endurance Cup saw him and Courtney finish well down the Cup points ladder. HRT have shown great faith in Murph by sticking with him for a second year, but he needs to deliver results if he is to campaign for a return to the main series.
#47 Supercheap Auto Racing Holden – Tim Slade / Tony D’Alberto
Tony D’Alberto will look to put a difficult year aside as he steps into the Supercheap Commodore alongside Tim Slade. D’Alberto faced difficulties with funding at the end of the 2013 season and returned his Racing Entitlement Contract, depriving him of a full time drive for 2014. The 2007 Dunlop Series champion will be looking to impress in the endurance series as he looks to secure funds for 2015.
#222 HHA Racing– Nick Percat / Oliver Gavin
British GT driver Oliver Gavin returns to Australia for a second stint as a V8 Supercar co-driver, having competed alongside Greg Murphy at the 2011 Gold Coast 600 where the pair scored two top-six finishes. Gavin also competed in the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour race which gives him valuable track knowledge. Gavin’s impressive CV consists of multiple class wins at the 24 Hour of Le Mans as well as a British Formula 3 championship.
Dick Johnson Racing
Despite more rumoured financial difficulties DJR have shown enough pace this year to keep them in seventh in the team points. A line-up that offers both youth and experience will give them potential to be real contenders this season…
#16 Wilson Security Racing Ford – Scott Pye / Ashley Walsh
Ashley Walsh will compete in the Endurance Cup with DJR for the second year in a row. With the exception of a retirement at Sandown, Walsh achieved consistent results alongside Tim Blanchard in 2013 and will be looking for improved results this time out. While Walsh may have limited V8 Supercars experience he has raced at Bathurst and Sandown before in the development series.
#17 Wilson Security Racing Ford – David Wall / Steven Johnson
After spending the 2013 Pirtek Enudurance with Erebus Motorsport, Steven Johnson returns to the team his father started in 1980. Johnson brings a massive amount of experience with him as he has been racing V8 Supercars at Bathurst since 1994. Despite this experience, Johnson is yet to stand on the top step of the podium at Mount Panorama with his best finish being a third place in 2007. The familiarity of DJR combined with his years of championship experience will certainly result in this pair being one to watch in this years endurance series.
Garry Rogers Motorsport
GRM will be looking to replicate Volvo’s 1998 Bathurst victory as their new S60s face the ultimate test on the Mountain.
#33 Valvoline Racing GRM – Scott McLaughlin / Alexandre Prémat
Frenchman Alexandre Prémat will partner his former team-mate for the 2013 endurance series. Prémat competed full time for GRM for the 2012 and 2013 seasons so should find himself in familiar territory. The former DTM driver brings plenty of endurance experience to the team, having competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Nurburgring in recent years and earned a victory in the latter. The Volvo of Scott McLaughlin has shown incredible pace so far this year, so Prémat will need to be on his toes to keep up with the young Kiwi.
#34 Valvoline Racing GRM – Robert Dahlgren / Greg Ritter
A seasoned campaigner in the form of Greg Ritter will accompany debutant Dahlgren in the second of the Volvo S60s. 2014 marks Ritter’s ninth straight year co-driving for GRM so he should have plenty of experience to offer his rookie teammate. Ritter’s lengthy V8 Supercars CV includes a Sandown 500 win in 2004 with Marcos Ambrose and more than ten years of valuable Bathurst experience.
Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport
After downsizing to a one-car team for 2014, Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport will have an all new driver lineup for the endurance season.
#23 Repair Management Australia Commodore – Russell Ingall / Tim Blanchard
Tim Blanchard returns to a co-driving role after missing out on a full-time drive this year. The former DJR driver will be looking to learn as much as he can from his partner Russell Ingall, one of the most experienced drivers in the series. Blanchard should feel comfortable with the team having know team-owner Lucas Dumbrell since their school days together. Reports from the team indicated that testing earlier in the year achieved positive results so they’ll be looking to replicate that same form on race day.
With an extra year of development under their belt Nissan will be looking to maintain the pace that has seen them become a real top ten threat in 2014.
#7 Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan – Todd Kelly / Alex Buncombe
Alex Buncombe will make his V8 Supercars debut in the upcoming endurance races as part of the Nismo Global Driver Exchange program. The British GT driver raced in the Bathurst 12 Hour in a Nissan GT-R GT3 which will give him valuable experience for the Great Race. Buncombe tested the Nissan Altima at the pre-season test earlier this year, but the Sandown 500 will be his competitive debut.
#15 Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan – Rick Kelly / David Russell
David Russell joins the Kelly brothers for a fourth year in succession after driving with both siblings over the past couple of years. Russell has a long history in Australian motorsport, racing in everything from the Carrera Cup to the V8 Development Series. Along with Steve Richards and Steve Owen, Russell also raced in the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium. Last year’s endurance season was disappointing for Russell who paired with Todd Kelly. Two retirements left the pair way down in the final points, so they’ll be hoping to benefit from the extra year of development for the Nissan Altima this time around.
#36 Norton Hornets – Michael Caruso / Dean Fiore
Former main series driver Dean Fiore joins Nissan Motorsport after the downsizing of Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport left him without a full-time drive for 2014. The former Western Australia Formula Ford Champion struggled in the endurance races last year, but will be looking to capitalise on the pace that has Caruso sitting just outside the championship top ten.
#360 Norton Hornets – James Moffat / Taz Douglas
Another ex-Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport driver, Taz Douglas, will join James Moffat for the second year in a row. Douglas’s four years worth of experience as an endurance co-driver will be needed if the pair are to overcome their dismal 2013 endurance season that saw them finish equal last overall.
Ford Performance Racing – Bathurst 1000 Wildcard Entry
#111 Super Black Racing – Ant Pedersen / Andre Heimgartner
Led by former V8 Supercars driver Paul Radisich, Super Black Racing will run a Ford Performance Racing prepared Falcon in the Bathurst 1000. The team will field two New Zealand drivers Ant Pedersen and Andre Heimgartner. Pedersen is the only one of the pair to have V8 Supercars experience as he competed in the 2010 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 with MW Motorsport. Heimgartner brings with him experience in multiple classes including both the Dunlop V8 Supercar Series and the New Zealand V8 SuperTourers Championship where he competed against V8 Supercars main series drivers such as Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin. It’s not his first time at Bathurst either, as he competed at this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour race where he came first in class.
The PIRTEK Enduro cup gets underway with the Wilson Security Sandown 500 on 12-14 September, followed by the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on 09-12 October and the Castrol EDGE Gold Coast 600 on 24-26 October.