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Bathurst pre-brief: Tips and talking points for the Great Race

THE Repco Bathurst 1000 is officially underway, with support categories out and about on a greasy Mount Panorama surface.

Ahead of opening practice for the Repco Supercars Championship from 11am AEDT this morning, the V8 Sleuth editorial team of Aaron Noonan, Will Dale, Stefan Bartholomaeus and Connor O’Brien answer five burning questions.

What storyline are you most excited to see play out?

AN: With wet weather dominating the forecast for race day, the storyline to watch is just how race control deals with heavily wet conditions.

They have an unenviable task balancing the desire to put on a race with the need to ensure safety for all. How cautious will they be when assessing track conditions? 

WD: I’m excited to see where the wildcards end up after 161 laps on Sunday.

On equipment, the Triple Eight car should be a genuine contender for the front end of the field, and it’ll be fascinating to see just how close Declan Fraser and Craig Lowndes get to the pace of the co-drivers in the main T8 entries.

Richie Stanaway’s return to Mount Panorama in the Erebus Motorsport wildcard is also fantastic to see – and the weather forecast for the week mirrors the conditions from the 2017 race, where the Kiwi was the undoubted star.

I’m also excited to see Matt Chahda finally make his main game debut with his family-run team. As we said in the V8 Sleuth Podcast Bathurst preview episode, this is as close as it gets to a modern-era privateer entry, and it would be great to see the #118 in the top half of the field in the final results.

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Matt Chahda, Jaylyn Robotham and the two Caltex cars (#118 for 2022, #9 from 2003). Pic: Supplied

SB: What wild and whacky curveball will Mount Panorama throw this year? That’s the thing I look forward to most about Bathurst, because it’s one place and one race that never fails to deliver.

From the curious case of an echidna at the Cutting, to invisible ‘debriss’ and an ill-timed cramp, you never know what’s coming next. And then there’s the weather…  

CO: Richie Stanaway. I’ve written it before and I’ll do it again now: he is the ultimate unknown.

Is this the start of an almighty second coming for the prodigious talent or simply another chapter to the enigmatic story? 

Who wins the race?

Chaz Mostert and Lee Holdsworth with the 2021 winners’ plaque. Pic: Mark Horsburgh

AN: I’m tipping Chaz Mostert and Walkinshaw Andretti United to go back-to-back. They were dominant at Bathurst last year and we’ve seen Chaz turn it on in the wet before.

This entry has lost nothing in the co-driver swap, either. Fabian Coulthard is a great replacement for Lee Holdsworth. They’re a great combination.

WD: Cam Waters/James Moffat. Waters will be a contender if conditions are wet or dry (or both), and Moffat represents one of the strongest co-drivers on the grid with no shortage of seat time in race cars in 2022.

SB: There’s no such thing as a sure thing at Bathurst, but it’s hard to go past the #97 Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander entry.

They have the drivers, the car and the team to win it. SVG is in incredible form and, if it’s wet as predicted, he could put on a masterclass. 

CO: Cam Waters/James Moffat. It feels too obvious to pick Car #97 to chalk up an umpteenth win for the year, and Waters/Moffat have become perennial contenders at Bathurst (even before they joined forces).

Waters is SVG-esque when it comes to racecraft, Moffat is one of the absolute A-grade co-drivers, and Tickford are almost always fast around here.

James Moffat and Cam Waters are a popular pick among our team. Pic: Mark Horsburgh

Who is your dark horse?

AN: David Reynolds and Matt Campbell. The Grove Racing Mustangs are traditionally strong in the wet and this is a strong pairing with two experienced drivers.

It can be hard to predict what this team is going to deliver, but that makes them a dark horse. Don’t forget that Reynolds won the last wet Bathurst, too…

WD: Andre Heimgartner/Dale Wood. Heimgartner is a renowned gun in wet conditions, Woody is probably underrated among the co-driver field, and Brad Jones Racing is due for some good fortune at Mount Panorama.

SB: Erebus has had a difficult build-up with a major rebuild required after Will Brown’s Pukekohe crash and some patchy form, but they’re traditionally fast at Bathurst.

Brodie Kostecki was a star on debut as a co-driver in 2020 and ran with the big boys for third last year alongside carry-over co-driver David Russell. Kostecki is fast, aggressive and one to watch.

Brodie Kostecki (right) celebrates with co-driver David Russell on the 2021 Bathurst 1000 podium. Pic: Nathan Wong

CO: James Courtney/Zane Goddard. I’m all in on Tickford to be fast at The Mountain once more.

Courtney is the ultimate hit-or-miss driver but when he’s on, he’s still a force to be reckoned with – and don’t forget his remarkable drive from a lap down to seventh last year at Bathurst. Goddard should be a valuable asset and has plenty of Supercars mileage under his belt this year.

Who is the co-driver to watch?

AN: Warren Luff. How does he keep delivering every year? His record at Bathurst is exceptional and I’m looking forward to seeing him do it again.

WD: Alex Davison. His pace relative to brother Will is likely the determining factor in whether the #17 Mustang is a contender to win Dick Johnson Racing’s 1000th race, or if it ends up getting stacked behind its teammates.

SB: Porsche ace Matt Campbell is a world class driver with bulk Bathurst experience, thanks to seven 12 Hour starts and soon to be four in the 1000.

His strong drive in last year’s Great Race went largely unnoticed in an uncompetitive Kelly Grove Racing Mustang, but an improved package – and wet weather – could see Campbell shine.

CO: Jamie Whincup. Whatever Whincup does at Bathurst, it almost always is spectacular. He’s surely going to be the fastest co-driver in the field, but will he adjust to the typically more measured approach involved with the role? Or will it be go for broke?

Jamie Whincup (right) topped the Sandown additional driver practice. Pic: Nathan Wong

Who is the rookie to keep an eye on?

AN: Aaron Seton becoming the first third-generation driver to compete in the Great Race at Bathurst is a fantastic story and makes him one to watch.

The Setons are a much-loved family who go about racing the right way and I know how proud Glenn is of his son and his chance to debut on the big stage.

WD: Jaxon Evans. Highly rated as a GT racer and has a strong knowledge of the circuit, but will be fascinating to see how he adapts to a Supercar and will provide an interesting measure of Jack Smith’s progress in recent seasons.

SB: We’re going to learn a lot about Matt Payne this weekend. The Kiwi wunderkind makes his Supercars Championship debut as co-driver to Lee Holdsworth – the man he’ll replace next season.

It promises to offer a direct comparison between the two, and a test of Payne’s maturity amid a hit and miss Super2 season.

CO: I’m intrigued to see how Cameron Hill, Declan Fraser and Jaxon Evans go this weekend but above all it’s hard to go past Matt Payne.

Qualifying speed has never been an issue for Payne – but it has been for Car #10 this year – so at a pinch could he even be thrown in the deep end come Friday afternoon?

Matt Campbell, David Reynolds, Lee Holdsworth and Matt Payne. Pic: Supplied
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