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HomeNewsBathurstOPINION: Stanaway is Bathurst's ultimate wildcard

OPINION: Stanaway is Bathurst’s ultimate wildcard

OKAY, I admit it.

I am absolutely fascinated by Richie Stanaway and how he’ll fare in his long-awaited Supercars comeback.

There’s so much to like about what Bathurst has to offer in any given year, let alone the 2022 edition.

Will there be one last Holden success story at The Mountain? Can Walkinshaw Andretti United and Chaz Mostert go back-to-back? Can Dick Johnson Racing rise to the occasion for an ultimate 1000th race celebration?

For me, the biggest unknown is Stanaway. And it’s exciting.

MORE: F1-style addition to Bathurst broadcast

His story is well documented. In short: a super talent who beat the likes of Pierre Gasly to race wins in GP2; took a stunning 2017 Sandown 500 victory in just his fifth Supercars Championship race; and seemingly dropped off the face of the earth after two horrid full-time seasons.

A wildcard with fellow retired Kiwi Greg Murphy has been 18 months in the making and will finally come to fruition next weekend at Mount Panorama.

Erebus Motorsport CEO Barry Ryan has seemed to speak with more excitement each time he has seen a leaner and keener Stanaway hit the track.

Ryan doesn’t hand out compliments for free. And his high expectations for Erebus now covers all three cars, whereas little pressure had previously been attached to the #51 Stanaway/Murphy entry.

“We want three cars in the Shootout and we want to be there Sunday arvo with at least one of the cars ready to win the race, if not all of them,” Ryan said after a final pre-Bathurst test on Wednesday.

Stanaway beating 18 cars to make the Shootout would be an effort worthy of a 2023 full-time return (even if precious few seats remain available).

We’re talking about someone who hasn’t competed in a Supercars event since November 2019 going up against 24 drivers who have 29 qualifying sessions under their belt this year alone.

The #51 ZB Commodore during testing at Winton. Pic: Lucas Wroe / One Nine Media

The 2017 PIRTEK Enduro Cup aside, this is the first time Stanaway has driven what should be a competitive package – and Erebus sure was fast last year at Bathurst.

Will we finally see the Richie Stanaway we all thought we’d see years ago?

Or will elite performance still elude him in a Supercar?

Will this be the start of a second coming? Or a one-off appearance after which he drifts back into obscurity?

So, so many questions and zero answers. But the picture should become increasingly clear as race week unfolds.

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