COURTNEY AND WHINCUP ARE PRIMED FOR BATTLE
ABUNCH of 20-somethings are out to reclaim The Mountain on Sunday afternoon. Rivals James Courtney and Jamie Whincup head the contenders who aim to unseat pre-race favourites and V8 Supercar veterans Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife in the 2010 running of the Bathurst 1000.
Last year’s winner, Garth Tander of the Holden Racing Team, is also in their sights.
‘‘They’ve won it— they should give someone else a shot,’’ laughs pointscore leader James Courtney, only half-joking.
He wants to win for the first time and Whincup wants to do it without Lowndes for the first time, while Ford Performance R a c i n g ’ s Mark Winterbottom wants to snap his unlucky run after showing plenty of pace at Mount Panorama in previous years.
‘‘If I had to make a pick (which I don’t), it would be Jamie Whincup and Steve Owen for TeamVodafone. They are simply the best team bar none,’’ touring car veteran John Bowe says.
The big change this year is splitting drivers from the ‘‘main game’’, potentially doubling the number of fast cars at the front but also putting more pressure on co-drivers without regular V8 Supercar race time.
Courtney believes Warren Luff gives him a winning advantage, Steve Owen also did the job for Whincup at Phillip Island until car trouble, and Luke Youlden is solid with Winterbottom.
‘‘I reckon my man Wazza can do the job. I feel a lot more confident than I did this time last year,’’ Courtney says.
‘‘We’re going into the biggest race of the year and we need to drive as quickly as we did at Phillip Island because we want a solid result.’’
Bowe knows what it takes to win Bathurst as a two-time champion and has his own slant on the action: ‘‘This is the race everyone would sell their mother to win, but who can do it this time? I reckon the winner will come from the usual suspects and the codriver’s role has now become so much more important, with one regular and one part-time driver, and it was the co-drivers who were make-or-break at Phillip Island.
‘‘I noticed at Phillip Island some codrivers were racing like they were auditioning for a job. They will be doing that at Bathurst at their own peril,’’ he says.
‘‘One mistake on The Mountain and the race is over — ask Mark Winterbottom. Bathurst is a fascinating race, always has been and always will be, but each year the strategy and smarts of the guys in the pits have more and more influence on the race result.’’
Even Courtney rates Whincup as his toughest rival. ‘‘You can never rule out Whincup,’’ he says.
Four on the floor: the Holden Racing Team of Cam McConville, Garth Tander, Will Davison and David Reynolds show off their 20th anniversary livery.