All bets on for big race

Our chief reporter puts on his bookie’s hat

Herald Sun - Motoring - - The Form - PAUL GOVER paul.gover@cars­

DE­FEND­ING cham­pi­ons Craig Lown­des and Mark Skaife are out to make more his­tory at Mount Panorama this week­end. They are the pre­race favourites again for the Bathurst 1000 af­ter com­plet­ing a per­fect build-up in the Phillip Is­land 500.

Lown­des and Skaife have it all— speed, ex­pe­ri­ence, cool heads, fit­ness, a fast car and a crack team. They are also the sen­ti­men­tal favourites, as it could be the last time Skaife races in the Bathurst 1000.

But none of the ri­vals is show­ing any sen­ti­men­tal­ity as they pre­pare for a race that is the clos­est thing in V8 Su­per­car rac­ing to a foot­ball grand fi­nal.

Their ri­vals are led by their team-mates at TeamVoda­fone, two-time tour­ing car cham­pion Jamie Whin­cup and young­ster An­drew Thomp­son, who are smart­ing af­ter a nar­row loss at Phillip Is­land. This fol­lowed a touch-up be­tween the two cars that left them with a bat­tered door and a four-sec­ond de­lay at their cru­cial driver change.

But there are more than a dozen oth­ers with Lown­des/ Skaife in their sights, from vet­eran and pre­vi­ous win­ner Rus­sell In­gall to hero driv­ers— Garth Tan­der, Mark Winterbottom, James Court­ney, Will Dav­i­son— at the fac­tory-backed Holden Rac­ing Team and Ford Per­for­mance Rac­ing.

And then there are the speedy out­siders, led by Shane van Gis­ber­gen in a Stone Broth­ers Com­modore.

Here’s how Cars­guide rates the field.

EVEN­MONEY Craig Lown­des/Mark Skaife, Com­modore More than just sen­ti­men­tal favourites, with every­thing it takes to re­peat their 2010 win. $2.50 Jamie Whin­cup/An­drew Thomp­son, Com­modore Thomp­son’s pace in the wet is the weak­ness and it of­ten rains at Bathurst. Whin­cup is des­per­ate to win for the first time with­out Lown­des.

$3 Mark Winterbottom/Steven Richards, Fal­con Frosty has the one-lap pace and Richards is a two-time win­ner but FPR con­tin­u­ally finds new ways to lose in the big races. James Court­ney/Cameron Mc­Conville, Com­modore Both driv­ers have been solid at Bathurst but HRT has been dis­mal this year and they will need a ma­jor form re­ver­sal to win on speed. Garth Tan­der/Nick Per­cat, Com­modore

Po­ten­tially the strong­est threat to the TeamVoda­fone cars but Per­cat is not proven at Bathurst de­spite his stun­ning speed at Phillip Is­land.

$6 Shane van Gis­ber­gen/John McIn­tyre, Fal­con The Giz, an emerg­ing star, has pace to burn but that is un­likely to help if he goes too hard or too early at Bathurst. A bit of luck could get him home. $9 Will Dav­i­son/Luke Youlden, Fal­con The sec­ond FPR Fal­con was strong at Phillip Is­land but Dav­i­son crashed at Bathurst last year and needs to re-in­vent him­self to con­quer the moun­tain.

Favourites: Mark Skaife and Craig Lown­des; $3 chance Garth Tan­der

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