Winterbottom poised for Bathurst 12 Hour

Friday 11th November, 2016 - 4:00am

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Mark Winterbottom

Mark Winterbottom

Mark Winterbottom is the latest Supercars champion poised to make his GT racing debut in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour next February.

The Prodrive Ford star is soon expected to confirm his entry into the race, where he’ll go head-to-head with long-time Supercars rival and fellow GT debutant Jamie Whincup.

Although currently denying that he has signed a deal to race, Winterbottom has confirmed to Speedcafe.com that changes to the rules for next year have piqued his interest.

The 35-year-old has previously shown little desire to compete in GT races such as Bathurst due to the Pro-Am driver format.

“The opportunity to have all Pro line-ups changes it for me,” Winterbottom told Speedcafe.com.

“Not being disrespectful, but the Pro-Am stuff never appealed to me.

“What we do in Supercars chews up a lot of your time, so you don’t want to just race for the sake of it.

“But when you can team up as all Pros and go hard, that’s made it more appealing.

“The way the (Supercars) calendar looks has made it more inviting as well, just finishing a bit earlier.

“You’ve got to test when you do the 12 Hour, you can’t just roll up on lap one at Bathurst and go.

“You want to give it your best.”

Sources have strongly linked Winterbottom to Steven Richards’ factory BMW operation, which is set to field two cars at Bathurst.

The second entry, owned by Tony Longhurst, will be driven by Longhurst, Mark Skaife, Russell Ingall and a yet-to-be-named factory BMW ace.

Richards is currently the only confirmed driver for the lead car, which is also expected to feature at least one factory BMW driver.

Winterbottom’s addition to the line-up, should it be confirmed, would reunite the 2013 Bathurst winning partnership and lift the squad’s total of Great Race wins to 15.

“Richo and I get along really well,” said Winterbottom when asked of the BMW drive.

“We raced together for a long time so we’ve got a good relationship.

“He’s asked me if I’m interested and if we could do it with him I’d look at it, but I’m not signed anywhere yet.”

BMW will step up its preparations for the 12 Hour later this month, taking part in the first two days of the November 24-27 Challenge Bathurst event before holding a private test at the venue on the following Monday.