V8 Supercars endurance line-ups take shape
The field for the V8 Supercars Championship’s three endurance races is becoming clearer, with the majority of co-driver seats now filled.
Although no teams have officially confirmed their full Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast combinations, it is expected that the vast majority will run the same co-drivers in all three events under the new Endurance Cup format.
Red Bull Racing Australia has elected to keep Paul Dumbrell and Warren Luff alongside Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes respectively, after the pairings each took a race win in 2012.
Fellow Holden heavy-hitters, the Holden Racing Team, will field Greg Murphy and Ryan Briscoe, while Steve Owen is firming for the co-driver position at the squad’s sister Supercheap Auto Racing entry alongside Russell Ingall.
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Owen’s appointment would leave the Walkinshaw-contracted Nick Percat, who has made the switch to the Carrera Cup this year following three seasons in the Development Series, likely to partner Tony D’Alberto in Team Hifelx’s Walkinshaw customer entry.
The line-ups at Garry Rogers Motorsport and Brad Jones Racing are also both understood to be full, with the former squad sticking with its 2012 co-drivers Greg Ritter and Jack Perkins.
BJR is similarly anticipated to have stability in again pairing Andrew Jones with Jason Bright and Chris Pither with David Wall, although former Stone Brothers Racing man Luke Youlden will be a fresh face in the Albury team when he lines up with Fabian Coulthard.
The combinations at the remaining Holden squads, Triple Eight customer teams Tekno Autosports and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsports, are less clear, although both could feature high-profile names.
Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais is tipped to be eyeing more V8 Supercars action with Tekno, pending his availability, while Triple Eight’s Dunlop Series runner Casey Stoner could make a main series debut with LDM, should the former MotoGP star feel that he is ready.
Racing Entitlements Contract owner Paul Morris will likely bring useful experience to LDM’s #80 Commodore of Scott Pye.
The line-up at Ford Performance Racing will include team stalwarts Steven Richards and Dean Canto, who are expected to continue alongside Mark Winterbottom and David Reynolds respectively.
Chaz Mostert has been confirmed as part of the four-car squad, although it is unclear whether he will partner Will or Alex Davison.
Former Formula 1 ace Mika Salo remains in the frame to partner Will Davison in at least one of the races, while Dunlop Series runner Dale Wood and John McIntyre – who signed a two-year agreement with the team ahead of last year’s enduros – are also possible starters.
Steven Johnson is expected to fill one of the two co-driver positions at the second Ford squad, Dick Johnson Racing, having stepped away from full-time driving this year.
At Erebus Motorsport, Craig Baird is highly likely to renew his 2012 ties alongside Lee Holdsworth, while Christian Klien – who competed alongside Baird in the team’s SLS GT Championship cars in Adelaide – is also a possible V8 Supercars candidate.
A number of drivers, meanwhile, are being linked to Nissan Motorsport’s first endurance campaign, including Dunlop Series runners Taz Douglas and Daniel Gaunt.
There remains a possibility that the squad could also include a driver from Nissan’s wider family, with the company’s global motorsport director, Darren Cox, speaking positively about such a move at the weekend’s Clipsal 500 Adelaide.
It is not expected that co-drivers will be required for V8 Supercars’ inaugural trip to the Circuit of the Americans in Texas, USA, in May, although the possibility of wild card entries or even substitute drivers remain.
The Texas event will feature four 100km races, with both the soft and hard tyres expected to be used.