Mount Panorama is primed to host the latest instalment of The Great Race with a grid of 26 cars and 52 drivers all desperate to claim Australian motorsport’s most coveted prize.
Conquering the iconic 6.2km ribbon of tarmac to claim the Peter Brock Trophy has proven to be one of the great challenges in world motorsport.
The race continues to provide excitement and drama by the bucketload and in recent years has been extremely hard to predict the winner.
In the last two editions smaller squads Tekno Autosports and Erebus Motorsport have upset the major outfits to take out the glittering prize.
This year it appears multiple winners Triple Eight will head into the race as the team to beat following their one-two-three domination of the Rabble.Club Sandown 500.
Race winners Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell have been labelled the race favourites by the bookies, edging team-mate and championship leader Shane van Gisbergen, who will be joined by Bathurst 1000 debutant co-driver Earl Bamber.
Whincup and Dumbrell have proven to be among the pacesetters at Bathurst in recent years, and after winning the race alongside in 2012, have been in contention each time since.
A combination of poor decision making and penalties has seen the pair come unstuck in recent attempts.
His own team-mate van Gisbergen could be his most serious threat.
The Kiwi is yet to win Bathurst but will head there this year with arguably his best shot yet.
While his co-driver is a Bathurst 1000 rookie, two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Bamber has already proven capable in a V8 Supercar and has raced in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Completing Triple Eight’s attack is Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards who are listed as third favourites.
The pairing cannot be ruled out with 10 Bathurst 1000 wins between them heading into what will likely be an emotional final Bathurst for Lowndes as a full-time Supercars driver.
The 2015 winners will be keen to bounce back from a challenging 2017 edition.
Lowndes has been on the podium in 10 of his last 15 Bathurst 1000 attempts.
Ford’s best chance appears to be with Shell V-Power Racing courtesy of Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Premat.
The pair were the best of the rest at Sandown last month and were the pacesetters at Mount Panorama 12 months ago.
McLaughlin famously set a new benchmark time to claim pole position but an engine issue in the race proved to be their demise.
Team-mates Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto have also proven a strong pairing having finished third last year.
Last year’s victors David Reynolds and Luke Youlden should be considered among the contenders as the Erebus Motorsport duo look to be the first back-to-back winners for a decade.
Unfancied last year, Reynolds and the team have since emerged as genuine force in the Supercars Championship, scoring two race wins and a further five podiums to date this season.
Fellow Holden team Walkinshaw Andretti United should have all the ingredients to shine with its pairings Scott Pye/Warren Luff and James Courtney/Jack Perkins, the former of which finished second last year.
This season the squad heads to Bathurst off the back of a much stronger campaign.
While 2018 has been a difficult year for Tickford Racing, the Ford squad shouldn’t be overlooked for a tilt at the Peter Brock Trophy either.
Winners in 2013 and 2014, the outfit boasts an impressive line up across its four cars with the Chaz Mostert/James Moffat and Mark Winterbottom/Dean Canto pairings expected to lead the way.
There will be plenty of dark horses led by Nissan Motorsport, which has enjoyed its best season to date, while Brad Jones Racing and Garry Rogers Motorsport have also shown speed.
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