This year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 has kind of snuck up on us, following the months and months of Covid-19 racing inactivity followed by the deluge of Supercars meetings at Sydney Motorsport Park, Hidden Valley, Townsville, and The Bend.
It feels cliche to say, but the game really has changed this year. The 2020 Bathurst 1000 will decide a championship winner (formalise more than decide, I guess) and signal the end of one of the most oddball seasons of Supercars in the category’s history.
In preparation for all the twists and turns, VelocityNews has crafted a list of every entry in this year’s race, categorising and ranking them in order of winning potential. Here’s who to watch out for, come next weekend.
In need of luck
Such is the nature of the Supercars series these days that just about any car on the grid can snag a top 10 finish on its day. And that’s always been doubly true at Bathurst, where good strategy and keeping your nose clean can be invaluable assets capable of lifting teams at the back end of the grid all the way to the front.
These are the entries who will focus on staying out of trouble. Expect a few to nip at the heels of the leaders if the weather turns, too.
25. Garry Rogers No. 40: Tyler Everingham/Jayden Ojeda — C-
As two rookies out to have a go, we can’t help but barrack for Tyler Everingham and Jayden Ojeda. Both are proven drivers in this machinery, with Ojeda (The Juice, as they call him) acquitting himself nicely in Super2 and Everingham already a race winner in the same class. If they keep their noses clean are capable of staying on the lead lap, maybe more.
Neither has necessarily had the race miles in the build-up to the Great Race that they’d have liked. And, to address an elephant in the room, the publicity around Nathan Herne’s announcement for the ride and subsequent canning due to a lack of Super License points, won’t have done them any favours either. But still, it will be a blast watching them adapt over the course of the weekend.
24. Brad Jones Racing No. 4: Jack Smith/Jack Perkins — C
His season started on the wrong foot with a fine for missing the drivers group photo, but things are on the up for series rookie Jack Smith. The quickfire double-down events of late have exposed some of the former NZ Touring Car and Super 3 champ’s best racecraft yet, which will give him a confidence boost for Bathurst after his ropey 2019 debut.
Also giving him a boost is his new co-driver, Jack Perkins. Having scored a podium at last year’s great race, his steady hand and mentorship will be invaluable to the younger Jack. Expect him to be very rapid, especially when pitted against other co-drivers.
23. Brad Jones Racing No. 3: Macauley Jones/Tim Blanchard — C+
Young ‘Macca has finished in the 1000 top 10 twice. A bit like his old man, he tends to lift his game at Mount Panorama, and a spate of improved qualifying performances of late (including a top 10 start at The Bend) means he might be on to start the great race from the top half.
Tim Blanchard should be a quick, dependable co-driver for the Cooldrive entry, although a lack of recent race miles may hurt him. Nevertheless, he’s made it to the chequered flag the last four Bathurst 1000s in a row. These two could surprise.
22. Team Sydney No. 19: Alex Davison/Jonathon Webb — C+
Alex Davison has the amazing stat of finishing all 15 Bathurst 1000s that he’s started. No other driver in the current era can boast numbers that come close to those. Having joined Team Sydney part way through the season, Davison has often outshone teammate Chris Pither. Although both have clearly struggled with getting speed out of their cars.
2016 Bathurst 1000 winner Jonathon Webb makes this ‘old dogs’ pairing one that should contend for a solid result. The part team owner has defied lack of race miles in the past to be ultra competitive, although the occasional mis-step (Sandown 2018, anyone?) can still occur from time to time.
21. Matt Stone Racing No. 34: Zane Goddard/Jake Kostecki — C+
From a team of old dogs to a team of rookies, Matt Stone Racing’s ‘SuperLite’ driver pairing have done rather well for themselves this year, sharing the team’s No. 34 entry between each other. It creates the unique situation whether both drivers approach the event with buckets of recent seat miles.
This will be Zane Goddard’s debut, but expectation is that he’ll be on the pace. He’s heading Jake Kostecki in the points. Yes, he’s done one more round, but remember that there’s a credible top 10 finish in there.
20. Team Sydney No. 22: Chris Pither/Steve Owen — C+
It’s been a tough year for Chris Pither. He’s lost a teammate and then regained another, while struggling with his own demons around extracting speed from the Team Sydney Coke entry. But, he is a strong racer at Bathurst. Two top six finishes in the last three years can’t be sneezed at, and his experience should see him ‘buy a ticket’ to the last 30 laps, so to speak.
Speaking of experience, Pither and Team Syndey won co-driver bingo in scooping up Steve Owen. Weirdly enough he fell through the cracks and didn’t score a co-driver role in 2019, but he was a blue chip top tier co-driver for Ford’s flagship Tickford Racing team for six years up to 2018. An excellent combo, if the car makes it.
19. Matt Stone Racing No. 35: Garry Jacobson/David Russell — C+
Here’s another case of battling primary driver paired to high quality co-driver, with a lick of Bathurst form. Garry Jacobson has had a relatively torrid first season with MSR, with few peaks even compared to his debut run with Kelly Racing and its hapless Nissan Altimas. But, he’s a quick operator at Bathurst — his debut drive there with Jason Bright in 2017 being one of the standout rookie drives of recent times.
He’s paired with David Russell, a reliable face at Bathurst and someone continually underrated. He’s finished four of his last five starts at the Great Race. His two top 10s during this time could’ve easily been three, had it not been for a late crash (also in 2017) by then-co-driver Simona de Silvestro.
18. Walkinshaw Andretti United No. 2: Bryce Fullwood/Kurt Kostecki — C+
It’s been an excellent rookie season for Walkinshaw Andretti United’s Bryce Fullwood. Eighteenth in the championship is solid, but doesn’t really reflect the pace he’s shown in a car that frequently showed little last year. He’s been in the top 10 four times, including a podium at The Bend. More than that, though, he was also one of the star co-drivers at last year’s Bathurst 1000.
Kurt Kostecki has emerged as the surprise member of the trifurcated racing family to not have a full-time seat, despite a handful of solo full-time drives and an extensive Super2 career. Having only taken part in the opening round of Super2 this year, he’s relatively green for this one. If there’s a lot of safety cars, too, their campaign is likely to be double-stacked into oblivion.
In the mix
While much of the focus is on the obvious front-runners, there’s an extensive mid-pack that’s waiting in the wings to snatch the win from one of the Goliath combos. They’re no slouches, with multiple championship winners and Bathurst winners packing the tantalising mid-pack.
If any of them pulls the car out of the truck on Friday and immediately makes an impression in practice, watch out for them come Sunday.
17. Brad Jones Racing No. 14: Todd Hazelwood/Jordan Boys – B-
Todd Hazelwood’s 2020 has been both thoroughly inconsistent and packed with achievement. Pairing the sausage sizzling expert with Brad Jones Racing is a match made in heaven on paper, and has been reflected in a spate of top 10s and a potential victory gone begging at Townsville. He’s sharp at Bathurst, too, in a team that’s known to lift its game there.
Jordan Boys is a curious co-pilot selection, less experienced than either of the co-drivers paired to Hazelwood’s (arguably less fancied) teammates Smith and Jones. Partnering Hazelwood up with either Perkins or Blanchard would pop him up the order a few spots. Nevertheless, Boys had a fantastic break-out Super2 season last year and has been solid this year.
16. Kelly Racing No. 15: Rick Kelly/Dale Wood — B-
It’s weird to think of Rick Kelly as an ‘old dog’ but he is a bit these days, both in terms of runs on the board and years accumulated as well as in terms of how hard he races his rivals. Although he did snap up a few top 10s, his Nissan years bore few Bathurst fruit. The Mustang’s aero and straight-line grunt should put the 2003 and 2004 winner in good stead, if the weekend is free of the gremlins that have emerged in recent events.
Kelly will partner with the funniest co-driver on the grid, Dale Wood. The continuity between the pair will be good, having finished eighth in last year’s race. Wood is underrated at Bathurst, having claimed a fourth place at the event in his last 1000 as a lead-driver. They’ll be there or thereabouts come race day if the car is quick out the gate.
15. Team18 Racing No. 18: Mark Winterbottom/James Golding – B
Things are starting to come together nicely for 2015 series champ Mark Winterbottom and his Team18 squad. After a topsy turvy 2019 (sixth at Bathurst among the highlights), 2020 has seen a hefty improvement in consistency. Entering Bathurst he’s a neat ninth in the standings, having shown handy pace at a variety of very different tracks.
Twelve months ago, James Golding nearly won the Bathurst 1000 thanks to a gun strategy from GRM that nearly paid off. The young talent should really be a full-time driver in the series, and it’s sad to think that he may have fallen through the category’s cracks. But, this is Winterbottom’s gain.
14. Kelly Racing No. 7: Andre Heimgartner/Dylan O’Keefe – B
More than just a bit of extra speed, we’ve seen plenty of tenacity and aggression in Andre Heimgartner’s driving this season. Like teammate Kelly, the Kiwi has battled reliability issues and occasional off weekends in his newly built Mustang (itself a re-built version of his Nissan from last year). But, we’ve also seen his best racecraft to date (plus two more podiums). He was a star performer at last year’s race until a late crash, and will want redemption.
Heimgartner is partnered with TCR Australia regular Dylan O’Keefe, who makes his Bathurst 1000 debut. Save for a very impressive cameo drive sitting in for Richie Stanaway at last year’s Surfers Paradise event, this will be O’Keefe’s first proper debut. And, given the expectation that this car will be competitive, he’ll be under the pump to perform beyond his years.
13. Tickford Racing No. 44: James Courtney/Broc Feeney – B
It may not seem it, but this year could be looked back upon as one of the most important in James Courtney’s career. A chaotic opening round with Team Sydney and some political disagreements in the background saw him split, with musical chairs and assistance from old mate Peter Adderton and Boost netting him a surprise seat at Tickford. Since joining the team he’s shown a healthy upswing in pace, positioning him on the edge of the top 10. Another podium could be on the cards.
Broc Feeny will buddy up with Courtney, creating an interesting contrast of age and experience. Feeny is a product of Paul Morris’ Norwell driver training programme, and has shown it with a bevy of mature performances in Super2, Toyota 86s, and the Bathurst 12 Hour. He’s still a rookie of course, but a weekend with Courtney will provide plenty of education.
12. Tickford Racing No. 55: Jack Le Brocq/James Moffat – B
We spoke briefly about James Golding being a quality driver on the precipice of slipping through the cracks. Jack Le Brocq’s 2019 season looked set for a similar fate — his rookie of the year 2018 effort followed by a year of disaster. However, having been given the reigns to Tickford’s Supercheap Auto Mustang, Le Brocq has mostly taken like a duck to water. He claimed win number one at Sydney Motorsport Park, and win number two looked likely at The Bend.
He’s paired with one of the most fearless co-drivers on the grid in James Moffat. Few deny that the second-generation racer couldn’t still be competitive as a full-time Supercars driver, but he seems happy to come in once a year with the factory Ford team instead. He helped Chaz Mostert achieve fourth in 2018, and looked on for a shot at the win last year until Mostert unceremoniously dumped their car (and his teammate Cameron Waters) in the gravel. A definitive smokey pairing.
11. Team 18 Racing No. 20: Scott Pye/Dean Fiore – B
Scott Pye approaches Bathurst with plenty of momentum, which would be a surprise to anyone that’s missed every round since Adelaide. There, it seemed the ‘hot lap king’ had walked under every ladder and patted every black cat. But in the time since he’s pieced together an excellent season, with three podiums, more passes than probably anyone else, and a top 10 championship berth. He’s good at Bathurst, too, having been on the podium twice in the last three years.
Dean Fiore will be his co-pilot in the Dewalt entry. While the very Italian-sounding Kalgoorlie native has yet to threaten the Bathurst podium, he’s not one for shunting cars or ruining races. His many years as a loyal co-driver at Nissan saw him bring solidarity and consistency to the mix.
10. DJR Team Penske No. 12: Fabian Coulthard/Tony D’Alberto – B+
Last year’s Bathurst 1000 ‘sacrificial lamb’ entry (Shane van Gisbergen’s words, not mine) enters this year’s race with a different outlook entirely. Scott McLaughlin has the championship sorted, so therefore there’s theoretically no need for Fabian Coulthard to be the excellent team player we’ve seen him be. Outright pace has eluded him at The Mountain for most of his DJR Team Penske tenure, although he was looking good last year until … well, you know.
Like Dean Fiore, Tony D’Alberto sounds Italian. And, also like Fiore, he’s both fast and rock solid when it comes to putting in honest drives and being an A1 co-driver. This will be the fourth year in a row of D’Alberto and Coulthard sharing a car, and you get the feeling that it’s a combination with good chemistry that’s overdue a result.
9. Tickford Racing No. 5: Lee Holdsworth/Michael Caruso – B+
The boys are back together! After becoming close mates during the GRM days, Lee Holdsworth and Michael Caruso are sharing a car once again. The former has enjoyed a year of healthy improvement with Tickford, having cemented himself as a regular top 10 runner with multiple podium finishes. It’s worth remembering too that, according to numbers cited by some, this entry was the car set to emerge in the lead prior to last year’s ‘Debriss-gate’ scandal.
Caruso has jumped across from the team’s Monster entry, which is no bad thing at all. He was excellent with Waters in 2019, although a lack of race miles this year might make his campaign a slow burner to start with. Still, the last time these two drove together at Mount Panorama they scooped a podium.
If you’re a betting man or woman, these are the cars you’ve probably drawn circles around as the likely race win contenders. All bar one has at least one Bathurst 1000 winner behind the wheel, and added together they’ve claimed a grand total of 19 Great Race wins.
If we have a simple, straightforward 161-lap run, the winning pairing will be one of these eight combinations. Bloody big ‘if’, though.
8. Erebus Motorsport No. 9: David Reynolds/Will Brown – A-
He completed the fairy-tale and won Bathurst for Erebus Motorsport three years ago, but there’s still a healthy slice of redemption on the plate for David Reynolds after his own pre-race shortcomings cost him a certain second win the next year. He would ordinarily be much higher on this list, but his build-up has been highly unspectacular by his standards. To win, this car needs to be much, much quicker than it has been. The return of Alistair McVean, the man that’s guided much of Reynolds’ success, will be an enormous asset.
It’s often joked that Will Brown is David Reynolds’ adopted child, such is the similarities between the pair’s off-the-track antics. He’s second in the Super2 standings, and fresh from a explosive TCR Australia championship win. Apart from a few errors (like a pretty hefty prang at Surfers Paradise) he’s been an excellent co-driver for Reynolds’ teammate Anton de Pasquale. This ‘promotion’ is perfectly timed for his trajectory.
7. Walkinshaw Andretti United No. 25: Chaz Mostert/Warren Luff – A-
If he can avoid crashing into teammates past and present, expect Chaz Mostert to be one of the quickest drivers this weekend. Not just because he’s a handy steerer at Bathurst, but also because Walkinshaw Andretti United tend to up their game for the 1000, too. Even though the team’s last three seasons have been three of their weakest, they’ve been able to somehow snatch a podium at Bathurst each time.
Speaking of the Bathurst podium, how good is Warren Luff? The 44-year-old’s Great Race record defies belief. He’s finished on the podium six times in his last eight races, making him one of the best co-drivers of the current era. A lack of car pace on longer runs hurt Mostert at the last two events at The Bend, so they’ll need to sort that out if they want to contend for the win.
6. Erebus Motorsport No. 99: Anton De Pasquale/Brodie Kostecki – A-
While I labelled Will Brown’s shift across to join David Reynolds as a promotion, I suspect the team he vacates is going to be the more explosive one this weekend. Anton De Pasquale enters his third Bathurst 1000 as a newly crowned race winner, having outshone his more experienced teammate for most of the season. He’s a gun at Bathurst, although up to this point this has mainly manifested in exceptional single-lap performances. A clean 1000kms has eluded him thus far.
Brodie Kostecki is arguably the most exciting racing prospect from his family. Being part-responsible for building his 2019 wildcard entry ZB Commodore and being under the wing of Paul Morris make him a hardened racer. His outright pace will be fine, but it’s Kostecki’s fearless and physical racecraft that could see this combination sink or swim. More likely swim.
5. Brad Jones Racing No. 8: Nick Percat/Thomas Randle – A
It feels like a ‘best of the rest’ title, but really it shouldn’t. The lead Brad Jones Racing entry is always, without fail, worth slotting into your contenders list at Bathurst — and it is doubly true a fact in 2020. Nick Percat has enjoyed an excellent season, where he’s often been the best-placed challenger to the factory efforts of Penske, Red Bull, and Tickford. Two wins were a grand way to break his drought, and at the last event at The Bend he was quick, too.
Thomas Randle, meanwhile, is arguably the best of the ‘young gun’ co-drivers. The Super2 points leader hasn’t finished a race outside the top two all season long (admittedly, they’ve only had five races). He also scored a podium at last year’s Sandown 500. There are bigger star drivers among the co-driver ranks, but they don’t have as much to prove as the former Toyota Racing Series champion.
4. Red Bull Holden Racing Team No. 88: Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes – A
There are no real downsides to Red Bull’s No. 88 squad. The car has been rapid for most of the season, and Jamie Whincup has driven very well all year long. He’ll be quick out the gate, quick in qualifying, and quick in the race. And the same goes for seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner Craig Lowndes, who is again expected to be a leading co-driver capable of effectively becoming interchangeable with his full-time co-driver.
It’s hard to ignore, though, that Whincup is in the middle of a bit of a Bathurst funk at the moment. Despite entering the race as a runaway favourite annually, he hasn’t actually scored a podium since his second-place finish in 2013 seven years ago (and only half of those results were top 10s). Recent form hasn’t been too flash either, with two poor events at The Bend (for Whincup’s standards that is) helping gift Scott McLaughlin an early championship win.
3. Tickford Racing No. 6: Cameron Waters/Will Davison – A
Here’s a controversial take; this is the strongest driver combination on the grid. Cameron Waters is fresh from his first solo race win at The Bend — an inevitable event that’ll have him bright eyed and bushy tailed. He’s taken over the role of Tickford Racing’s No. 1 driver completely in his stride, and confidence will be high. Especially because he arrives at Bathurst with arguably the grid’s top-seed co-driver; Will Davison. Desperately fighting to get back into a full-time seat, this will be the most motivated the 2009 winner has ever been entering a Bathurst weekend.
Why won’t they win? Apart from the two cars ahead of them in the ranking and the chasing pack, Tickford Racing’s lack of achievement at the mountain can’t be ignored. Victories in 2013 and 2014 were sweet relief for Ford fans everywhere, but since then the factory team has been overshadowed by the feats of Triple Eight, Penske, and even WAU.
2. Red Bull Holden Racing Team No. 97: Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander – A+
It’s hard to believe that Shane van Gisbergen hasn’t won this damn race yet. There was the heartbreak of 2014, the yo-yoing 2017 race packed with unforced errors in treacherous weather, and a swag of close calls in between. These things will be pushing him this weekend, as will the knowledge that form (all his 2020 wins have come in the last three events) is on his side. He’s also back with the incredibly quick and wiley Garth Tander — the first Bathurst co-driver he’s had for back-to-back campaigns since the Tekno days.
There’s a lot of pressure on this duo to perform; not just because van Gisbergen’s lack of a win is starting to become an annual point of discussion, but also because it’s the last year a Holden factory team will be represented at Mount Panorama. All weekend van Gisbergen and Tander will be part of on-camera and off-track Holden PR rigmarole. And there’s precedence that in Holden history, those ‘fairy-tale finish’ results (Peter Brock in 1997, Mark Skaife in 2006) don’t necessarily always come.
1. DJR Team Penske No. 17: Scott McLaughlin/Tim Slade – A+
After another season of immense domination, it would take a bold pundit to tip any combination other than those aboard car 17 for the top spot. Scott McLaughlin, again, has been first class this year. With less political chat about parity this and aero that, he’s been able to spread his wings further and grab an incredible 13 wins from 26 starts. Tim Slade is a new addition for 2020, quickly snapped up off the back of last season’s full-time departure. Like Will Davison, he’ll be keen to prove himself to either cement his slot at the squad as a gun-for-hire or to potentially get back into the series full time.
A reduced schedule won’t have helped Slade, and it’s hard to ignore that his last season with Brad Jones Racing wasn’t exactly record breaking — underlined by him crashing out on lap one of last year’s Bathurst 1000. But, rest assured that he’ll still be quick. And, with the championship mostly locked away and IndyCar and a probable new career on the horizon, No. 17’s ‘McLaughlin factor’ is forecast to be as strong as ever.