Mark Skaife has pegged Craig Lowndes as his Bathurst favourite, but many greats today acknowledged the two returning manufacturers as dark horses in the upcoming Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Gathered in Darling Harbour in Sydney, legends of the sport and their winning cars were united with current drivers to celebrate 30 days until the Great Race. This year is the beginning of a new era with Nissan and Mercedes-Benz once again joining the grid for Australia’s most grueling – and rewarding – race.
Skaife, who won the 1000km race with Lowndes in 2010 and is a six-time victor at the Mountain, predicted the Red Bull Racing Australia driver would rise to the top in what he believes to be the best ever season in Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar history.
“Twelve different winners, 14 different podium getters, eight different teams – the Championship is as tight as it has ever been and leading into Bathurst, the ‘stop the nation’ day of Australian sport, it couldn’t be better,” Skaife said.
“I think Lowndes is probably the favourite.
“Lowndes is very good there and tough to beat … in terms of doing a good solid job at that race track, he is currently the pinnacle.”
However, he said there was no doubt both Nissan and Mercedes-Benz could strongly feature in the 161-lap, 1000km race.
“The Mercedes-Benz is good enough to finish in the top five, for sure.
“Nissan, with the work that they’re doing, by the time they get to Bathurst they’ll be right up there also. They’ll be very, very fast across the top of the hill, they’ll look after the tyres well.
“Honestly, one of the Nissans or Mercedes-Benzes should finish in the top five.”
IRWIN Tools Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG driver Lee Holdsworth was hopeful his Erebus Motorsport V8 team would be a in with a shot at the Mountain.
“I’d like to think so!” he said when asked whether he was a dark horse.
“I’d like to think I’m flying under the radar … We’ve come off the back of a pretty bad result at Winton and my luck hasn’t been great lately, but I’m hoping that’s all out of the way and we’re saving it up for the enduros.”
While the last event, the Winton 360, meant ordinary results for the team, Holdsworth is positive they are now headed in the right direction.
“We’ll see how it goes at Sandown this weekend – but hopefully we pick up a bit of pace for these enduros, because this is the time of year you need speed.”
Holdsworth can’t wait to bring the Mercedes to Mount Panorama this year.
“It’s been a long time coming, so hopefully we’ll see some supporters up there and hopefully give them something to cheer about!
“It certainly is (an amazing place). I look forward to Bathurst every year and it’s the biggest race of the year, the pinnacle of Australian motorsport – and a massive thing on the world motorsport stage.”
This weekend marks the beginning of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup with the Wilson Security Sandown 500. The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 then follows from October 10 to 13 – tickets are available through Ticketek.