With two of his four drivers having never faced Mount Panorama in the main game before, team boss Dick Johnson has warned the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is a race to be won in the last 20 laps – but can be lost at the first corner.
Dale Wood, co-driver in the #12, has the most experience of the four DJR drivers, followed by Tim Blanchard in #17.
Chaz Mostert and Ash Walsh are each contesting their first ever Bathurst in the main series; both have driven there in the development series, but neither has won.
“When you look at it that way – I think they’ve got a bit to do,” Johnson told v8supercars.com.au.
So what are Johnson’s views on helping the young drivers manage the Mountain?
“Enduro races are totally different to the shorter sprint races and that’s the hard thing to get these young guys to understand,” he said.
“You’ve got to attack them somewhat differently to what you would a normal race.
“It is a 1000km sprint for the car, but from a driver’s point of view, you don’t go taking any unnecessary risks and things like that.
“There’s a time to fight and a time to give up, right, and this race is always won in the last 20 laps.
“Throughout the whole space of the six and a half hours or whatever it is, it’s all about getting yourself in a position so you are set up and ready to go hard as you possibly can for the last 20 laps, but you’ve got to make sure you’re in the lead bunch.
“It can be lost on the first corner if you treat it like you’re going to treat a 10 lap sprint.”
Johnson – who has had three wins at the Bathurst 1000 (1981, 1989 and 1994) – compared it to golf.
“I’ve been trying to bang it into their heads – and I think they’re sort of listening, which is a damn good thing. But sometimes they can get out there and they sort of forget.
“It’s like playing golf. You say to yourself, you do this, this, this and this, and the moment the club’s above your head everything goes out of your head and you try and hit the shit out of the ball, which is not the way of doing it.
“It’s something that can either come easier to some than others, and probably something that will definitely come with experience, but in these races you’ve got to make sure you prepare yourself both physically and mentally, because physically, it’s a very tough race.”
Mostert and Wood were strong in qualifying at the Wilson Security Sandown 500, starting fifth but finishing 14th. But the #17 had a more difficult run – both times with Walsh behind the wheel, when the bonnet came off the car while he was racing, and with a substantial crash on Sunday, early on in the race.
“That was disappointing at the end of the day,” Johnson said of the accident.
“But I think the speed’s there.”
This year is different for Johnson not working with son Steve – this season is Steve’s first competing against his family team, as he lines up in an Erebus Motorsport V8 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG with Maro Engel.
“Steve is an extremely good long distance driver because he paces himself, he knows where he wants to be at any point in time in the race and understands the pitfalls of if you don’t do the right thing,” Johnson said.
“So that’s why I think it’s very difficult to teach these young guys that sort of mentality.
“But in saying that, I believe Ash has had a bit of a wake up call after the incident at Sandown and one can only hope that he will learn from the experience.”
Relative to the accident, while the car was worse for wear when arriving at the workshop, and took a fair bit of work, it is fine for Bathurst.
“You can’t undo what’s happened,” Johnson said when asked how to deal with the situation.
“So we’ve jut got to be mindful of the fact and keep trying to coach them to the point that they understand what you’re trying to say to them.”
While there are plenty of strong pairings in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup this year, Bathurst is one of those events where the result can surprise.
“It’s always a very open race, obviously there are favourites there with the people that have been performing all year – performing consistently – but there has been a number of dark horses come out of Bathurst over the years.
“I’d like to think that these guys have got a chance of having a good result.”
Despite debuting late in the season and missing three Championship events, Mostert sits 18th in the standings and has recorded one race win; Blanchard sits 26th.