Who will win Bathurst? The 10 best driver combinations revealed
The 2020 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 will be different to past events for a multitude of reasons. There's lack of driver and team preparation, no endurance curtain-raiser, no crowd, and more. It can be hard to draft up a form guide, but we've had a crack ourselves. Here's our 10 most dangerous combinations to watch for this weekend's Great Race.
10. DJR Team Penske No. 12: Fabian Coulthard/Tony D’Alberto
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.
Tony D’Alberto is 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
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.
Caruso has jumped across from the team’s Monster entry. 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.
8. Erebus Motorsport No. 9: David Reynolds/Will Brown
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 engineer Alistair McVean will be an enormous asset.
Will Brown is 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
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.
Warren Luff'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. Don't rule these guys out.
6. Erebus Motorsport No. 99: Anton De Pasquale/Brodie Kostecki
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 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.
5. Brad Jones Racing No. 8: Nick Percat/Thomas Randle
The lead Brad Jones Racing entry is always, without fail, worth slotting into your contenders list at Bathurst. Nick Percat has enjoyed an excellent season, where he’s often been the best-placed challenger to the factory efforts of Penske, et al. 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. He also scored a podium at last year’s Sandown 500.
4. Red Bull Holden Racing Team No. 88: Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes
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.
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. Recent form hasn’t been too flash either, with two poor events at The Bend.
3. Tickford Racing No. 6: Cameron Waters/Will Davison
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. 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; a highly motivated, very quick Will Davison.
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.
2. Red Bull Holden Racing Team No. 97: Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander
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. He’s also back with the tenacious 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.
1. DJR Team Penske No. 17: Scott McLaughlin/Tim Slade
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. With less political chat about parity this and aero that, Scott McLaughlin'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. 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. Rest assured he'll still be fast, and No. 17’s ‘McLaughlin factor’ will be as strong as ever.