Ratings by Mark Jones/Shane Rogers/Danielle Schwerin/Michael Shaw/Nathan Wong
Words by Mark Jones
The people behind Conrod gathered together to discuss the merit of the contenders and pretenders for the 2005 Bathurst 1000. We each had our opinion and each was aware of one thing, that they were right and the other four were wrong. Consensus of opinion, however, revealed a few similarities. When asked to rate each car out of five, two stood out from the pack.
Equal Number Ones
24/25 #2 Skaife/T.Kelly (HRT)
There is little denying that HRT are a slick outfit. Victors here in
2001 and 2002 with experienced veterans partnering Holden's avatar, Mark
Skaife. This year HRT head to the Mountain, not with the best team on
form, but the best driver combination in pitlane. Todd Kelly has been
the revelation of 2005, and those who discount Skaife, or indeed HRT, have short memories.
24/25 #888 Lowndes/Muller (Triple 8)
Craig Lowndes holds a sentimental place in Australian motorsport, the
ever unspoilt golden child with an angelic smile and an undeniable
talent. Hidden in off-the-pace teams in recent years, Lowndes has
re-emerged as a race, even a championship, winning driver. While winning
Sandown has improved Muller's stocks, mass servings of humble pie has
seemingly done little for people's opinions of the Frenchman. However,
Muller wins championships and races, and truth be told, Mount Panorama
is not that far removed from a Spa or a Nurburgring.
The top five
22/25 #1 Ambrose/Luff (SBR)
The reigning champ wants Bathurst this year like never before. The US
beckons and this may be his last shot as a leader. Front end issues have
plagued Stonies BAs, and while the cure is believed to be in place, the
lingering doubt is there. Warren Luff too holds a question mark, while a
front runner in HPDC, 2004 did not do his reputation wonders.
22/25 #24 S.Richards/Dumbrell (Perkins)
Steven Richards has consistently proven that given good equipment, he
will shine. Despite CPR's Commodores relative reputation within Holden
ranks, Richards is the General's senior championship contender, and now
this year, a 'sprint' event victor. In endurance trim, no-one questions
Larry Perkins, and while a question mark continues to hang over Paul
Dumbrell, one only needs to be reminded of his qualifying form at
Bathurst 2004. This guy loves the Mountain.
21/25 #9 Ingall/Youlden (SBR)
Just one point below their team mates, the Enforcer still sits in
Conrod's top five. Now one of the category's elder statesmen, the hunger
of old still burns within Ingall. With leadership of SBR in 2006, and
indeed the 2005 championship far from over, there is work to be done.
1995 showed what Ingall was capable of in endurance trim, and that
reputation has not dimmed. Youlden too is well at home over longer
distances, his 2003 form with Ellery inspiring.
The rest of the top ten (eleven)
19/25 #16 Tander/R.Kelly (HSV)
The defending champions started 2005 well off the game. They struggled,
badly at times. It seemed they did not know why either as the form of
both cars, round to round, was inconsistent. The last few races,
however, have clicked and the team now return to contenders. A point not
lost is this pairing is one of two where both are former Bathurst
champions. Both fast and proven over the distance, the Kelly family team
19/25 #21 Bowe/B.Jones (BJR)
The oldest pairing in the field, and one of the smartest teams. Like
Perkins when it comes to Bathurst, odds shorten for the BOC Gases backed
team. Proven time and again, Bowe and Jones are a deadly combination on
the hill. However they are coming from further down the field this year
and their ability to pick the pitstops will be central to their chances.
One of the best never to win, 2005 probably represents Brad Jones' last
shot at the trophy.
19/25 #51 Murphy/Weel (SCAR)
Turmoil has struck the team throughout 2005. Engineering issues at the
start of the season saw form fade, while in more recent times there has
been management disruption and the major sponsor making independent
statements to the press. Both drivers are keen and capable, with Greg
Murphy now recognised as one of the Hill's all time greats, second only
to Jim Richards from his nation, but can the team overcome the strife
17/25 #18 Seton/Canto (DJR)
There is a gaping hole in Glenn Seton's CV and none are more aware of it
than Seton himself. His arrival at DJR has been a calming influence for
the veteran dual series champion and his new team. DJR have progressed
unobtrusively in 2005 and there is a strength hidden from view. Dean
Canto has been nothing but hidden in 2005, and a nasty crash at
Wakefield Park was only interruption to his dominance of the HPDC series
in 2005, but will the Saturday afternoon championship finale, distract
him from the work to be done on Sunday?
16/25 #17 Johnson/W.Davison (DJR)
As with their team mates, the #17 pairing wear the dark horse tag well.
Johnson has had a settled season compared to some of recent times, and
there is a maturity there now of a driver willing to play the long game.
Davison, on the other hand, has a point to prove. His form at the
Queensland Raceway round of the HPDC series in an unloved AU was a
16/25 #67 Morris/Radisich (Sirromet/Team Kiwi)
The amalgamation of effort from the Mount Cotton based Morris and the
bastions of the Silver fern has been outstandingly positive for both
teams and the two experienced regulars enter Bathurst as genuine dark
horse contenders. Radisich has revived TKR's reputation this year and
brings a balance to the Morris organisation that comes with a two car
operation, despite the outward differences.
15/25 #6 Bright/Brabham (FPR)
Jason Bright may have secured his future in V8 Supercars personally, but
his future as a frontline driver is not as secure. The FPR team
continues to struggle to deliver a car equal to Bright's form from the
Holden years. Head office has committed resources to the team and one of
the world's best endurance drivers has returned to Bathurst once more.
This is the other team to boast two previous winners, but doubt hangs
over the package, as it did last year prior to Lowndes and Seton driving
to second place.
15/25 #20 Bargwanna/Winterbottom (Orrcon)
Both Bargs and Frosty are well rated but the car and the team are not of
the front rank. Winterbottom is still to gain the crucial great result
to cement his reputation, but Bargwanna has shown previously how to come
from outside the front ranks to win this race.
15/25 #22 Ji.Richards/Courtney (HRT)
James Courtney arrives at Bathurst with the best reputation of any
rookie in years. He got within a single step of Formula One, but the
dream faded and is instead one of the top five drivers on the Japanese
scene. The car will be well fettled and his co-driver has credentials
no-one else on the Mountain can claim. This, however, is very definitely
the #2 car within the team. With hopes and effort concentrated on the
other side of the fence, top five will be their aim.
15/25 #34 McConville/A.Jones (GRM)
GRM have slid down the rankings in 2005. The team once thought of in the
front rank of underdog race threats are now mid fielders. McConville is
still highly rated, and Jones is one of the series up and comers but
form is not on their side.
15/25 #88 Ellery/Macrow (Triple 8)
Ellery's reputation has taken a pounding in 2005. No longer part of a
single car team with low pressure expectations, Ellery has been expected
to produce this year and results have been erratic. Fifth at Sandown was
the perfect tonic and a reminder that Ellery can put together a good
race. Macrow has been an unspectacular contender in HPDC, the equivalent
of Steven Richards in the main game. However a dreadful Mallala has
dropped him from championship contention, leaving him less divided come
13/25 #3 Ja.Richards/Whincup (Tasman)
Big improvers of 2005, Richards and Whincup have firmed as drivers of
note this season. The upturn of fortunes culminated in an excellent
Sandown result, but the team's relative position within the field leaves
them midfield, looking for a weather affected race for their talent to
12/25 #5 Ritter/McLaren (FPR)
A competent pairing in a car that will struggle to overcome #2 car
syndrome. Ritter has been disappointing in 2005 but always comes good
for the Mountain, and McLean is a default choice for V8 teams looking to
11/25 #50 O.Kelly/Pretty (SCAR)
Another competent pair looking for a run to the top ten in a supporting
role to team mates shooting for the win. Owen Kelly still looking to
secure a full time professional drive, while Pretty has become a bastion
of Holden supported enduro squads since the late 90's.
10/25 #12 Cleland/Brede (BJR)
The popular veteran Scot returns again to take up a supporting role with
BJR. Competent but lightly raced in recent years, Cleland is joined by
Canberra-based Brede who continues to revive his career every other year
from obscurity with the odd great drive. Car and division of team labour
probably not up to the task however.
9/25 #10 Menu/Halliday (Orrcon)
Number two car containing drivers unfamiliar with equipment. Menu is
hopping straight off the plane from Italy's round of the World Touring
Car Championship, while Halliday made a strong start to the A1GP season
at Brands Hatch.
9/25 #44 Wilson/Longhurst (Longhurst)
The veteran Longhurst, has one last shot at the hill. Potentially quick,
ability to finish very clouded. Major disruption to team after dreadful
Sandown results and a change of ownership culminating with the departure
of the Wills.
9/25 #48 Baird/Besnard (WPS)
Gore may be the wildcard of team owners but capability of the team
continues to create doubt. High turnover of personnel in and out of
cockpit has yet to produce results, although Baird has been a steadying
influence. Besnard is capable of springing a surprise.
8/25 #15 Leahey/Noske (HSV)
Number two team car in what will be a one car effort. Leahey is a
consistent performer but Noske's reputation is on the wane and is short
of race form.
8/25 #021 Gurr/Faulkner (Sirromet/Team Kiwi)
Ostensibly the TKR entry, the national image is diluted this year. Gurr
returns to the team after a controversial 2004 Bathurst, with Faulkner a
steady if unspectacular choice of co-driver. Again, team car syndrome
will see effort concentrated on the #67 entry.
8/25 #23 Coulthard/D'Alberto (Tasman)
Two emerging hopefuls driving low expectation team car entry. Growing
reputations of team and drivers may produce above expectation result.
8/25 #25 M.White/Owen (Britek)
New team still coming to terms with expectation at this level. Both
drivers have a point to prove this year, having been on the fringe for
long periods. There is a potential for them to race above their weight.
6/25 #8 Marshall/Tagliani (WPS)
Highly likely to gain more publicity than results, the two Champ Car
drivers still learning the V8Supercar ropes in a lower order team and
are unlikely to be on the pace, even with Marshall's experience on the
Mountain dating back to late 90s production car races.
6/25 #33 Scifleet/Holdsworth (GRM)
Low expectation team car. It has been a long time since a good enduro
result for the second Rogers entry, but HPDC form of drivers is good,
with Scifleet the pick of the AU drivers, and Holdsworth challenging
D'Alberto as the quickest amongst the Holdens.
6/25 #52 Fernandez/D.White (Britek)
Team car from lower order team. Emphasis will be on finishing. Fernandez
heading for his second 1000 start while White is a veteran on the Hill
in many classes.
5/25 #7 A.Davison/Simonsen (Perkins/Nash)
Back marker single car effort diluted by dependence on Perkins. Davison
has struggled all year in the main series, although resources are tight.
Danish Simonsen now an Australian regular on the Hill.
5/25 #11 D'Agostin/Coleman (Perkins)
As with #33, team traditionally concentrates on senior car, expectation
purely to finish. Both drivers are Bathurst experienced and series
champions in Sedan and Sports categories respectively.
5/25 #45 Porter/Scott (Longhurst)
Team in the doldrums after Sandown, another car looking only to finish.
Porter's promise has faded in recent times as resources tighten with his
HPDC efforts. Kayne Scott is a NZ TRANZAM racer who has not been to the
Mountain since ill-fated third DJR Sierra in 1991.
5/25 #75 Tratt/Evangelou (Perkins/Little)
Long term viability of Toll Express Team in much doubt. Despite Tratt's
popularity results for team have been poor. Expectations will not be
high. Evangelou brings some youthful respectability from HPDC to Tratt's
Main game experience.