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Feature:
Conrod Concensus
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 are back.

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 within?

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 standout.

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.

Mid-field

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 Bathurst.

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 overcome resources.

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 fill rosters.

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.

The rest

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.