James Courtney and David Besnard will aim to take the fight to the lead driver combinations as the V8 Supercar Championship heads to Bathurst for the biggest event on the 2008 schedule.
While a number of teams, including Team Vodafone, FPR and Toll HRT, elected to put its two regular drivers together in one car for the enduro events at Phillip Island and Bathurst, Stone Brothers Racing kept its regular pair Courtney and Shane van Gisbergen apart – with Courtney joined by Besnard in the JELD-WEN Falcon and van Gisbergen partnered by Jonathon Webb in the SP Tools car.
The decision not to pair its regular drivers together proved to be the right one last season as Courtney and Besnard took second place at Bathurst, with Besnard being the only non-full time V8 Supercar driver to secure a place on the podium.
Having finished sixth in the opening enduro event of the year at Phillip Island, Courtney and Besnard will now look to try and repeat their Bathurst success of twelve months ago and Courtney warned SBR's rivals not to underestimate their chances.
“A lot of people don't really rate Bezzy and I as a chance but our past results speak for themselves,” he said. “We've been on the podium the last two years. As long as you are in contention on the lead lap after that last stop, you can win it. Good strategy can keep you in the game; safety cars, weather, there are so many variables in the day.
“The whole day is not about outright speed, it only comes into play after the last stop. With the driver/co-driver set up we are both clear on what our role is – there's no fighting for status within the team and we can focus on getting the job done. We don't listen to all the talk; we know we are a chance and we will put our heads down and go hard.”
The combination of van Gisbergen and development series driver Webb are also considered a rank outside chance although both drivers head into the weekend more than comfortable with the underdog tag.
Indeed, van Gisbergen produced an encouraging performance during wet conditions at Phillip Island before the duo ultimately took the flag in tenth place and he said he was confident of a strong run for the #9 Falcon in the series' blue riband event.
“There is a lot of talk about SBR's lead driver and co-driver combination,” he said. “In some ways it does make it a little bit harder, getting another driver familiar with the car. But with Jonathon, he is in the SBR Fujitsu car during the year and the cars are very similar for that purpose. We also don't mind being the underdog. It takes a bit of pressure off.
“We can go into the race, do our own thing and do the best we can do and hopefully sneak away with the result at the end. SBR had two very good cars at Phillip Island so that gives us a lot of confidence for Bathurst. We just need to stay clean and then go for it in the last 30 laps.
“It would probably be good for us if the race is wet; the car handles well in the wet and I do enjoy it. But you can't hope and pray for it, you have to have the pace in the dry too.”