2006 Bathurst Form Guide: Holden Preview.

Holden's synergy with Bathurst is one that has been, for the best part of seven years, unmatched by its V8 Supercar rivals Ford. As Matthew Agius begins the first section of a two-part form guide for this weekend's Supercheap Auto 1000, Holden's long standing winning streak has even more reason to continue this weekend.

Holden's synergy with Bathurst is one that has been, for the best part of seven years, unmatched by its V8 Supercar rivals Ford. As Matthew Agius begins the first section of a two-part form guide for this weekend's Supercheap Auto 1000, Holden's long standing winning streak has even more reason to continue this weekend.

In the varying forms of Wynns Racing, Garry Rogers Motorsport, the Holden Racing Team and Kmart Racing, Holden has successfully annihilated the hopes of many a Ford fan to win Bathurst for the past seven years. All of these teams have been at the top of their game when winning the great race, and now several of these teams, some under new guises, are back at the forefront of the championship equation. Names like Skaife, Tander, Murphy, Todd and Rick Kelly plus the veterans Jim Richards and Tony Longhurst are all still driving for the red side after their wins at the Mountain, but following the recent death of nine-time winner Peter Brock, these men have even more incentive to win.

Brock's death sent shudders through the V8 Supercar Championship that had never been felt before. The shudders were higher in magnitude at Holden however - the loss of its greatest son hitting many of its modern heroes hard. All of the aforementioned drivers were influenced by 'Peter Perfect' during their careers and it would be fitting as the tributes flow this weekend, for any of those drivers to have their name inscribed on the inaugural Peter Brock Trophy for the race winners. Even Holden's candidates yet to win a race would be worthy of emerging from insignificance to super stardom this weekend - much in the same way Brock did during his first Bathurst win.

Holden will support sixteen cars from nine teams in this weekend's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Holden Racing Team
#2 Holden Racing Team VZ Commodore Mark Skaife/Garth Tander

Favourite for victory at Sandown and one of the shortest odds for a back-to-back Bathurst win, the crack combination of Mark Skaife and Garth Tander are looking to avenge an unexpected loss in the Betta Electrical 500. Jumping across from the Toll HSV Dealer Team to the Holden Racing Team for just the enduros, former championship leader and Queensland round winner Tander will drive alongside Pukekohe victor and five-time champion Mark Skaife in the #2 HRT Commodore at Bathurst, after V8 Supercar controllers elected not to re-separate the pair. Both are success stories at Bathurst too - Skaife winning five times, whilst Tander has a sole victory in 2000. The #2 Holden Commodore has had some reliability issues in 2006 - notably with a steering failure at Sandown dropping the car from a huge lead - but has generally been one of the fastest cars at all the rounds this year. Easily the favourite with an unrivalled combination of car speed, driver experience and team record (the Holden Racing Team finished second at Sandown and won Bathurst in 2005) the Skaife/Tander duo is one that should definitely finish inside the top five.

Rating: 9.5

#22 Holden Racing Team VZ Commodore Jim Richards/Ryan Briscoe

The second Holden Racing Team entry is another that could impress over the Bathurst weekend. Ryan Briscoe was simply stunning in grabbing provisional pole at Sandown, and was also consistent in the 500 kilometre race. Jim Richards is a veteran and wet-weather expert, so should the race go damp - he should also perform well for the Holden Racing Team. With equal love going into both HRT Commodores, this pair could take a top five finish, but with Bathurst being such a demanding track for first timers, all eyes will be on Briscoe to see how well he handles the mountain, and if he 'does a Courtney' after Richards' 2005 teammate James Courtney finished the pair's race during the opening stint.

Rating: 7

Tasman Motorsport
#3 Tasman Motorsport VZ Commodore Jason Richards/Andrew Jones

Jason Richards and Andrew Jones head to Bathurst with the momentum of consistent top-ten pace at Sandown, despite their non-finish, and the record of a double enduro podium in 2005 pushing heir case for contention. Whilst the Tasman Motorsport operation hasn't been the fastest, nor the most consistent in 2006, the team is undoubtedly a dark horse for Bathurst, with Richards and Jones each experienced drivers at the circuit, and the former standing on the podium at last year's race. As with many strong driver pairings, their result will come down to car performance, and after Sandown a cloud still lingers over the capabilities of the #3 machine.

Rating: 6

#23 Tasman Motorsport VZ Commodore Owen Kelly/Mark Noske

The second Tasman Motorsport machine is one of the longest odds to win the big race, and unsurprisingly it is due to the driving experience of the two men driving the car. Mark Noske is a former full time driver, but hasn't driven regularly since midway through 2004, whilst teammate Owen Kelly has never driven full-time in the top level of V8 Supercar racing, and was actually swapped by Supercheap Auto Racing to Tasman for the enduros. A top twenty finish would be credible for this pair as the #23 Commodore has been unimpressive in 2006.

Rating: 4

Jack Daniel's Racing
#7 Jack Daniel's VZ CommodoreSteven Richards/Paul Dumbrell

Jack Daniel's Racing performed miserably at Sandown, but that is the way the team has gone for the majority of the 2006 championship. The former Holden heavyweights have been boxed out by the Tom Walkinshaw teams for funding, and despite the strong pairing of Dumbrell and Richards, it looks unlikely that they will come good at Bathurst. However there is a chance that they could make the podium if the cards fall their way...and are played right. Perkins Engineering is vastly experienced at Bathurst - one positive for the lead car - and Richards is a double winner. The final word is that the #7 Commodore could surprise, but its unlikely to have the pace to challenge for the top spot on the podium.

Rating: 7

#11 Jack Daniel's VZ CommodoreJack Perkins/Shane Price

Perkins and Price are both main game rookies, but the pair have shown good pace in the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series and were consistent at Sandown. In spite of this, the Jack Daniel's Racing #11 machine is on par with its' sister car, so a top twenty finish would be optimistic for this duo, although raw speed for the youngest combination at Bathurst could net them a top fifteen place.

Rating: 5

Toll HSV Dealer Team
#15 Toll HSV VZ Commodore Rick Kelly/Todd Kelly

Undoubtedly the number one pick for Holden's Bathurst lineup, Todd and Rick Kelly go into the 1000 at short odds for a win, and why wouldn't they with so many positive factors providing momentum for the Mildura brothers? The #15 Toll HSV Dealer Team Commodore was one of the top combinations at Sandown - finishing a narrow second behind the ultra defensive Jason Bright - but the biggest plus for the Kellys is the success of the team at Mount Panorama. Twice has the Toll HSVDT won at Bathurst, albeit under the guise of Kmart Racing, in 2003 and 2004. Rick Kelly was joined by Greg Murphy in that back-to-back success and even though 2005 didn't quite go to plan for the re-emerging operation, the Clayton squad has been blessed with enviable pace in 2006. Both drivers are class acts, each entered V8 Supercars via the Holden Young Lions development program, and both have tasted the victory champagne at the Mountain. It would be fitting for the pair to win the inaugural Peter Brock Memorial Trophy - the late master of Mount Panorama a significant influence on their careers, which sees them go into the weekend as a firm favourite.

Rating: 10

#16 Toll HSV VZ Commodore Anthony Tratt/Tony D'Alberto

Tratt and D'Alberto are unlikely to challenge for a result in the Supercheap Auto 1000, despite the speed of the competitive #16 Commodore at their disposal. Tratt hasn't driven full time since last year, and D'Alberto has lost his mantle as the top Holden driver in the Fujitsu V8 Series. A top ten could be on the cards if they stay out of trouble, but consistency really is the key for these guys.

Rating: 4.5

Garry Rogers Motorsport
#33 Repco Valvoline Cummins VZ Commodore Greg Ritter/Cameron McLean

The second Repco Valvoline Cummins Commodore of Greg Ritter and Cameron McLean boasts a talented and experienced Bathurst combination that finished fourth at the mountain once upon a time. Now at Garry Rogers Motorsport, and the duo drive a car that has not performed well for the past three years. Given their lack of experience this year, the #33 entry cannot be expected to make the top ten, however a top twenty is on the cards if their Bathurst prowess remains sound.

Rating: 6

#34 Repco Valvoline Cummins VZ Commodore Dean Canto/Lee Holdsworth

Despite losing its foothold as one of the better teams in the championship, Garry Rogers Motorsport is one of the few to win Bathurst in V8 Supercars. Even though the men who took that victory in 2000 having moved to newer pastures, Dean Canto (a double Fujitsu Series champion) and Lee Holdsworth are youthful enough to take a strong finish and possibly even contend for a win should a good strategy and level headed driving pay off at the end of the race. Car pace will be a major factor for the lead car's success and this is the main weak point for the team.

Rating: 6.5

Team Sirromet Wines
#39 Sirromet VZ Commodore Kayne Scott/Alan Gurr

The Scott/Gurr entry is unlikely to contend for a win. Scott hasn't driven at Bathurst frequently enough to be considered a real contender and Gurr only participates in the occasional V8 Supercar sprint round in this car. Gurr has driven at Bathurst many times and this will count in his favour, but the second Sirromet Wines Holden has been nowhere near the pointy end of the grid in 2006 and isn't expected to do any better this weekend at Mount Panorama.

Rating: 3

#67 Sirromet VZ Commodore Paul Morris/Steve Ellery

The lead Team Sirromet car will perform better than its sister car, simply because it has the better driver combination and the better machinery. Morris and Ellery are well experienced with the demanding Mount Panorama track, and the car has been consistent in 2006. The main limitation for this combination is Ellery's lack of experience in the Sirromet Holden. Having driven Ford's since 1999, Ellery lost a full-time opportunity in 2006 and instead had to drive the second Sirromet car at selected rounds. A top fifteen finish would be welcome.

Rating: 6
Supercheap Auto Racing
#50 Supercheap Auto VZ Commodore Paul Weel/Nathan Pretty

Weel and Pretty are one of the better non-full time combinations racing at this weekend's 1000 kilometre race. Weel retired from racing at the end of last year, but returns to his own team with Nathan Pretty who will also be running Fujitsu Series duties this weekend. These guys know the mountain well and Pretty finished in the top ten last year, whilst Weel was looking good for one before teammate Greg Murphy crashed out. Unfortunately, the Supercheap Auto Racing Commodores have been fairly unreliable in 2006 - a severe drop in competitiveness from last year - and have drawn crass comments drawing comparisons between the team name and the car performance. A turnaround in form at Sandown however would be encouraging for this pair, however Weel must re-familiarise himself with the car a lot better than he did at Sandown if they wish to claim the possible top fifteen finish.

Rating: 6

#51 Supercheap Auto VZ Commodore Greg Murphy/Cameron McConville

Never write off a Kiwi scorned. Greg Murphy, a four-times Bathurst champion, returns to Mount Panorama with unfinished business after last year's famous collision with Marcos Ambrose and subsequent verbal taunting prompted a downward spiral for the Supercheap Auto team that has had trouble recovering. The reliability issues that plagued the team last year returned in 2006, but with two double-crashes in Adelaide at the start of the season, the Dandenong team have had a tough time recovering. A noticeable improvement before succumbing to, again, mechanical problems, has injected a spark of optimism back to the team and with Greg Murphy's reputation for only being able to perform well at a few circuits (one of them being Bathurst) the marked speed increase hasn't come at a better time. Murphy's co-driver and regular teammate Cameron McConville has also won Bathurst in the 24-hour race held a few years back and will be ever consistent in the lead SAR machine. A top five finish and possibly even a win is surely on the cards following their Sandown pace, but reliability will be the deciding factor for this pair.

Rating: 7.5

Autobarn Racing
#55 Autobarn VZ Commodore Steve Owen/Tony Longhurst

One of Holden's only single car teams, Autobarn Racing boasts a talented lineup this year. Steve Owen was regarded as the top performer in a team's second-car in 2004 and has since been rewarded with full-time drives in the V8 Supercar Championship. His Bathurst talents will be an asset to the fledgling Rod Nash Racing-operated squad, coupled with the experience of the veteran Tony Longhurst, (the 2001 Bathurst winner) to form a definite dark horse. Car speed isn't a problem - the car isn't the quickest, but it is able to race at the front given good driving. A top ten is definitely possible.

Rating: 7

Team Kiwi Racing
#021 Makita/3M New Zealand VZ CommodorePaul Radisich/Fabian Coulthard

The all-Kiwi combination of Paul Radisich and Fabian Coulthard is, like Autobarn Racing, another dark horse. The Rat is regarded as one of the best evergreen drivers in the series, able to clock quick times even if the car isn't the best, whilst Coulthard has been one of the revelation rookies of the championship in 2006 - hence his reward in being signed to the Holden Young Lions development program. The Paul Morris Motorsport-prepared car will go well at Bathurst, adding to the synergy that TKR has developed at Bathurst, and in what is set to be the Airport Oaks team's final Bathurst in a Holden, the All Black Commodore could feature at the pointy end of the grid.

Rating: 7

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