Team PAYCE ready for Bathurst challenge
All eight Team PAYCE drivers face exciting, albeit busy Bathurst rounds of racing across four categories, with the two Wilson Security Racing GRM Commodores once more taking to a track with little previous data for reference and several drivers doubling up with co-drives in the Bathurst 1000, as well as competing in their regular championships.
Supporting categories include penultimate rounds in the form of mini enduros for Super2 and the Porsche Carrera Cup, while the Touring Car Masters will have their usual three action-packed sprint races.
Picking a winner of this year’s Bathurst 1000 is extremely difficult, with many teams showing improved form. At mid-year, it looked like the remainder of the season would be dominated by two or maybe three teams, but more teams are coming to the fore and, as the Sandown 500 showed, the enduros present fresh opportunities for strategies with fuel and tyres and experience when the pressure is on.
Based on their most recent performance at Sandown, the Garth Tander/James Golding pairing in the #33 Commodore is looking strong for a podium result after their 4th placing in the first enduro of the season at Sandown. James Moffat and Richard Muscat in the #34 Commodore are also in contention for a strong result after their 7th placing at Sandown.
The GRM team has maintained its 4th place in the teams championship for several rounds now and while not quite there yet in terms of qualifying pace they continue to perform well in recent races with good strategies, excellent pit work and solid driving by both Garth and James.
Hopefully, the bad luck that dogged the team towards the end of last year’s race at Bathurst will not reappear in any form. No doubt the vision of Scott McLaughlin in the Volvo being pushed off track on Conrod Straight by Jamie Whincup and then collecting Garth Tander upon returning to the track will get many replays on TV over the weekend.
These days, Bathurst is much more than the main driver. A lot of responsibility rests with the co-drivers and there is no shortage of good pairings across the field, including the GRM camp. James Golding’s appearances as a ‘wildcard entry’ in two rounds has paid off, and despite not competing in the Super2 category this year, he has shown no loss of skill each time he gets behind the wheel of a Supercar. GRM have left Richard Muscat’s #44 Super2 Commodore back in the workshop for the weekend, as it is not a points round and that leaves Richard more time to focus on his all-important co-drive with Moffat. The #34 Commodore combination presents a good steady backup to the #33 car.
In the Brad Jones Racing garage, the team have decided to have Team PAYCE member, Macauley Jones run in the Super2 mini-enduro, as well as partner Nick Percat in the #8 Commodore in the main race. Macauley continues to impress in Super2 and he too, like James Golding, has benefited greatly as a ‘wildcard entry’ in two earlier Supercars rounds.
In the support categories, David Wall continues to lead the Porsche Carrera Cup championship with just the Gold Coast round to go after Baturst and likewise, John Bowe is in top form and sits on top of the Touring Car Masters leaderboard with just the Newcastle round remaining after Bathurst.
Early predictions for the track are for generally dry and clear weather over the four-day meet, although one prediction suggests late showers on Sunday!
The 26 Supercars hit the track on Thursday morning for a 60 minute practice session for all drivers, followed by a second 60 minute practice around midday for co-drivers and a final session in the afternoon again for all drivers.
The co-drivers are back on track early on Friday morning for another 60 minute session, followed around midday with practice five for all drivers and the all-important qualifying session late in the day. This will decide grid positions for the Great Race and who will get a start in the Top Ten Shootout on Saturday The Supercars action continues on Saturday with a final 60 minute practice session and the one-lap dash for the opportunity for the top ten qualifiers to improve their position and be named pole-sitter for the 2017 Bathurst 1000.
After a short 20 minute warm-up on Sunday, the field will grid up and at 11.10am the starter will send them on their 161 lap, 1000 kilometre journey.
In a disappointing outcome for fans, the usual field of 23 is depleted for this non-points round with only 15 cars competing in the 250 kilometre mini enduro that was first run at Bathurst in 2014.
It had been hoped that some Super2 teams would nominate wildcard entries for the Bathurst 1000, but this did not eventuate. With no points on offer, eight regular Super2 teams have decided to give the round a miss, which will take some gloss off a category that has been highly competitive throughout the season. Super2 teams were also able to nominate co-drivers for the long distance race, but few of the 15 have taken up the opportunity, electing to give their regular drivers more track experience. The good news is that the Bathurst round will be re-instated as part of next year’s Super2 championship pointscore.
Garry Rogers’ GRM team will start Mason Barbera in the #99 Commodore, but Richard Muscat will only compete as co-driver to James Moffat in the main race, leaving the #44 Commodore in the workshop.
On the other hand, Macauley Jones will be kept busy with starts in both races – in the Brad Jones Racing #14 PAYCE Commodore in Super2 and as co-driver to Nick Percat in the Bathurst 1000. With last year’s Super2 championship winner and the winner of last year’s Bathurst round not present, there could be some new faces on the podium at race end.
Super2 drivers get a 40 minute practice session on both Thursday and Friday before the qualifying session over 30 minutes late Friday. A quick warm-up session on Saturday morning precedes the 250 kilometre race that gets underway at 2.05pm and wraps up the Super2 program for the meet.
Porsche Carrera Cup
David Wall goes into round 7 of the Porsche Carrera Cup with a healthy 68 points lead in the championship. He is enjoying a very successful season in the #38 PAYCE Porsche 911 GT3 with nine podiums from 17 starts, including three wins.
Last year at this round he was quickest of the field in practice one and his second fastest in qualifying put him on the front of the grid for race one. Over the course of the weekend, he finished on the podium in all three races with a second and two thirds.
David’s performances have been exceptional this season, but once again he will be co-driving in the Bathurst 1000, so his fitness will certainly be put to the test.
A healthy field of 18 Porsches that includes two former front runners in Dan Gaunt and Max Twigg will tackle the circuit in three races.
A single practice session on Thursday will be followed by qualifying and race one on Friday. The Friday race will be the second of a three-race Endurance Cup series and at just under 100 kilometres will be the longest single-driver race in the history of the Carrera Cup Australia. The series will wrap up with another short nine lap race on Sunday morning, after which David can draw breath in preparation for a long stint in the Nissan over the course of the Bathurst 1000.
Touring Car Masters
This year the PAYCE-supported Touring Car Masters celebrates its 10th anniversary at Mount Panorama and over that time there have been, and continue to be, some of the legends of Australian motorsport competing in the best racing that the retro category has to offer.
Team PAYCE driver, John Bowe heads to Bathurst with a small but important lead in the championship, quietly confident the #18 Holden Torana SL/R 5000 can match the bigger engined V8s over the mountain course. While the bigger engined cars will no doubt be quick up and down the straights, the nimble Torana should more than have their measure across the mountain and down through the esses.
With less than 20 points separating the first three places on the leaderboard, this penultimate round could well be the deciding factor in the championship.
JB has an enviable record of six race wins at Bathurst in TCM to his credit, twice as many as Glenn Seton and Jim Richards. Steve Johnson is likely to be his strongest competition, but Glenn Seton and Jim Richards are also on form. Steve Johnson holds the top qualifying time, while JB has the fastest race time to his credit.
A total of 29 cars are entered for this year to compete over the three races, one of which is the ever-popular reverse grid that can be both exciting and heart-stopping as the regular front runners weave their way through the field – a task getting more difficult each race as the competition continues to improve and the majority of the field have similar performance.
Action starts early on Thursday with a morning practice session of 20 minutes followed by a similar session in the afternoon. Friday morning they are back on track early for qualifying before the first six lap race in the afternoon. Saturday morning they take to the track early for race two and wrap up the round early on Sunday morning with race three to help warm up the fans for what promises to be another memorable Bathurst 1000.
Media contact: Bill Smith 0412 446 058