RALLY STAR HERRIDGE READY FOR BATHURST RETURN
RALLY ACE DEAN HERRIDGE will return to Mount Panorama, Bathurst this year as the fight between Subaru, Mitsubishi and BMW intensifies in the Production car ranks ahead of the 2011 Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour.
Flying the flag for Subaru, Herridge will start his third 12-hour race in two weeks time after showing his substantial Tarmac talents in two previous attacks on the Mountain.
Herridge - and co-drivers John O'Dowd and Angus Kennard - will steer a 2.5-litre Turbo Subaru Impreza built and operated by the Maximum Motorsport business he operates out of Western Australia with his father, multiple Australian Rally Champion Rob.
In 2007 he raced in a works Subaru team with fellow Rally stars Cody Crocker and Chris Atkinson, finishing a stunning second outright and winning the four-wheel drive turbo class.
The 34-year old from Perth then returned last year in a current-model car with the Jim Hunter Racing team and was in contention for a top result, before a now well-documented crash at the top of the mountain with a stranded Mitsubishi - driven by Hollywood actor Eric Bana - ended his run.
That accident was one of the few times Herridge's trademark grin disappeared from his face throughout the weekend, but the Laconic West Aussie says that is now well behind him.
"I've probably run that through my head more than enough times. It's one of my lowest moments in the sport but these things happen and you've just got to move on with it all," he said.
"The chance to return to Bathurst is one we are really excited about it. Our team and the people that help us out here are buzzing because an opportunity to go and compete at a place like Bathurst is a rarity. We can't wait."
However, when you mention Bathurst to Dean Herridge that trademark grin returns - and quickly.
"Bathurst is Bathurst, there's nothing else like it. I watched the race as a kid and Peter Brock was my hero so to be able to race there is pretty special.
"We aim to be as professional as possible in everything we do, and while we are flying under the radar a bit this year it's going to be a great experience. I think we will go well."
After years of success in Australian Rallying, Herridge took to competition on solid surfaces like a duck to water, tasting success immediately in the Australian Tarmac Rally Championship that has been his home for the past few seasons.
He believes each form of the sport creates a different level of excitement - but that the preparation is very much the same.
"In a Rally, be it tarmac or gravel, you are racing yourself and the clock. When you get onto a circuit, it's a buzz for me to be out there with other cars and in the thick of the action.
"From our business there are a lot of things similar between racing in a 12-hour race and racing in Targa Tasmania, for instance. They require a similar mentality and level of preparation, and putting the right people in place to do the job.
"I had a brief chat to Allan Heaphy (team principal of TMR Australia, two-time winners of the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour and former rivals of Herridge in the Rally scene) and though naturally he didn't give us much info, he said 'If you take the same level of preparation into endurance racing that you do into Rallying, you will be fine', so that was good to hear."
The fight in the High Performance Production car class will likely be highly competitive, the Maximum Motorsport Subaru facing a pair of Mitsubishi Lancers and the two-time winning BMW 335i turbo entered by GWS Motorsport.
Despite the absence of the crack TMR squad, the EVO attack comes from two capable teams - the East's Holiday Parks entry to be driven by Leigh Burgess, Damien Flack and former Gold Star (open wheel) Champion Neil McFadyen, and the Peter Conroy Motorsport car to be steered by Anthony Robson, Mark Brame and Peter Conroy himself.
Whilst the Conroy Evo was a last-minute entrant, the team is match fit after contesting the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour and Eastern Creek's six and eight hour races last year.
GT vehicles will join with production cars for the first time in 2011, with entries secured from Audi, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, Holden, Lotus, Mitsubishi, Mosler, Nissan, Porsche and Subaru .
Historic Group N Touring Cars, Group C & A Historic Touring Cars, Improved Production, HQ Holden's and Formula Vee will feature throughout Friday and Saturday's action, ensuring a racing program that caters to nearly every type of Australian Motorsport fan.