Bathurst 12H: Owen and Koundouris preview

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THIRD TIME HOPEFULLY THE CHARM FOR OWEN, KOUNDOURIS BROTHERS

CANBERRA BROTHERS James and Theo Koundouris and their V8 Supercar star co-driver Steve Owen will be hoping that their third attack on the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour will be a charm, after two years of searing speed but no luck on the Mountain.

Twice the well known Porsche racers have teamed with the reigning Fujitsu V8 Supercar champion to tackle the round-the-clock enduro and twice their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo has qualified on pole position.

However, twice that qualifying pace has failed to translate into race results, with two years of disappointment.

Whilst racing their Mitsubishi at Bathurst was a once a year thing, this year the team heads to the Mountain with a combined two full seasons under their belt in their Subabarn Supermarkets Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S.

This, owner / driver James Koundouris believes, puts them in a much better position ahead of the 2011 Event.

"(Theo and I) have had more than a full year driving the Porsche's. The guys preparing the car at Michael Newton Racing are Porsche specialists and we're always in the car so naturally we feel more comfortable in it, so that will work to our advantage," he said.

"In previous years we have had pace to win and the car failed us. Last year was especially hard to take after a fuel pump fuse blew and probably cost us victory. We dropped 14 laps behind the leader and finished eight laps down with one of the fastest cars all day - that was just heartbreaking and we probably should have won that race."

Koundouris has high praise for Owen, in a partnership that started by accident when the brothers were searching for a professional co-driver for their attack on the 2009 race.

"Ryan McLeod from Racer Industries recommended Steve but at the time I hadn't heard much about him," he explained.

"But the moment we put him in the car he was super fast, and you can't expect more than that. He can jump into anything and be quick and because of that we've never looked back. I think his performances with us and especially in the V8 Supercars over the last few years speak for themselves - he's that good."

Whilst the car is different this year the approach, says Koundouris, will be much the same - go at their own pace and get to the final hour to race to the flag.

"There is no point trying to drive away from the field," he emphasised.

"All that does is stress the car and you end up coming back to the field during the inevitable safety car anyway. All three of us are reasonably evenly matched in race pace so we're going to dictate our own speed and make sure we're on the lead lap going into the last hour."

For his part, Owen - who recently signed a deal to race for Paul Morris Motorsport in the 2011 V8 Supercars Championship - said the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour was one of his favourite Events of the season.

"It's a great Event, I love it and it's growing all the time," he enthused.

"The race itself is different to the three other distances races I've done in the last twelve months (Gold Coast 600, Phillip Island 500 and Bathurst 1000, with Triple 8 / Team Vodafone) because it's more of a true endurance Event. You're always passing slower cars, dealing with traffic and driving within the limitations of the car to make sure you get to the end. It's a great challenge.

"I think this year we are in a good position. The Evo was a fast but fragile car but we know the Porsche can go round and round all day - it's what Porsche is famous for in motorsport. I've driven the car and gone pretty quickly so it will be a case of three of us setting our own pace and working on our combined speed to get a result."

The two-time Armor All Bathurst 12 hour pole winner finds himself in the odd circumstance of racing against his new V8 Supercar sponsor, Tony Quinn's VIP Petfoods Porsche GT3 R set to be a key rival to the Koundouris' effort.

"I've driven with James and Theo for a couple of years and we already had this in place before the deal with Tony came together, if it hadn't there is every chance I'd be in the VIP car" he explained.

"I just have to make sure I don't crash into his car during the race, I don't think that would be a great start to the relationship!"

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.

-source: bathurst12hour.com.au

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