Skaife and Tander split duties as defending Bathurst champs HRT return to the Mountain Briscoe jets back home from A1 GP opener in Holland to make Bathurst debut Defending Supercheap Auto 1000 winner Mark Skaife has won the Bathurst...
Skaife and Tander split duties as defending Bathurst champs HRT return to the Mountain
Briscoe jets back home from A1 GP opener in Holland to make Bathurst debut
Defending Supercheap Auto 1000 winner Mark Skaife has won the Bathurst classic five times and heads back to Mount Panorama this weekend in partnership with 2000 Bathurst winner Garth Tander in the #2 HRT Commodore.
As was the case in the recent Sandown 500, both drivers will split their tasks in the leadup to the 161lap, 1000kilometre endurance classic, with Skaife to concentrate on qualifying and the fight for pole position and Tander to focus on tuning the car for the race.
At Sandown it was Tander who focused on qualifying and blitzed the field to snare pole position, while Skaife concentrated on setting up the car which would ultimately prove the fastest in the race before a steering problem slowed their charge.
By splitting the tasks the duo feel confident that they can give the biggest race of the season a major shot.
"There's no doubt that our car pace at Sandown was really, really strong and that gives us major confidence heading to Bathurst," says Skaife, who has sat on pole for the Bathurst 1000 four times.
"It will be a very special weekend in the wake of the passing of Peter Brock with plenty of emotional tributes.
"We need to ensure that the emotion of the weekend doesn't override us and we continue to focus on the job at hand of trying to win the race.
"HRT's record at Bathurst, particularly over the past three or four years, has been incredibly strong.
"The fight for pole position is always a highlight, but you can't lose sight of the fact that everyone remembers who wins the race, not who starts at the front for it.
"But having said that, you need to start at the front and reduce the chances of being caught up in the midpack dramas that generally occur on the opening few laps while everyone sorts themselves out."
Tander knows all too well about the pitfalls of being stuck in the mid pack in the opening laps of Bathurst. A slow start last year and a multicar collision at the end of the first lap ruined his racewinning chances and he and partner Rick Kelly were forced to solider on th for the rest of the day and finish a distant 16 , 12 laps down.
"It's not an experience I want to go through again, particularly after the disappointment of Sandown as well," says Tander.
"It's a case of going for broke for the rest of the series. I'm 300odd points behind Craig (Lowndes) now in the championship hunt.
"But we didn't have a good finish at Sandown so now we're in the position that to get myself back in the championship we need to win as many races as possible. There's no bigger race to win than Bathurst."
The team's #22 Commodore will again be crewed by seventime Bathurst winner Jim Richards and Aussie international Ryan Briscoe, who starred on his V8 debut at Sandown with provisional pole position.
Briscoe will land back in Australia on Wednesday after finishing third for A1 Team Australia in the opening A1 GP round at Zandvoort in Holland on the weekend.
"Sandown was the perfect opportunity to gather some experience in a V8 Supercar before we go to Bathurst and now the big moment is arriving," said Briscoe.
"The track will be a challenge to learn but I've at least had the chance to go and take a look at it in a road car and get an understanding of where the bumps are and the various landmarks.
"I'm excited to finally be making my first start at Bathurst. If you're going to be a rookie at Bathurst, being with HRT and having guys like Mark, Garth and Jim around only helps to speed up the learning process."
For partner Richards, who will be busy at Bathurst competing in his pet Carrera th Cup events in addition to the V8 Supercar classic, 2006 will be his 35 start in The Great Race, which stands as a record for all drivers.
"I've never been one to race for records or milestones, but it's a pretty nice thing to have so many starts at Bathurst," said Richards.
"I still enjoy my racing and helping bring young Bathurst rookies up to speed like Ryan, who is extremely talented and doesn't need too much coaching, is a really rewarding thing to be a part of.
"We have a fast car and I've been saying all year that the car will be faster than the drivers. By the time we settle into the race and bring up the pace we should be in a good position to finish in the top six or thereabouts."
Opening practice will begin at Bathurst on Thursday at 10.40am. Qualifying will be at 2pm Friday, the Top 10 Shootout at 3.40pm Saturday and the race itself commences at 10am on Sunday after a prerace Peter Brock Tribute.
-credit: holden motorsport