ATCC: Bathurst preview

There are those special places in the world of sport that by their very nature transcend the sport itself to enter into the realm of the sacred site. Wimbledon, Augusta, Indy, Lords, Monza. In Australian motor racing that place is the mountain;...

There are those special places in the world of sport that by their very nature transcend the sport itself to enter into the realm of the sacred site. Wimbledon, Augusta, Indy, Lords, Monza. In Australian motor racing that place is the mountain; Bathurst.

On Sunday March 12 for the first time in over two decades the Shell Australian Touring Car Championships returns to Mount Panorama for Round 3 of the title chase.

Current points leader and last round victor Tasmania's John Bowe will start favourite in Sundays race at track where power is everything. Bowe won at his last visit to the mountain in the annual 1000K classic and along with his team leader, the worlds fastest sit down comedian Dick Johnson, Bowe's Falcon should be the leading Ford.

Fellow Ford pilots Glen Seton and Alan Jones have not had a good start to the season and will be looking for a major change of luck. Tony Longhurst has had a dream start to his season in his self built Falcon and as a former winner on the Mount will be keen to do well.

The meeting should also mark the debut of the revolutionary new EF Falcon of former open wheel ace Mark Larkham, the car which features high tech open wheeler technology including a carbon fibre survival shell in the cockpit will be of great interest to all teams.

For Holden all eyes will be on the King of the Mountain, ageing juvenile lead Peter Brock.

Fresh from his second heat win at Symmons, Brock will be keen to recapture the magic which saw him win nine times in the October classic. Larry Perkins, who co-drove with Brock in several of those wins will also be one to watch, Perkins Commodore has a strong engine and good handling and he will no doubt be motivated by the tragic death last week of his regular co-driver and friend Gregg Hansford.

Like the Seton Ford team, the season has not got off to a good start for Fred Gibson's Winfield Holden combo. Lead driver and defending champ Mark Skaife missed the first round due to injury and veteran Jim Richards has not shown the same sort of form that made him such a force in the 80's. Wayne Gardner's Coke team will have the benefit of new engines from former factory engine wiz Robbie Benson. Bensons engines have powered Brad Jones to a lead in the NASCAR series and have a reputation of being both powerful and reliable.

In the battle for privateer honours the likes of rookie David Attard, Falcon driver John Trimbole and former Aussie Sports Sedan champ Greg Crick will come under strong pressure from the Reed/Ashley combination and several other NSW based teams.

The race will however be conducted under the cloud of Gregg Hansford's death at Phillip Island. Although not a regular on the 5 litre circuit Hansford had teamed at various stages of his illustrious career with many of the top drivers, and he won at Bathurst on both 2 wheels and 4. His death has been taken hard by all concerned with the sport down under. He was as one writer put it not only a champion but a champion bloke, and in Australia there can be no higher honour. His humour, generosity and passion will be sorely missed.

-- Brett Ramsey On line Media consultant

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Series General
Drivers Alan Jones , Wayne Gardner , Jim Richards , Brad Jones , Mark Larkham , John Bowe , Tony Longhurst , Peter Brock , Phillip Island