MOTORSPORT: Reliability key to Supercars enduros

Sandown 500 returns this weekend with question marks over cars and driver combinations

The 2023 Repco Supercars Championship is stepping into the unknown, with the category’s controversial new Gen3 platform set to be tested in two-driver endurance trim for the first time at this weekend’s return of the Penrite Oil Sandown 500 ahead of next month’s Repco Bathurst 1000.

With four events left in the season and 300 points available from each meeting, it is crunch time in the championship chase, as only 258 points split Brodie Kostecki, Shane van Gisbergen, Broc Feeney and Will Brown at the top of the point standings.

For the first time in the modern era, car reliability may prove to be a telling factor, with question marks remaining over the longevity of items such as steering racks, compounded by multiple dramas in recent testing, which included a brake failure and hefty accident for van Gisbergen at Queensland Raceway.

Strategy, meanwhile, will feature a twist, with the stipulation for compulsory pit stops removed from the regulations for both events, with the 133-litre fuel tanks in the Gen3 cars being 22-litres larger than in the superseded machines, which should allow longer stints at Mount Panorama.

Driver changes are also likely to be an issue, with the smaller cockpit opening on the Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs set to be a challenge, especially for taller drivers who may be forced to race the clock.

From a driver pairing perspective, a lack of miles in the Gen3 cars may be an issue, at least for Sandown, while some new driving combinations may spice up the pecking order.

The Coca-Cola-backed Erebus squad will once again see championship leader Brodie Kostecki pair with David Russell, while Will Brown will share his Chevrolet Camaro with Jack Perkins.

At Red Bull Ampol Racing, Broc Feeney will line up alongside team boss Jamie Whincup, but Shane van Gisbergen will have a new Camaro partner in Richie Stanaway, who returns to a full-time drive next year at Grove Racing.

That Penrite-backed Ford Mustang squad has snared SvG’s previous co-driver in Garth Tander, who will defend his Bathurst crown alongside David Reynolds, while Kiwi Matt Payne will drive with French debutant Kevin Estre.

At Walkinshaw Andretti United, Chaz Mostert and Lee Holdsworth reunite for the first time since their successful 2021 Bathurst campaign, while Nick Percat has picked up Fabian Coulthard in the second Mustang.

The Shell V-Power Mustangs will have carryover combos, with brothers Will and Alex Davison joined by Anton De Pasquale and Tony D’Alberto, while Tickford Racing will be represented by Cameron Waters/James Moffat, James Courtney/Zak Best, Thomas Randle/Garry Jacobson and Declan Fraser/Tyler Everingham, with the Ford team looking to round the season out strongly, as it contracts from four entries to two in 2024.

Other darkhorse combinations could include Andre Heimgartner/Dale Wood, Mark Winterbottom/Michael Caruso, Scott Pye/Warren Luff, and Jack Le Brocq/Jayden Ojeda.

Elsewhere, the field will expand with multiple wildcard entries, headlined by Craig Lowndes and Zane Goddard in a third Triple Eight-prepared Camaro, the same chassis that was benched by van Gisbergen earlier in the season.

The Blanchard Racing Team will get a head start on their 2024 expansion to two full-time entries with a Mustang for West Aussies Aaron Love and Jake Kostecki, while Shell V-Power Racing will add a car for the returning Simona de Silvestro and rookie sensation Kai Allen at Bathurst only.

The Sandown preliminaries kick off tomorrow (Friday, September 15), with the previous two-race Saturday qualifying format replaced by a top-10 shootout, while the Bathurst 1000 is set for October 5-8.

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This news article came from: https://www.carsales.com.au/editorial/details/motorsport-reliability-key-to-supercars-enduros-142517/

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