Motorsport: Reliability is key to Supercars enduros

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

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

With four events remaining in the season and 300 points up for grabs from each meet, this is a crucial time in the championship chase, with only 258 points shared by Brody Kostecki, Shane van Gisbergen, Brock Finney and Will Brown at the top of the points standings.

For the first time in the modern era, a car’s reliability may be a deciding factor, with question marks remaining over the longevity of elements such as the steering racks, as well as several dramas in recent testing, which included brake failure and a huge crash for Van Gisbergen at Queensland Raceway.

Meanwhile, the strategy will feature an evolution, with the mandatory pit stop requirement removed from the regulations for both events, with the 133-litre fuel tanks in the Gen3 cars being 22 liters larger than the cars they replace, allowing for longer stints on Mount Panorama.

Driver changes are also likely to be an issue, as the smaller cockpit opening in the Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs is set to pose a challenge, especially for taller drivers who may have to race against the clock.

From a driver pairing perspective, the lack of mileage in the Gen3 cars could be an issue, at least for Sandown, while some of the new drivetrains may increase the sequence order.

The Coca-Cola-backed Erebus team will once again see championship leader Brody 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 will return to driving full-time next year at Grove Racing.

The Penwright-backed Ford Mustangs have landed former SvG co-driver in Garth Tander, who will defend the Bathurst crown alongside David Reynolds, while Kiwi Matt Payne will drive with French newcomer Kevin Estre.

At Walkinshaw Andretti United, Chaz Mostert and Lee Holdsworth combine for the first time since Bathurst’s successful 2021 campaign, while Nick Percat has selected Fabian Coulthard in his second Mustangs.

The Shell V-Power Mustangs will feature carryover groups, with brothers Will and Alex Davison joining Anton Di Pasquale and Tony Dalberto, while Tickford Racing will be represented by Cameron Waters/James Moffat, James Courtney/Zach Best, Thomas Randle/Gary Jacobson and Declan Fraser/Tyler Everingham, with Ford looking to finish the season strong, going from four starts to two in 2024.

Other Darkhorse combinations could include Andre Heimgartner/Dale Wood, Mark Winterbottom/Michael Caruso, Scott Bay/Warren Love, and Jacques Le Brocq/Jayden Ojeda.

Elsewhere, the field will expand with multiple wildcard entries, headlined by Craig Lowndes and Zane Goddard in a third triple-equipped Camaro, the same chassis that van Gisbergen sat on earlier in the season.

Blanchard Racing will get a strong start in its 2024 expansion to include two full-time Mustang entries for West Australians Aaron Love and Jake Kostecki, while Shell V-Power Racing will add a car for returning Simona De Silvestro and rising sensation Kay Allen at Bathurst only.

Sandown qualifying gets underway tomorrow (Friday 15 September), with the previous two-race Saturday qualifying system replaced by a top-10 shootout, while the Bathurst 1000 is scheduled to take place from October 5-8.

(Tags for translation) Motorsport: The Key to Reliability for Supercars Enduros

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