Car 30 Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport / Holden Commodore
V8 driver: Taz Douglas / International driver: Mike Conway
We say: Owned by paralyzed ex-racer Lucas Dumbrell, the tiny outfit continues to improve each season, but lacks the resources to do more than prop up the bottom of the grid. Scott Pruett (2010) and Marino Franchitti (2011) had horrid experiences with LDM at the GC600, which made filling the seat next to a capable driver like Douglas a major challenge. After months of refusals, IndyCar's Mike Conway, who's curious about sports car racing, raised his hand to accept the ride. Based on his sarcastic response below, the Briton is well aware of what he's gotten himself into.
Conway says: I'll be pissed if I'm not on pole… [laughs]. This is first time in a touring car for me. At the moment I just want to see what's out there. One of the reasons for doing this race is to get a good experience of what it's like in a tin-top. I'm open to anything, really, for my future in racing. It should be fun racing with all the guys I used to race against in Europe and a really fun event. Obviously, I'm taking it seriously. Taz is a cool guy. I've known him since the go kart days. It will be great to get back racing with him and I can't wait to get in the car.
Car 33 Garry Rogers Motorsports / Holden Commodore
V8 driver: Greg Ritter / International driver: Ricky Taylor
We say: GRM hits its stride at the GC600 each year, taking the fight to the factory teams with a lot of smiles and grit. Long helped the team to a top-four finish in 2010 and Pagenaud followed it with a podium last year, but its No. 33 Holden will have a harder time keeping the streak alive in 2012. A last-minute switch from full-season driver Alexandre Premat to Greg Ritter should be an improvement, but the void left by Holdsworth is still too much to overcome. With Taylor, GRM has a hungry young talent in the car, but his lack of GT experience will keep overall expectations for this entry within reason.
Taylor says: I've been a fan of the series for so long, and I've watched so many on-boards and so many of the races. But no matter how much you watch, you can never guess what it's like inside of the car. It has a lot of power, it's heavy and it moves around a lot, so that's very different from what I'm used to in Daytona Prototypes. In the same sense, I can see why the racing is so exciting because it's hard to drive and if you make a mistake it's easy to go wide and someone will slip underneath you. I can't wait to get out there with 27 other cars.
Car 34 Garry Rogers Motorsports / Holden Commodore
V8 driver: Michael Caruso / International driver: James Hinchcliffe
We say: A fascinating combination. Caruso isn't a big name outside of the V8 series, but within, he's known as one hell of a fighter. He's an animal at the GC600 and has a rather skilled IndyCar driver to help put on a show for the thousands of loyal GRM fans in attendance. Hinchcliffe starred as part of Mazda's Rolex 24 factory team in January and, despite the big increase in power and torque, the Canadian should shine. He's a perfect fit for this blue collar team.
Hinchcliffe says: These cars are pretty bad-ass. And the team is a group of no-BS racers. That's what I love about them; it's not some big corporate entity but nor is it a bunch of yokels who don't know what they're doing. It's a small group of guys who love racing and have been doing it for a long time and do it pretty damn well. The team's record at Surfers speaks for itself.
There's definitely going to be a lot to learn about tire management and modulating that right foot a little bit more because, certainly, with skinny tires and a bunch of power, you can go backwards in a hurry. But ultimately, it's a challenge, right? And I think any racing driver loves a new challenge, especially a challenge in driving a new racecar. Double special is this racecar happens to be a wild thing to drive.
Car 47 Stone Brothers Racing / Ford Falcon
V8 driver: Tim Slade / International driver: David Brabham
We say: Slade, an Aussie David Coulthard lookalike, is one of the series' rapid young guns in search of his first win. Sitting sixth in the championship, he'll have the steady hand of countryman Brabham in the No. 47 Falcon, which should help to deliver a pair of top-8s if Slade can keep his enthusiasm in check.
Brabham says: I always look forward to going down to Australia to race. The Gold Coast event is a really good one and with some of the international drivers going down there, it makes it interesting. I'd like to think we can get into the top six. I finished fifth there last year in one of the races, crashed in the other. Obviously, I hope to do better than last year; that's the target.
Car 49 Brad Jones Racing / Holden Commodore
V8 driver: Steve Owen / International driver: Boris Said
We say: The partnership of Owen and road course ace Said was particularly effective at the 2011 GC600, taking a hard-fought seventh in Race 2. The BJR team has had a poor season overall, but Owen's a strong qualifier and Said has more tin-top experience than every other international driver on the grid. A repeat of their 2011 form would feel like a win for this entry.
Said says: I go back a long way with Brad Jones, and Steve Owen is a hell of a driver. It's a great team; they fight really hard and do a good job with their cars. I think things will be even faster in our second year together.
Car 51 Kelly Racing / Holden Commodore
V8 driver: Greg Murphy / International driver: Justin Wilson
We say: The legendary Kiwi is rebounding after missing the middle portion of the 2012 championship due to injury. As the author of Bathurst's “Lap of the Gods,” Murph's speed has never been questioned, and with first-time V8 driver Justin Wilson joining him, he'll need to impart everything he knows to get the talented Brit on the limit. Provided Wilson adapts to the Holden's unique driving requirements, I'd rate their chances for a top-six in at least one race as more than possible.
Wilson says: It's just fantastic to drive with Murph. I spent some time with him last week and he's just a great guy, a lot of fun. Hopefully, I can help him get a decent result. That's my own expectation. I'm not expecting to go out and win it…but I don't expect to go and be last, either. I want to be competitive and in the race.
Car 55 Ford Performance Racing / Ford Falcon
V8 driver: David Reynolds / International driver: Nick Heidfeld
We say: Reynolds made a name for himself two weeks ago at the 50th running of the Bathurst 1000, waging a torrid battle with Whincup over the final 20 laps before finishing second. On the heels of that coming out party, look for Reynolds to be on the boil at the GC600, but his teammate, ex-F1 man Heidfeld, could be a limiting factor in the final results. How fast the German adapts to something as different as a V8 Supercar will dictate where the No. 55 finishes. If Heidfeld can hand over the car in the top half of the running order, look for Reynolds to go on one of his familiar passing sprees.
Long says: Reynolds is a guy who just has an immense amount of natural talent. He keeps himself light on his feet and keeps things fresh and fun. Heidfeld…well, I expect that it's not going to be easy for him.
Car 66 Walkinshaw Racing / Holden Commodore
V8 driver: Russell Ingall / International driver: Peter Dumbreck
We say: A veteran of Super GT, DTM, GT1 and GT2 competition, Scotland's Dumbreck should be one of the most impressive GC600 newcomers (see his response below). Ingall, the 2005 V8 champion, has been rather effective this year in a new team after spending a few seasons in the wilderness. Nicknamed “The Enforcer,” Ingall's penchant for making contact when it isn't necessary is the only thing that could keep the No. 66 from a pair of strong finishes.
Dumbreck says: I hate it when expectations are too high! I suppose what you can compare the car to would probably be the GT1 car, the Nissan GTR that I drove in 2010. Big old beast... And I'm hoping that my experience in that will stand me in good stead. You've got to treat these cars with respect because I've heard from enough drivers now that they're not easy to drive, so it's going to be a big challenge, especially around a street circuit where you've got zero margin for error. So I think it's just a case of build up gradually and by the time the race comes up, be on the pace. There are some very big names there…and then there's me. Yeah, it's an honor to be invited and to sit next to a past champion like Russell.
Car 91 Tekno Autosports / Ford Falcon
V8 driver: Michael Patrizi / International driver: Lucas di Grassi
We say: Possibly the least-experienced sports car combo in the event. Patrizi can be fast, and di Grassi, at least in open-wheel and prototypes like the Audi R18, is a rocket, but this duo simply lacks the miles to put up much of a fight.
Long says: They win the Latin last name award, next to Fiore and Morbidelli. We know di Grassi from F1, and Patrizi seems to be a guy that has a lot of speed and experience with his Australian Carrera Cup experience. Hard to say much more about their chances, though.
Car 888 Triple 8 Engineering / Holden Commodore
V8 driver: Craig Lowndes / International driver: Richard Lyons
We say: Lowndes is a close second to teammate Whincup in the championship, and is also Jamie's greatest threat to win either or both GC600 races. As the closest thing the V8 series has to Dario Franchitti, Lowndes has been doing this forever, hasn't slowed down and continues to vie for titles while rapidly approaching the age of 40. He'll have Richard Lyons in the No. 888 for the first time, but after Lyons and Winterbottom combined to win the second GC600 race last year, the Triple 8 team made sure to secure his services in 2012.
Long says: I expect this pairing to be super, super tough. It's pretty amazing what Lyons did last year and Triple 8 snapped him up a lot like they did with Bourdais. Those guys see what they want and they go after it. And I think they've ended up with two pretty awesome pairings. This one's a winner.