With the 2016 PIRTEK Endurance Cup just a matter of days away, much of the next week is going to be spent eagerly anticipating the start of next weekend’s Sandown 500. Ahead of my full Sandown 500 preview in the coming days I’ve gone through the 2016 driver combos and picked out some specific driver pairings which I can’t wait to see hit the track at Sandown this coming week.
Cam Waters and Jack Le Brocq
Waters and Le Brocq have to be one of the pairings I’m looking forward to seeing most at Sandown, and I think the Prodrive Racing Australia duo have a real chance of upsetting the top ten, but it’s not going to be easy. After a strong start to the year Waters has had a more difficult mid season that I’m sure many were expecting with a strong 6th in Townsville and a 5th at Winton his only top ten finishes since Symmons Plains all those races ago. Jack Le Brocq is on something of a roll in the Dunlop Series, having taken victory in the last five DS races and is a likely candidate for a main game race seat at some point over the next couple of seasons. The Enduros are a fantastic chance for Le Brocq to make his mark on the biggest stage of all and a solid, error free run for the pair in the #6 Monster Energy Falcon will be critical if they are to take advantage of any front runners who encounter problems.
Waters and Le Brocq real dark horses in terms of finishing in the top ten, but a lack of experience could well count against them if safety cars, weather or on track incidents come into play.
Rick Kelly and Russell Ingall
The Enforcer returns to the hot seat once again, this time to partner Rick Kelly in the Sengled Nissan Altima and with the experienced Ingall behind the wheel I can’t wait to see the pair challenge near the front of the field. The Nissan Altima is a vastly improved car since this time in 2015 and I think Kelly and Ingall are more than capable of finishing on the podium if luck goes their way across all three races. Although not racing together, Ingall finished 9th and Kelly 10th at last year’s Sandown 500 before Ingall and Perkins finished in a solid 11th on the mountain. Kelly and David Russell took a podium in the second race of the weekend on the Gold Coast in 2015, so the pedigree and results are there for this pairing to make a podium finish a realistic target.
James Moffat and James Golding
It was as if James Moffat’s season finally began at Sydney Motorsport Park (SMP) last time out, and if the #34 Volvo can continue that rich vein of form into the Enduro Cup then I think Moffat and Golding could be in for a extremely strong run of races. Golding currently sits 3rd in the Dunlop Series standings behind Le Brocq and Jacobson with one race victory and a further four podiums to his name, and despite Moffat’s lowly position in the VASC championship table on Sunday at SMP he had the car to finish inside the top five. Golding has unsurprisingly been mentioned as an outside contender for the vacant GRM seat for 2017, and the Enduro cup will be fantastic chance for the young Dunlop Series star to establish his credentials in the main game before Garry and Barry Rodgers make their final decision.
GRM haven’t had the best of it during the Enduros over the last few seasons, but with an undoubtedly fast package Moffat and Golding, along with McLaughlin and Wall have as good a chance as any of making it onto the podium, but consistency will be critical.
Garth Tander and Warren Luff
You just can’t discount Tander and Luff from this year’s Enduro Cup race. Incredibly consistent in 2015, Tander and Luff finished 4th, 3rd, 4th, and 3rd over last year’s four endurance races to take the PIRTEK Endurance Cup in style on a HRT dominated podium at Surfers Paradise. How fitting would it be this season if we saw a repeat of Sunday on the Gold Coast given Holden’s recent withdrawal from HRT. In longer races where strategy comes into play HRT are one of the best teams on the grid at getting their two cars into potential race winning positions when it appears the race has descended into a free for all, and I’m certainly expecting one of the HRT cars to be in the mix for the Enduro Cup come the final race on the 23rd October.