ENDURO CUP CO-DRIVER RECAP: WHO IS WHERE
Published 11 February 2019
A rundown on the state of play on the 2019 Pirtek Enduro Cup grid …
STORY: WILL DALE
WITH DJR Team Penske confirming their co-drivers for 2019, it's a good time to take a look at how the Enduro Cup grid is shaping up.
The Shell V-Power Racing Team will continue with Alex Premat and Tony D'Alberto for this season, partnering Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard respectively.
2019 will mark the third season McLaughlin and Premat have driven together with DJR Team Penske and their fifth in total, extending a relationship that dates back to the Kiwi's debut season in Supercars in 2013 when the pair were teammates at Garry Rogers Motorsport.
"Coming back to Australia to partner with the defending champion is very cool, and exciting,” Premat said. “Scott is an incredible driver and being in a new car with him at Bathurst, the Gold Coast and Sandown is going to be a great challenge. I’m really looking forward to it.”
For D'Alberto, his third Enduro Cup campaign with Coulthard will be his fourth for the Ford-aligned squad.
“Being a member of the Shell V-Power Racing Team and the wider Team Penske family makes me need to pinch myself sometimes,” D’Alberto said. “We recently travelled to Team Penske headquarters in the United States, and I was blown away by the operation. Also knowing that I will be getting behind the wheel of the brand-new Mustang is incredible. I just wish the races were sooner!”
Almost half of the 24-car field has announced its co-driver line-up. Here's what we know so far:
- Triple Eight will field what has been widely hailed as a 'dream team', reuniting three time Bathurst-winning combo Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes and acting swiftly to hire Garth Tander to join Shane van Gisbergen.
- Charlie Schwerkolt's IRWIN Racing squad is another to have made a big signing over the off-season, picking up reigning Bathurst 1000 winner Steven Richards to partner fellow new-hire Mark Winterbottom.
- Tickford Racing has confirmed two out of its three combinations, with Michael Caruso departing the full-time Supercars grid to join Cam Waters at Tickford Racing, while James Moffat will return for a second season alongside Chaz Mostert.
- Erebus has also opted for continuity, confirming that Luke Youlden and Will Brown will again join the team at Bathurst, the Gold Coast and Sandown.
- Walkinshaw Andretti Racing has once again opted for stability, with Jack Perkins and Warren Luff returning for their fifth and sixth enduro campaigns with the team. The latter has one of the most impressive Bathurst 1000 records of any current co-driver – Luff has finished on the podium in all but one of his previous six tilts at Mount Panorama, including a pair of seconds with Scott Pye in the last two years – while Perkins will be keen to avenge his early exit from last year's race after an engine failure in the car he shared with James Courtney.
And that's where the list of confirmed drivers ends.
Tim Blanchard stepped away from full-time racing at the end of last year, and while he will return as a co-driver at Brad Jones Racing he will potentially join Nick Percat rather than co-driving his own #21 Team CoolDrive entry.
Tickford Racing still has one vacancy alongside new recruit Lee Holdsworth. Dean Canto, a Tickford co-driver since 2008, has confirmed he is not returning to the team this year, while 2017 Enduro Cup co-winner Steve Owen's two-year deal with Tickford came to an end last year. Tickford's Super2 pilot Tom Randle is a likely contender for the vacancy, pending how the 2018 Mike Kable Young Gun Award-winner fares in his sophomore season in the series.
Kelly Racing is yet to make any announcements on co-drivers, but a new one will need to be found for Rick Kelly with Garry Jacobson expected to be confirmed shortly as making his full-time Supercars Championship debut with the team in 2019.
Garry Rogers Motorsport will roll into 2019 with a youthful full-time driver lineup for their Boost Mobile-backed Holdens, but it remains to be seen if this policy will be extended to its Enduro Cup squad.
Of the one-car squads, 23Red Racing, Matt Stone Racing and TEKNO are yet to confirm their Enduro Cup pilots, although Bryce Fullwood's departure to MW Motorsport in Super2 may point to a new co-driver alongside Todd Hazelwood come October.