The race is on

The 2023 Bathurst 1000 promises to be an event like no other and Team 18 is just one squad trying to tick all the boxes before race day. By Liz Swanton

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As the new Gen3 Supercars face up for their first tilt at Mt Panorama, Bruin Beasley is trying to plan for every possible scenario at Australia’s legendary circuit.

Beasley is team manager for the Melbourne-based Supercar outfit owned by Charlie Schwerkolt, in charge of operations for the two Gen3 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1s championed by Mark Winterbottom (DeWalt, #18) and Scott Pye.

As with every other line-up in the field, Team 18 will head to the mountain wondering how the race will pan out, given it is the first time the Camaro and its rival, the Ford Mustang, will be racing 1000km non-stop.

Like every other team manager, Beasley is grateful for the return of the Sandown 500. For the first time since 2019, Sandown (17 September) will precede Bathurst, giving everyone involved a 500km ‘shakedown’ before the big one on 8 October.

“The biggest question mark is the life of the componentry,” Beasley says. “We’re still working through some of that, although hopefully we will be on top of it come Sandown.

“Everything will pretty much be the same as it has always been, except that question mark. Last year you could draw on previous history because we’d run those cars for 10 years. This year it is all new. So last year we knew we only needed two of a particular component whereas this year it might be wise to take more.”

With the change to the regulations has come a change in Team 18’s approach. Previously it ran cars built by Triple Eight Racing, with a parts and support package part of the deal. This year, the chassis alone is from Triple Eight and there are parts from the category’s official suppliers; everything else is done in-house. Beasley believes that will be one of the team’s strengths come race day.

“When you’re doing the assembling, you understand it so much better than when you just buy something off the shelf. Back then, if something was broken or needed replacing, it went back to the supplier. Now we do so much of that ourselves.

“It obviously makes your workload bigger but ultimately the guys working on the car are the guys who built the car.”

Another boost for team confidence was its first ever win, with Mark Winterbottom topping this year’s podium in Darwin. Beasley says it’s impossible to overstate the value of a win, especially for those doing the hard yards.

“There has been a lot of work. When you’re not looking competitive and not winning, it’s easy to think, ‘Maybe we’re not doing it right; maybe we’re never going to win’. “For those who have been around a while, we believe we can do it because we know what’s involved and we have done it before but for some of the guys, that was their first win in any category.

So it’s a validation of everything we are doing. We’re not getting it right every time, but it shows there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can get a result. That is really important.”

Also enjoying the boost from that win is the man who posted it. After a six year win-less ‘drought’, Winterbottom says it proves Team 18 can mix it with the best. If the mindset is right on Bathurst day, he believes they could do it again.

“Fortunately, most of the pressure about the new car is on the team,” he laughs.

“As drivers, we believe everything will work well and survive. You have to go 100 per cent all day. Gone are the days when you could conserve until the last 60 laps and then push. Now, a move on lap two can set up your whole day and it’s a fight for every position on every lap. Avoid the risks but don’t back off.”

For this year’s enduros, Scott Pye has Warren Luff sharing driving duties while Winterbottom will again partner with Michael Caruso. He’s delighted.