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Herald Sun, 20-07-2001

Drivers are jostling for position as the competition for Bathurst revs up, writes ANDREW MacLEANFOUR of the final front-running spots for this year's Bathurst 1000 were filled this week.

Openwheel aces Paul Stokell, Greg Ritter, Adam Macrow and Luke Youlden have all scored the prize drive of their racing careers as the remaining co-drivers in Dick Johnson's Falcon team and Larry Perkins Commodore team for next month 's Queensland 500 and the Bathurst 1000 in October.

Stokell and Ritter will join Paul Radisich and Steven Johnson in the Shell team, while Macrow and Youlden will join forces and drive the second Castrol Commodore alongside Perkins and Russell "The Enforcer" Ingall.

All four drivers may not be household names, yet each has a point to prove as former openwheel champions looking for the big break into a full time V8 Supercar seat.

Johnson Sr has still to decide on the final driver pairings in his team, but says his two newcomers are underrated and should perform well in the long- distance races.

"I'm very confident we will go to Bathurst and be the pace setters again, for the third year in a row," Johnson said.

"Both Paul and Greg have been on our driver list for quite some time, but we' ve only really had the opportunity to test them quite recently. "

While neither Stokell nor Ritter is a regular in the booming V8 Supercar series, both drivers have plenty of experience in the thundering tin top class.

Stokell, a former triple Australian Drivers Champion, has driven at Bathurst three times -- twice alongside Wayne Gardner and last year joining Steve Ellery in a Falcon -- and is currently leading the GT Nations Cup championship for exotic sports cars driving a V12-powered Lamborghini Diablo. Ritter also has a pretty decent resume, having won the 1999 Formula Ford championship before joining the Bathurst-winning Garry Rogers Commodore team in the endurance races. He has also made a handful of appearances in a privateer V8 Commodore recently, but says he still has a lot to learn about the differences between a front-running car and a backmarker.

Perkins too says Macrow, the 1998 Formula Ford champion, and Youlden, the 2000 title holder who also drove for his team in last year's race, will be a strong combination in the endurance races.

The quartet's confirmation leaves only a handful of potential race-winning seats open, with the most obvious vacancies at the KMart Racing team alongside Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly. An announcement is expected from the TWR-run operation next week, with Rick Kelly and Nathan Pretty the hot tips.

Confirmed Bathurst teams

Holden Racing Team: Mark Skaife, Jason Bright, Tomas Mezera, Tony Longhurst.

Ford Tickford Racing: Glenn Seton, Steven Richards, Jim Richards, Dean Canto.

Castrol Perkins: Larry Perkins, Russell Ingall, Adam Macrow, Luke Youlden.

Shell Helix Racing: Paul Radisich, Steven Johnson, Paul Stokell, Greg Ritter.

Garry Rogers Motorsport: Garth Tander, Jason Bargwanna, Leanne Ferrier, Paul Dumbrell.

Stone Brothers Racing: Marcos Ambrose, Greg Crick, David Besnard, Matthew White.

Gibson Motorsport: Craig Lowndes, Neil Crompton.

CAT Racing: John Bowe, Simon Wills.

OzEmail Racing: Brad Jones, John Cleland.
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