Top five Enduro Cup pairings for 2017

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    Shane van Gisbergen. (AAP Image/Edge Photographics)

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    The season of endurance is nigh and as the Supercars championship prepares for one of the most crucial periods of the year, it is time we highlighted five of the best pairings on the grid.

    Shane van Gisbergen and Matt Campbell – #97 Red Bull Holden Racing Team
    It has been a tough title defence for Van Gisbergen to date, but it was during the Enduro Cup in 2016 that the Kiwi racked up the big points.

    The 28-year-old in 2017 will be joined by the young Matt Campbell, a driver who this year has been making waves in Europe.

    22-year-old Campbell who contested his maiden Enduro Cup last year with Nissan, graduated to the Porsche Supercup series for 2017, which is the undercard for Formula One in Europe.

    Campbell has achieved two wins in the Supercup, with the most recent coming at Monza. Having been racing for the majority of the year and quite competitively, he makes for a compelling co-driver alongside a heavyweight of Supercars.

    Scott McLaughlin and Alex Prémat – #17 DJR Team Penske Ford
    DJR Team Penske acquired not one, but two Frenchmen over the off-season to complete McLaughlin’s side of the garage, with the 24-year-old’s former GRM teammate and co-driver in Alex Prémat being reunited with the Kiwi.

    The pair have unfinished business in the enduros, having suffered heartbreak together at the 2014 Bathurst 1000. McLaughlin himself in 2016 was involved in a late-race incident that saw himself and Garth Tander out of the race, which stripped a potential win away again.

    Prémat, having been teamed up with Van Gisbergen in 2016 had put to bed a lot of the criticism surrounding his consistency – having won the Enduro Cup.

    Coming into this campaign, the pressure is most definitely on Prémat to bring that same ability he did in 2016 for Van Gisbergen’s cause – as despite McLaughlin’s lead in the championship, the tides can change quickly across the three big events.

    Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell – #88 Red Bull Holden Racing Team
    Year after year, this pairing find themselves on list despite their results doing little to justify the presence. Regardless, the combination of Whincup and Dumbrell is one of reliability and when both drivers are firing – the outcome can be devastating on the competition.

    Jamie Whincup Bathurst 1000

    (Image: VUE Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

    Whincup’s hunger for a seventh title hasn’t been any greater than it is, while Dumbrell chases another crown in the Super2 development series.

    Having found some winning form in recent rounds, Whincup will be primed to be a force in the Enduro cup, because as we know that this combination is capable of winning key races such as Sandown and Bathurst.

    The question remains however, whether in the crux moments of say a Bathurst 1000, will the six-time Supercars champion choke for a fifth straight year?

    Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards – #888 Team Vortex Holden
    Another pair that find themselves on this list based on reliability. It is impossible to ignore the rich history of success these two names have enjoyed, particularly during the endurance races.

    A combined total of ten Bathurst 1000 wins is the most of any pairing on the Supercars grid, yet there remains doubt as to whether the pilots of the Team Vortex Holden will be troubling the championships out front.

    One thing for sure is, that on the day when their car is balanced perfectly,
    Lowndes and Richards are the strongest combination by far and despite the former not being in championship contention in 2017 – his results in the Enduro Cup could have an impact on the overall outcome.

    Cam Waters and Richie Stanaway – #6 Monster Energy Ford
    A left-field choice and one that represents the strongest duo inside of the Prodrive operation.

    2016 saw the emergence of Kiwi superstar Stanaway, who in his Supercars debut at Sandown was scything through the opposition in such horrendous conditions – winning over many fans.

    While results had not gone in the favour of young Waters and Stanaway in 2016, there is onus on them to translate the newfound speed of the Prodrive Ford Falcons, into surprise results in the Enduro Cup.

    Waters may have had his contract renewed with the Victorian outfit for another two seasons, but it is Stanaway who will use this campaign as a platform to send a message that he can be a force in this category.

    And that is, if he already hadn’t following his stellar Super2 debut at Sydney Motorsport Park, where he won his maiden race and finished third in the round standings.