IndyCar stars Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe will share a Walkinshaw Andretti United wildcard entry at this year’s Bathurst 1000.
The Holden squad, which formed an alliance with IndyCar team Andretti Autosport and United Autosports in 2017, has long been keen to enter a wildcard at the mountain.
The plans have now been formalised, with WAU to field a third ZB Commodore alongside the Scott Pye/Warren Luff and James Courtney/Jack Perkins entries.
Live stream the 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship on KAYO SPORTS. Every practice, qualifying & race live & anytime in HD. Get your 14 day free trial >
‘S***house’: How tough weekend sparked pitlane problem-solvers
‘The little team that can’: David vs. Goliath story set for Bathurst
‘Rejuvenated’: Lowndes casts gaze to defence of Bathurst crown
‘I like the hype’: Mostert responds to contract rumours
The Rossi/Hinchcliffe entry will carry the #27 at Bathurst, a number historically linked with Andretti Autosport. Rossi, who is currently running second in this year’s IndyCar season, uses the number. Hinchcliffe also ran the #27 during his tenure with the team.
The duo will head to Australia ahead of the October 10-13 Bathurst event to conduct a three day test at Winton.
It is the second confirmed wildcard entry, with Kostecki Brothers Racing to compete in all three endurance events.
Both drivers have considerable pedigree. Rossi won the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, and also boasts Formula 1 starts with Marussia in 2014 and 2015. Hinchcliffe has already tasted Supercars machinery, competing for Garry Rogers Motorsport in the 2012 Gold Coast 600.
The wildcard entry has yet to unveil a naming-rights backer, but U.S. Concrete — via its chairman and CEO William Sandbrook — is expected to feature, alongside backing from series title partner Virgin Australia.
“Running a wildcard entry for the Bathurst 1000 has been a goal for us since the formation of Walkinshaw Andretti United, and I’m really looking forward to bringing some of Andretti Autosport to the mountain,” team co-owner Michael Andretti said.
“It’s 100 percent a bucket list item,” Rossi added.
“It’s in one of those six big races alongside the likes of the Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bathurst is right up there, so to be able to have this opportunity to do it with Walkinshaw Andretti United and still be close to home with the Andretti Autosport connection is very cool and I can’t wait to get started.
“It’s going to be a steep learning curve and I’m very aware of that.
“I’ve got a few friends who are Supercars drivers, so I know how talented the competition is, and how challenging this specific racetrack is, but at the same time it’s a really exciting challenge and something that has been on my target list for a long time, we’re going to go out and do the best we can.”
Hinchcliffe has recorded six IndyCar race wins and currently races for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and could yet form part of its new guise with McLaren in 2020.
However, the Canadian is focused on his maiden appearance at Mount Panorama.
“As drivers we look back at the era of guys like Mario [Andretti] jumping in a different car every weekend, the nature of the sport now is quite different and it’s not quite as easy to do that,” Hinchcliffe said.
“When these opportunities come up you want to jump at them and really grab a hold of them.
“The Gold Coast race some years ago was a huge blast and a bucket list thing to, but for Supercars the Bathurst 1000 is their Indy 500, it is their 24 Hours of Le Mans, it’s their hallmark event so to get to add that one to the resume is very special.
“For sure it’s a big ask, we are neophytes to the car, to the track, to everything involved, but I think we are both competitive and Alex is an immensely talented guy, a very driven guy, and together we can push ourselves and the team and hopefully not make ourselves look too silly.”
History is on the duo’s side – Triple Eight fielded the most recent entry with two international drivers at Bathurst, with Mattias Ekstrom and Andy Priaulx wildly impressing to 10th in 2013.
Team co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw opened up on his excitement in seeing two of American open wheel racing’s best prepare to take on the mountain.
“It’s fantastic to bring this program to life, and to strengthen our relationship with our partners,” said Walkinshaw.
“I can’t wait to see both Alexander and James behind the wheel of a Supercar. It’s not only a big deal for our team, but the sport as a whole.”