However, while the Kosteckis are no strangers to the Supercars circuit, currently running a strong Super2 campaign, history is against Rossi and Hinchcliffe.
Just one full international pairing (also discounting New Zealand) has won the race. That came in perhaps the most famous result of them all, with Canadian Allan Moffat and Belgian Jacky Icxx leading a Ford 1-2.
However, as a wildcard pairing, Rossi and Hinchcliffe should look to a green Commodore in 2013 as to how a one-off effort can make waves in Australia’s biggest race.
THE BENCHMARK PERFORMANCE
Six years ago, Triple Eight brought together DTM star Mattias Ekström and multiple WTCC champ Andy Priaulx in an XBOX-backed VF Commodore, which was engineered by whiz Ludo Lacroix.
While Ekström was on his Bathurst debut, Priaulx was making his fourth start in the race. However, the Briton only had two DNFs and a 12th to his name.
Starting 18th — already a sterling effort — Priaulx and Ekström weren’t expected to make as big an impression as they would by race’s end. Ekström even led the race for two separate stints, before the #10 crossed the line an impressive 10th.
Incredibly, two-time DTM champ Ekström had not seen Mount Panorama or raced a Supercar before the event.
FULLTIMERS GET THEIR KICKS
Cameron Waters may now be a Tickford mainstay in the championship, but his first forays came in consecutive Bathurst starts in wildcard entries for Kelly Racing. The first came in 2011 after the then teenager won the Shannons Supercar Showdown, with his prize being to drive alongside Grant Denyer. While Waters became the event’s youngest ever participant, at the age of 17 years, two months and six days, a crash at Forrest’s Elbow would eventually end their day. Waters returned a year later with fellow teenager Jesse Dixon, and the pair went on to finish in 20th.
For 2014, Ant Pedersen linked up with current Kelly Racing driver Andre Heimgartner in a Super Black Racing Falcon run out of the Prodrive garages. The car was qualified in 23rd, but a stunning drive by both drivers in the chaotic race saw the #111 come home 11th, with the Kiwis running as high as second at one stage.
A year later, another European came to Bathurst hoping for great things. This time, it was open wheel charge Simona de Silvestro, who joined forces with Renee Gracie and Prodrive in a Harvey Norman Falcon. Their weekend was somewhat shrouded early when Prodrive stablemate David Reynolds made his costly quip in the Thursday press conference, which landed him a $25,000 fine. De Silvestro and Gracie brushed it off and the car was qualified in 25th. However, Gracie found the Forrest’s Elbow wall early, before they wound up 21st, 40 laps off the race winner.
The duo linked up again 12 months later, this time in a Nissan. A standout drive to 14th was reward for a clean race, despite being two laps off the pace.
OTHER WILDCARD ATTEMPTS
In 2009, there were three wildcard entries — the Damian Assaillit/Brad Lowe MW Motorsport Falcon, the Sam Walter/Taz Douglas Greg Murphy Racing Commodore and the David Sieders/Andrew Fisher Sieders Racing Team Falcon. Only Assaillit and Lowe would reach the flag on Sunday, with the other two cars damaged in earlier weekend crashes. Assaillit returned with Pedersen and MW Motorsport a year later, but could only manage 26th, eight laps down on the winners.
Beating Jamie Whincup to the flag in 2015 was perhaps some solace for Novocastrian Motorsport duo Aaren Russell and Drew Russell in 2015. The entry ran as high as third as pit sequences played out, but ended up 17th at the flag, just ahead of the Whincup/Paul Dumbrell entry following the #1’s late-race Safety Car disaster.
THE NORTH AMERICAN ATTRACTION
For big names Rossi and Hinchcliffe, a strong showing at Bathurst may open doors to more international stars wanting to throw their hats in the ring at Australian motorsport’s marquee event. Rossi may be a Supercars rookie, but he is a former Indianapolis 500 winner. Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, made a one-off start as an international at the 2012 Gold Coast 600 for Garry Rogers Motorsport.
Broadcaster SPEED TV ran its own coverage of the 2011 Bathurst 1000, and even brought NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip and commentator Mike Joy to the circuit to call the event. Mount Panorama left a lasting impression on Waltrip in particular — during a hot lap with BJR’s Jason Bright, an elated Waltrip claimed the circuit was a “geological oddity”.
With the Penske and Andretti names already on the Supercars grid, with the former eyeing off a driver-team championship double in 2019, North America already has some leverage in the series.
For first-timer Rossi, his and Hinchcliffe’s efforts this weekend could “open some doors for other guys to come over and do it”.
“Everyone knows about Supercars in the racing world, but obviously in America there’s a lot of different sports that attract a lot of attention,” Rossi said.
“I think once people who are fans of IndyCar tune into this race, see the competitiveness of it, the uniqueness of the track and just how cool the series is and great the drivers are, there will be a lot more eyeballs paying attention.
“Hopefully, with NAPA Auto Parts being a US name coming on-board to support us for this event and their expansion into the Australian market, it opens a lot of doors for all of us.”
“You never know when this dream is going to end, so you have to celebrate it to the fullest,” he said.
“We spent the night in Bangkok and had a good time with the whole team. I will not give details, but there was dancing, shouting, partying … a little bit of everything.
“This time there was no karaoke, but it wasn’t necessary.”
Aside from his shock fall in the Americas GP, Marquez has finished all races in the top two, nine wins to five runners-up.
As such, he admitted the blip in Austin contributed to his “near perfect” season comment.
“When you have an excess of confidence, it is when the mistakes can arrive,” he said.
“It happened in the race we least expected, which was Austin, where I fell when I was leading with a four second advantage. It was a seemingly done victory and, because of how relaxed I was, I fell.
“That’s why you always have to be completely focused … you have to learn from mistakes. It has been a very good year, but it does not mean that we can stop working.”
So where to from here? At 26, Marquez has ample time to overhaul Giacomo Agostini’s record of 15 world titles. Agostini himself believes Marquez can catch and overtake the record.
However, while Marquez doesn’t “like the word impossible”, he believes catching the legendary Italian is “almost impossible”.
However, he cited other sporting benchmarks as inspiration for his exponential rise up the record leaderboards.
“It means winning double what I have achieved so far. I have never been obsessed with a number or a name … I just enjoy my passion for racing,” he said.
“It has been a very good year and it will be difficult to improve. But one of my idols is Rafa Nadal, and when you see him in a match and wonder what he can do better, he always takes a new step forward.
“Or when Messi scores a goal, you think again that he can’t do better and then he goes and scores another which is better.
“I try to model myself on them … they are always improving. I will try to learn from mistakes. Rivals show you your level and that is where we will try to continue growing.”
With 104 points still on offer in the four races after Japan, Leclerc will need to outscore Hamilton by four points and Max Verstappen will need to take seven points out of the Englishman, while Sebastian Vettel requires a 25-point swing in Sunday’s race.
But Bottas would still be in the hunt even if he retired and Hamilton took the maximum 26 points for win and fastest lap.
With six more wins than any other driver in 2019, Hamilton is already guaranteed to win on countback were he to end the season tied on points with anyone.
To become champion at the Mexican GP on October 27, Hamilton needs to finish that weekend 78 points clear of his nearest challenger.
So that means he must increase his current 73-point advantage by five points or more over the course of Japan and Mexico. Seventy-eight points would be enough after Mexico to do it because, as mentioned, he wins any tie-breaker.
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP TOP FIVE
1. Lewis Hamilton — 322 points
2. Valtteri Bottas — 249 points (-73)
3. Charles Leclerc — 215 points (-107)
4. Max Verstappen — 212 points (-110)
5. Sebastian Vettel — 194 points (-128)
But Constructors’ could be settled in Japan
Mercedes’ unexpected one-two last time out in Sochi has opened up the possibility for them to clinch a record-equalling sixth successive Constructors’ Championship as soon as this Sunday at Suzuka.
The Brackley team lead Ferrari by 162 points with a maximum of 220 left to play for.
With only 176 left after Suzuka, Mercedes must therefore increase their advantage over the Scuderia by 14 points this weekend to become champions once again, with four races to spare.
Only Ferrari (1999-2004) have won six constructors’ titles in a row, but no team has ever secured six successive championship doubles (drivers’ and constructors’).
This article originally appeared on Sky Sports and has been republished with consent.