BATHURST is no place for the faint-hearted.
With 28 V8s hitting speeds of 255kmh on what is at any other time of the year a normal country road, it takes most drivers years to gain the experience needed to be a contender.
Just occasionally it takes no time at all.
Nick Percat overcame debutant's nerves last season to become one of the small group of 'first drive winners', and will again combine with Garth Tander to try to become the first person since Bob Jane (1963 and '64) to win in their first two drives.
Tander said the Holden Racing Team had enjoyed a lot of success at the Mount Panorama circuit in recent years - giving him confidence that the team "knows how to get the job done".
That confidence has given 24-year-old Percat great self-conviction that he can emulate Jane's performances in the first two years of the Great Race.
"I'm probably more confident that we're in for a good result because last year was very much an unknown for me," Percat said. "I know the job I did then and I know where I did well and where I made mistakes. My driving is now more consistent. I'm faster, and I know what the car's doing a lot more, so I can't wait to get stuck into it again."
Three-time winner Tander has been off the pace in the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship - Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom, Craig Lowndes and Will Davison are the top four drivers - but said that form book was no guide to what might happen at Bathurst.
"Bathurst is unique, it's a different type of race to the 120-200km sprints that we've had so far. It's 1000km with constantly changing scenarios," Tander said. "There's lots of extra pressure, huge pressure on the teams and co-drivers, and it's those who can perform well under the pressure that will come out on top."
One of the drivers likely to feel that pressure come Sunday morning is Scott Pye, one of the rookie class of 2012.
Last year he competed in the cutthroat British Formula 3 Championship, a win at Rockingham the major highlight. That put him in elite company with the likes of Mark Webber and Will Davison as other Australian drivers to win in a category that has produced superstars such as Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard.
Pye finished 24th in last month's Sandown Enduro (with Bathurst partner Taz Douglas) admitting it had been a steep learning curve.
"Heading into Sandown I didn't know what to expect. I was shocked by the pace of the race ... it felt like a sprint race from start to finish but it was a fantastic experience and I have learnt a lot from it," the 22-year-old said.
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