Prodrive Racing (Australia) driver and reigning V8 Supercars Champion Mark Winterbottom will enter his 14th endurance season with a new co-driver in 2016 pairing with PRA stalwart, Dean Canto.
After making his Bathurst debut in 1999, the 35-year-old has not missed a Great Race since, the last eight starts with Prodrive Racing. A total of 30 Bathurst drives between them make the new team green pairing one of the most experienced and formidable in the field.
Driver changes within the team and the resultant ergonomic requirements mean the pair team up for the first time in their careers.
Winterbottom says he is excited at the prospect of racing with Canto, who is a two-time Gold Coast 600 winner and former two-time Dunlop Series Champion.
"It makes sense for a lot of reasons and I am really excited to be pairing up with him this year. He's a really talented, reliable driver and he has always been one of those guys who I've wanted to drive with. People know him as ‘The Bottle-O driver’ too so it makes sense from a branding perspective," the current champion said.
"He has a wealth of experience and is hungry to win races as well. He started Bathurst from pole position last year and did a fantastic job in that race.
"He might have the opportunity to start some races for us, who knows, but the best thing about him is that I know that when he gets in the car you know he's going to try and get you in the best possible position to close out the race."
Having driven with former Prodrive Racing pilot David Reynolds for the past four years, Canto says he is looking forward to the challenge of driving with the 2015 Champion.
"It's great to have a bit of a change," Canto said. "I'm still going to be in green but with the 2015 champion in the number one car. We've been team-mates for a long time now but haven't actually driven together so that'll be a fun experience.
"I've sat in countless engineering briefings with Mark and his engineer Jason so I know of how they operate, but you never know what's going to be different with the car so getting these first few practice sessions in will be important."
Prodrive Racing Team Principal Tim Edwards is confident the pairing will challenge for the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
"Obviously Dean is one of the proven co-drivers in the field and we know he is hungry to win races," said Edwards.
"He's been with us for nine years now and we know we can count on him to do what we need him to do on track and not make too many mistakes which is what you need for races like Bathurst and Gold Coast.
"We had a few things to work around this year; it wasn't as straight forward as it has been previously but we're confident these two will work well together."
Canto will make his debut in car #1 in practice at the Winton SuperSprint on May 20.