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Bathurst starts now

The 2008 build-up to the Phillip Island 500 and Bathurst 1000 starts today.

The Bathurst build-up begins today when the long-distance co-drivers have their first hitout of the year at Eastern Creek, the first time organisers have given drivers in the two endurance races special practice sessions at race meetings.

Eastern Creek is one of four events where the extra drivers will have a chance to become familiar with their machinery before the Phillip Island 500 and Bathurst 1000.

Not all teams have finalised co-drivers, but the session will be a great way to get a headstart for those that have.

The Holden Racing Team will run veterans Glenn Seton and Craig Baird in its two Commodores. Seton will drive Mark Skaife's usual machine and Baird will use Garth Tander's car.

Ford Performance Racing will run Dean Canto in Mark Winterbottom's regular ride and Luke Youlden will drive Steven Richard's Castrol-sponsored Falcon.

The HSV Dealer Team will give experienced Kiwi Paul Radisich time in Rick Kelly's car, while Marcus Zukanovic will steer Paul Dumbrell's machine.

“It's an important part of getting them used to the team and the cars,” Dick Johnson Racing team manager Adrian Burgess says.

His team will run new signings Warren Luff and Steve Owen.

Finding the right co-drivers and getting them up to speed is becoming an increasingly important issue. This year's race at Phillip Island will feature two short qualifying races on the Saturday of the meeting to determine the starting order of the long race. Each driver will compete in one race, making it critical to give the inexperienced driver more seat time.

Stone Brother's Racing will get extra use out of the session. James Courtney's huge shunt at Adelaide has forced the team to use the team's spare car, Russell Ingall's car from last year.

It hasn't been used in months and the session will allow rookie Jonathon Webb to gain valuable miles ahead of the enduros and shakedown the car before Courtney races it.