The Irwin Tools 2012 entry Photo credit: Stone Brothers Racing

The Irwin Tools 2012 entry Photo credit: Stone Brothers Racing

Stone Brothers Racing (SBR) has announced its full enduro driver line-up with Craig Baird, Luke Youlden and Andrew Thompson confirmed for this year's events at Sandown and Bathurst.

After four years as an endurance driver with Ford Performance Racing, Youlden returns to SBR alongside Shane van Gisbergen, having co-driven for the team between 2005 and 2007 alongside Russell Ingall.

“I couldn't be happier coming back,” says Youlden.

“They have a very good car, a very good driver and I think SBR are on the brink of achieving awesome things. I think we are definitely contenders for the endurance races, that's for sure.

“It will be my 13th year as an enduro driver so I have the experience and obviously Shane has a few years under his belt now too. We are not going out there to only get a podium, we are going out there to win.”

Van Gisbergen is confident he has the right man alongside him in the #9 SP Tools Racing Falcon.

“It's great to have Luke back at SBR, he is well respected by the team and he knows how we approach things,” van Gisbergen said.

“In the last few years I've watched him co-drive for other teams and he has always been up there pushing the main driver on.

“His focus is not only on doing the best he can for the team but also on finishing and finishing well. That's what you need in a co-driver, someone who is out there to do a good job but who won't do anything stupid with the car.

“It also works out great that we are similar in height so we won't need to make too many changes to the car like we have done in the past.”

After co-piloting the #88 TeamVodafone car with Jamie Whincup to second place last year at the Phillip Island L&H 500 event, Thompson will team up with Tim Slade in the #47 Lucky 7 Racing Falcon.

“We should be able to get some strong results and I think we might surprise a few people,” said the 2011 Dunlop Series champion.

“We just need to do our homework in the lead up to the races and we will be alright.

“All in all last year was a good year for me so I'm hoping to better that in 2012. I had a few opportunities to drive full-time this year but none of them felt right for me, so I called Ross (Stone) and now I'm here with SBR driving the endurance races.

“I've always wanted to drive for Stone Brothers in one way or another – they have had some really good results in the past and particularly in the last year or two they have been on the comeback. I think this year will be really interesting and I think they can really step up and take it to Triple Eight and challenge some of the other teams.

“All I want is the best opportunity with the best team and I think Tim has been making some strong improvements over the last year. Back in go-karts we use to race against each other and I think we used to be pretty equal.

“There is always a bit of pressure coming into the endurance races but I don't feel any more pressure than last year.”

Slade says that SBR has secured him one of the most competitive co-drivers in the field.

“Last year Andrew proved how good he is by taking nearly a clean sweep in the Dunlop Series and he drove the endurance races with Jamie, so getting a guy like him to race with I really couldn't ask for more.

“I think I've got one of the best guys that are available as a co-driver.”

Baird, the reigning Porsche City Index Carrera Cup champion will join Holdsworth in the #4 IRWIN Racing Falcon.

“It was an easy decision, I've watched Lee (Holdsworth) closely over the last few years and he kind of reminds me of Marcos Ambrose,” said Baird.

“He is very methodical with his racing; he gets the job done with a limited amount of fuss.

“I think he will surprise a few people this year, he's young, he's fit and he's fast, I think his biggest thing is his work ethic, not just behind the wheel, but when he's outside the car.

“Just watching him at the test day last week, he slowly goes through his programme and ticks all the boxes along the way. That's the mark of a champion.”

Highly-rated by Holdsworth, Baird was his first choice when it came to endurance race co-drivers.

“Ross (Stone) asked me who I'd like to be with and Craig (Baird) was my number one choice,” said Holdsworth.

“He's a very confident driver and reliable. He's done plenty of laps and is familiar with the team, which goes a long way; I'm really thrilled to have him join us.

“I like that he is safe, he keeps out of trouble, he's quick but doesn't do anything silly.

“He's at the top of the list as an endurance driver and someone that can bring the car back to you in a decent position with no damage.

“At the recent test day he was excellent, he gave similar feedback to what I was saying, we were both wanting the same things out of the car. His lap times were also on the mark straight away, which is what you want from your co-driver. He's also a decent guy; I've always held him in very high regard.”