'Frustrated' Supercars star's Bathurst 1000 pain

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It's hard to believe it's 10 years since Cam Waters made his Bathurst 1000 debut, when he became the race's youngest-ever starer, two months after his 17th birthday.

That race, in 2011, ended with Waters in the wall at Forrest's Elbow, although it's perhaps better remembered for the high-speed spin he had at McPhillamy Park where he was fortunate to escape a hefty impact with the barrier.

The decade since has been somewhat frustrating for Waters, who finally made it onto the Mount Panorama podium last year, when he finished second alongside Will Davidson, having earlier claimed pole position with the fastest ever shootout lap.

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But even that was tinged with disappointment, finishing less than a second behind the race-winning car of Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander.

"Obviously I've had a fair bit of bad luck up there across the years," Waters told Wide World of Sports.

"Last year was pretty good, so close but no cigar.

"I was getting pretty annoyed that I couldn't finish a race there. But that's Bathurst, it throws everything at you.

Tickford's Cam Waters is currently fifth in the Supercars championship. (Getty)

"Last year was nice to finish second, but to be so close to the win was also a bit frustrating."

This is Waters' 10th trip to Mount Panorama (he didn't compete in 2013), and on each occasion he's gone to Bathurst with a new co-driver.

This year he'll be driving alongside James Moffat, who's making his 12th start in the Great Race, having finished second in 2014.

"I've never kept the same co-driver at Bathurst, I won't take it personally, they've obviously all moved on to better things!" Waters laughed.

"Moff will be awesome to pair with, he's done a great job for Tickford in the past few years, he's been fast and hasn't made any mistakes.

Cam Waters celebrates a 2nd place finish at the Bathurst 1000. (Getty)

"He ticks all the boxes you need in a co-driver, he fits in my seat, he drives the car pretty much the same."

Waters pointed out that finding a co-driver isn't as straightforward as it might seem, with a number of factors to be taken into account.

"There's times when a co-driver needs a seat insert, which isn't a huge deal but it's just another complexity to add to a driver change," he said.

"Sometimes you get a co-driver who wants the car with more understeer, whereas I might want it a bit looser into a corner, so then you have to compromise, which doesn't produce confidence in some people.

Cam Waters in action earlier this month at Sydney Motorsport Park. (Getty)

"There's little things like that that can catch you out. Hopefully you sort all that out in practice."

For Waters, and the Tickford Racing team, Bathurst is a welcome change of scenery, after four consecutive weekends at Sydney Motorsport Park.

It's a track the team has traditionally struggled at, and this year was no different.

In 10 races, Waters managed just one top-five finish, coming home third in the final event.

"We really struggled in week one and maybe the improvements we made across the four weeks weren't done quick enough, but at the end of the day we learned a heap, which was really needed," he explained.

Cam Waters had a frustrating month at Sydney Motorsport Park. (Getty)

"Certainly there were some positives, like the podium on the last weekend, that was the best the car had felt, but there were some negatives as well.

"There wasn't really one thing, just a lot of little things that all add up to a lot. Certainly over the course of the four weekends we had a lot better understanding of our car, which is good.

"We probably needed it, to be honest, and hopefully that helps us next year at some of the tracks where traditionally we've struggled."

Wide World of Sports spoke to Waters in February this year, when he noted that the team need to improve its consistency through the year on different tracks.

Asked if he thought that had been achieved, the 27-year-old was realistic.

"I'd say no, but we definitely understand the package a lot more. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to go forwards," he said.

"It's about using the time wisely going forward, taking what we've learned and analysing it, and make sure we get better.

Cam Waters after a race win in Townsville earlier this year. (Getty)

"SMP has never been a great track for Tickford, and I hate saying that, but it's true for some reason. We thought we'd go a bit better than we did, to be honest.

"Unfortunately we struggled out of the gate, and when you're at a track for four weekends in a row it doesn't leave a lot of time to really digest what's happening and go through the issues.

"That just makes it harder, and throw in the changing weather we had over the month and it was a struggle. If you've got a good car it's great, if you don't you're going to suffer."

This week's Bathurst 1000 will throw up a number of new challenges. The traditional October date went out the window due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, meaning a December race for the first time ever.

It will also be the latest start time in the race's history, at 12.15pm (AEDT).

Fortunately for Waters, he describes himself as "not a morning person" so the sleep in is welcome.

But the warmer temperatures of December will pose a new problem for the teams, even though the early forecast suggests the opening weekend of summer won't be as hot as it might have been.

"It looks like it could be warmer than we're used to in October, but the weather report is changing daily so I'm not getting too caught up in that just yet," Waters explained.

"I think it's going to be very humid, given all the rain that's been around, so I think compared to October the race might be a bit slower, the track will potentially be a bit greasier.

Cam Waters will team up with James Moffat in the Ford Mustang. (Getty)

"Bathurst weather is just another curveball."

One aspect of the race that will be a little more normal than it was last year will be the number of spectators. Just 4000 were allowed in 2020, leaving only the sound of the engines as the drivers made the iconic run across the top of Mount Panorama.

This year they'll be back in full force, and it's a change Waters is looking forward to.

"It's going to be amazing to have all the fans back, it was quite bizarre last year," Waters said.

"It's what we had to do to get the race done, but it wasn't ideal.

"I can't wait to hear the roar of the fans again."

Watch the Repco Bathurst 1000 streaming live and ad break free on Kayo from Tuesday 30 December to Sunday 5 December.

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