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Bathurst 12 Hours

Bathurst 12 Hours Review

The 2017 Liqui-Moly Bathust 12 Hours continued its growth this last weekend, with a record 40,000 spectators glued to the action trackside. Along with the ever growing international audience on TV, radio and the live streaming on the internet, there is no argument that the Bathurst 12 Hours is an event not to be missed. Our man in the stands looks back at the action from this year’s race and picks out his highlights.

The success of the Top 10 shootout
It doesn’t get much better than seeing drivers run flat out in GT3 cars on Mount Panorama. The circuit lends itself well to hot laps with its tight, technical and dangerous nature. That’s why this year’s Top 10 Shootout to decide the front of the grid before the race was such a huge success. In the “new-for-2017” format change, the top 10 cars (after the pair of standard qualifying sessions) each got a single lap to try and score pole position.

Bathurst 12 Hours

What resulted was a dramatic half a hour of action, with ten of the world’s best sportscar/GT/Supercars drivers pushing their cars to the limit; with Maranello Motorsport’s Toni Vilander (more on him later) eventually emerging on top. The format of the Bathurst 12 Hours and its regulations have evolved over the past 10 years, and most definitely for the better. The addition of a Top 10 Shootout only added to the event’s spectacle.

What could have been for Tekno?
Come race time, there were countless storylines, though the big talking point early was the rough weekend for reigning Bathurst champions Tekno Autosports. Tekno Autosports’ fielded a pair of Mclaren 650S GT3s gunning for the win in the Pro class once again. But it didn’t go to plan for the 2016 winner. The No.59 crashed out in Qualifying with McLaren GT’s new Driver Academy young gun Ben Barnicoat at the wheel, and the No.1 had to start the race from the pit lane following an engine change overnight before the race.

McLaren at Bathurst

To make matters worse the No.1’s engine appeared to give out at the start of the second hour as Rob Bell was carving his way through the field. Bell nursed it back to the garage for repairs which cost the car three laps, which left the No.1 trio of Bell, Come Ledogar and Alvaro Parente having to fight their way back into contention for the remaining 10 hours of the race.

In the end, the car – remarkably – finished fifth overall, just one lap off the lead, after climbing as high as fourth in the closing laps. During Parente and Ledogar’s stints in the second half, the 650S GT3 was formidable in terms of pace, and came feet away from getting back on the lead lap and therefore in the running for the win. Had it not had its early issues, the No.1 would surely have been in the fight at the front.

Tough day at the office for van Gisbergen
Bathurst expert Shane van Gisbergen (who let’s not forget holds the circuit’s lap record after breaking it during Qualifying for the 12 Hour in 2016, before going on to win the race) had a weekend to forget this time round. Partnered with fellow Kiwi Craig Baird and Mercedes’ Nurburgring 24 Hours master Maro Engel, Van Gisbergen was in the running for the win for most of the race. The AMG GT3 the trio drove, for Scott Taylor Motorsport, was quick and extremely nimble through the constant flow of traffic, but it all turned sour very quickly in the closing stages.

Bathurst 12 Hours

The team made a bold strategy call at the final pit stop to gain track position over the Maranello Ferrari by staying on old tyres. It left van Gisbergen just under five seconds ahead when he rejoined the race. Shane van Gisbergen pushed as hard as he could, but eventually Jamie Whincup on fresh rubber got the better of him – banging doors and with two wheels on the grass over the crest of the Conrod Straight.

Shortly after, out of sheer desperation, van Gisbergen made an error through the final chicane, pushing a lapped Porsche into the barriers and causing one final safety car period. For that he received a penalty – which would have ended the team’s chances – but moments before the team were set to radio him with the bad news after the restart, van Gisbergen nose-dived the wall at The Dipper before grinding to a halt in the middle of the track on his way back to the pits. It was far from his finest hour.

Engel’s outburst
Shanve van Gisbergen’s mistakes at the end of the race didn’t go down well in the Scott Taylor garage, as you would expect. But van Gisbergen’s teammate Engel emerged as the most frustrated of the bunch. In what turned out to be one of the most eye-opening sequences in recent memory, Engel was seen storming into the team truck, kicking tyres and slamming doors on his way. The German was then pulled aside for a TV interview, where he openly criticized his teammate.

“It’s not motorsport in my book,” he said. “Um, yeah, gotta watch out what I’m saying. All I’ve seen this weekend is a lot of mistakes by Shane. Yeah, it’s a tough one.” It made for an explosive final chapter to what was already an explosive race.

Vilander’s incredible drive
If there’s anyone who shone this year at Bathurst, it was Toni Vilander in the winning Maranello Ferrari. The Finn, who was an architect in the team’s second overall win in the race, ran faultlessly throughout and put in one of the most incredible stints in GT racing history. With the race on the line in his final stint, Vilander was forced to drive economically to reduce the time of the final pit stop, and create a healthy lead to reduce the other cars’ chances of winning.

Vilander

And he did just that, creating a gap to the field with a series of hot laps off the penultimate restart, which in turn prevented Alvaro Parente in the aforementioned Tekno Mclaren getting past and back onto the lead lap. He was visibly quicker than all the other contenders and was both aggressive but controlled through traffic. His performance secured the lead for the team when it mattered most and ultimately forced HTP into making its make-or-break decision on tyres. He, and the entire Maranello team, very much deserved the win.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

If the action at this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hours has whet your appetite then you can join us at Mount Panorama in 2018. Our exclusive package includes hospitality at the circuit, accommodation in Bathurst as well as a hire car to enable you to get around. The Bathurst 12 Hours 2018 will be a book early to avoid disappointment event, so to be one of the first to learn more about our exclusive 2018 offer, please register your interest by emailing us now.

Nissan win the Bathurst 12 Hours 2015

Nissan win another thriller at Bathurst

Nissan win another thriller at Bathurst

It is remarkable how many endurance races still come down to decisions made in the last few minutes of the race. Once again, the Mount Panorama circuit in Bathurst didn’t disappoint. The 12 Hours of Bathurst came down to a 4 way shoot out for the podium places, with Nissan and driver Katsumasa Chiyo emerging victorious.

In a 12 hours race like Bathurst, strategy, fuel and tyres are often hurriedly recalculated as safety cars and yellow flag waving marshals interrupt proceedings. This year’s Bathurst 12 Hours had 20 safety car periods leading to seven different manufacturers claiming a share of the lead throughout the race.

Nissan win the Bathurst 12 Hours 2015

 

With around an hour to go, there were 5 cars, each from a different manufacturer on the lead lap with desires on a win. Some of these teams had already rolled the dice and were running low on fuel or worn rubber, but couldn’t afford another stop.

Going in to the final hour the lead was held by Matt Bell in the Bentley, closely followed by pole sitter Laurens Vanthoor in his Audi. A minute back in third was Katumasa Chiyo in a Nissan, with a Mercedes in fourth ahead of the Craft-Bamboo Aston Martin.

Tension was already building when another stoppage was called, when David Brabham’s Bentley was shunted in to the wall at the Cutting. Brabham was taken to hospital, but fortunately was later released with just a couple of broken ribs. But the rest of the field continued around the circuit until with less than 15 minutes remaining the green flag was waved again.

Audi at the Bathurst 12 Hours

The battle at the front was now a three way tussle, with Vanthoor’s Audi trying to pass Bell’s Bentley & Chiyo close behind watching with interest. Vanthoor tried a few times to pass the Bentley but Bell managed to hold on, if only just.

Perhaps the battle between the top two was all engrossing as with just a couple of laps remaining a risky manoeuvre by Chiyo in the Nissan managed to claim second place from the Audi, and then almost immediately managed to pass the Bentley for the lead.
Going in to the final lap, Chiyo’s Nissan managed to pull clear of the chasing pair, who continued to fight right to the end, but they in turn were now being caught by the Aston-Martin that had newer tyres and was flying.

Aston Martin at the Bathurst 12 Hours

 

With seconds remaining Vanthoor managed to pass the Bentley & although the Aston then passed him, he managed to reclaim second (after some contact) to take second. With the Aston Martin finishing second, it was disappointment for Bell & Bentley as they narrowly missed the podium after a great drive.

In the end it was Nismo Nissan GT-R who were celebrating as they stood at the top of the podium. The Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Phoenix Racing was second, and it was the Aston Martin Vantage of Craft Bamboo Racing that finished third. The top seven finishers were from seven different manufactures indicating the variety and class of this amazing race.

Bentley at the Bathurst 12 Hours

Congratulations to Nissan who have set the bar high for the rest of the year, and congratulations to the team at Mount Panorama for hosting another memorable Bathurst 12 Hours.

The whole Bathurst 12 Hours, plus practice and qualifying was called by our friends at Radio Show limited; the team behind Radio Le Mans. You can join them at next year’s race through our exclusive hotel & hospitality option that includes your own personal behind the scenes tour with John Hindhaugh and the team. Prices for the 2016 bathurst 12 Hours package will be published soon, but you can register your interest now to ensure you are the first in line! Email us your contact details now on info@traveldestinations.co.uk to learn more.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar