Bathurst bringing exotic cars, fast drivers and 12 hours of endurance

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By Jawad Yaqub, Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru


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    The Bathurst 12 Hour is becoming a bucket list item for motor sports fans.

    It may not be the race that is normally associated with the legendary Mount Panorama circuit, but the Bathurst 12 Hour continues to rise in popularity, as another edition of the endurance spectacle looms.

    Described by commentator Richard Craill during the 2016 broadcast as an event for the “Peroni crowd”, the 12 Hour holds a unique presence, independent to the ‘VB’ Bathurst 1000 Supercars enduro.

    Since its expansion in 2011, which saw the inclusion of GT3-spec cars – which are race-tuned versions of popular roadgoing supercars – the Bathurst 12 Hour has become a bucket-list item for drivers and fans alike.

    Its inclusion to the newly formed Intercontinental GT Challenge in 2016 – formed of Bathurst 12 Hour, the Sepang 12 Hour and gruelling Spa 24 Hour races – continues to lure world-class manufacturers and drivers over to the Mountain.

    Marques such as Audi, Porsche, McLaren, Bentley and Mercedes-Benz formulate a mouth-watering roster of exotic cars, with the drivers representing them equally impressive.

    As well as a smattering of Australian talent, largely from the Supercars category set to contest the race, there are a plethora of international drivers vying for a win at one of the world’s most challenging circuits.

    There will be 22 drivers backing up their 12 Hour duties, from the 24 Hours of Daytona race in the United States last weekend.

    Porsche heavyweights, World Endurance Champions and multiple Le Mans 24 Hour winners Earl Bamber and Romain Dumas will steer their own 911s, while former 12 Hour victors Álvaro Parente and dual-winner Christopher Mies have also made the journey from Florida.

    While Maranello Motorsport, who won last year, won’t be returning in 2018, their drivers in the formidable Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup will be lining up to target back-to-back wins, for McLaren and Mercedes-Benz respectively.

    Lowndes and his Supercars stablemate Shane van Gisbergen – who returns to the McLaren GT fold with which he won the 12 Hour and the IC GT Challenge in 2016 –
    and factory McLaren driver Come Ledogar are the early favourites. With good reason too, as the weather across the weekend is set to be considerably cooler to the previous year, which will aid the #58 YNA Autosports McLaren 650S, as the turbocharged cars can utilise their turbos to greater effect.

    By contrast, in the heat, the normally aspirated cars such as the Bentley Continental or the Mercedes AMG GT3 can deploy more power.

    The outright lap record of the Mount Panorama circuit is held by Van Gisbergen, who in the overcast and cool Top-10 Shootout of 2016 set a blistering 2:01.286 behind the wheel of his 650S.

    There will be an added incentive for Supercars drivers, with a driver from the past two runnings of the 12 Hour having gone on to win the coveted Australian touring car title. Can 2017’s runner up, Scott McLaughlin, follow in the footsteps of Van Gisbergen and Whincup before him, to win a maiden GT race and back it up with ultimate success in Supercars this season?

    Or perhaps Chaz Mostert, who after a successful GT debut for BMW in Asia last year, lines up with two of the German marques’ top international drivers in Augusto Farfus and Marco Wittmann. Will a win at Bathurst in his M6 GT3 translate to the Supercheap Auto Ford driver lifting Supercars’ most coveted silverware in November?

    Regardless of the outcome, the Bathurst 12 Hour is must-see, must-attend event for any motorsport purist. If not for the intense endurance contest, featuring some of the best drivers and most prestigious manufacturers in the world, then for the beautiful sight that is the sun rising over Brock’s Skyline, with 53 cars descending the Mountain.

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