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It’s that wonderful time of the year again, where petrolheads and motorsport fans come out of their summer hibernation and prepare for a bustling calendar of international racing – beginning with Australia’s endurance spectacle in the Bathurst 12 Hour.
The enriched Mount Panorama circuit is known for the Great Race in October for the Supercars, however the last few years have seen the rise in popularity for the GT3 spectacular.
2019 offers to be just as grand, with a 40-car grid boasting multiple stars from the Supercars championship as well as the usual smattering of international GT talent; consisting of Blancpain GT champions and Le Mans 24 Hour winners.
Of the current manufacturers present, Audi have tallied the most wins and are currently the defending champions of the event, winning their third in a shortened 12 Hour race 12 months ago.
Though when one gleans the salivating roster of exotics marques that have competed at this prestigious event and haven’t won, it is quite fascinating and also speaks to the intensity and difficulty of this race.
The likes of Porsche, who boast Le Mans and World Endurance Champions such as Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas, as well as Aussie Porsche star in Matt Campbell – are yet to win even a single Bathurst 12 Hour.
Also a two-time Le Mans 24 Hour winner, Earl Bamber this year will not be steering a Porsche 911 GT3-R and will instead be manager of the two EBM entries which features Dumas and Campbell.
Similar with Bentley, who bring their all new Continental GT3 to the Mountain this year in a two-car assault, with hope that they can reign supreme at the conclusion of the twelfth hour on Sunday.
A popular return to the grid for 2019 is the presence of Godzilla, with the KCMG team bringing a pair of Nissan GT-Rs and a Bathurst cult hero in Katsumasa Chiyo, who won hearts over with his stunning drives during the 2015 and 2016 events for the then factory Nissan team.
Mercedes-Benz will be the most represented brand, with six AMG GT3s set to tackle this year’s race and more than a few handy driver combinations to compliment the already beastly cars.
The arguable favourites coming into the weekend has been the #888 entry from Supercars heavyweights Triple Eight, who decided to do a throwback livery to their old Vodafone colours and put the trio of Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen together. Yes, no wonder this entry is a favourite!
Car #777 will feature the popular 2016 Bathurst 1000 pair of David Reynolds and Luke Youlden, along with businessman-racer Yasser Shahin; the force behind the Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia, whose colours will also feature on the AMG GT3.
Reigning pole position holders BMW Team Schnitzer come to Bathurst with heavy hearts this weekend, with the news of the untimely passing of long-time boss Charly Lamm having came ahead of Daytona 24 Hours event last week.
2014 Bathurst 1000 winner Chaz Mostert will once again steer an M6 GT3, backing up from his GTLM outing in an M8 at Daytona only seven days ago. He will be partnered with his Daytona teammate in Augusto Farfus, whose entry won the GTLM class in Florida.
Mostert also has the unique opportunity to become the only driver behind Paul Morris, to complete the Bathurst trifecta of winning the 1000, the 12 Hour and 6 Hours. The latter which the factory BMW won in it’s first year back in 2016.
So much to play out as always and exciting it is to see the status of this event continue to rise and rise. What will be the narrative for the 2019 edition? Or is it best to not bother speculating and just let 12 hours of world-class endurance racing just do what it does best?