4:15am. There’s not many events that will have me enthusiastically getting out of bed and braving the world before dawn. Oh hell, let’s be honest, we’ve all seen the meme of getting out of bed for work, vs going to a car meet, am I right?
Being a local Bathurst boy, when you get a request from the guys at Speed Nation to put together a piece, you have to look passed the initial shock, and focus on doing justice to the experience.
Anyone who has been to Mount Panorama will understand that the footage on television doesn’t do it justice. The shear undulation of the track, is simply mind blowing. At it’s highest point, it is 862m above sea level. Most of that incline is between Griffin’s Bend (turn 2), and McPhillamy Park. This track also claims ownership of the fastest corner in Australian motorsport, a little right hand kink, at the end of Conrod Straight, which sees some of these machines clock over 300km/h! And I have to say, honorable mention must go to the Melbourne built, Shelby Daytona Coupe replica, consistently clocking 300km/h+ (even hitting 306km/h). The Daytona was also clocked the highest recorded speed during the race!
With a continued positive trend for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour event in terms of crowd attendance, I think it’s relatively safe to say, that Australian GT racing is the new big thing in Australian Motorsport. I’ve seen V8 Supercars race at this circuit many times, I’ve driven around it even more, but when you see a Mclaren 650S flying across the top of the circuit, on its way to a history making lap time, you can’t help but be in awe.
This year the organisers even stepped it up a few notches off the track, with plenty of manufacturer input, with displays from Mclaren, Ferrari, Nissan, and Bentley, allowing spectators to see the road going versions up close and personal, along with the opportunity to purchase some much sought after merchandise. There was also a small car show, allowing enthusiasts to bring their much loved machines along to display for everyone’s pleasure, with cars ranging from heavily modified Commodores, to your classic Lotus Esprit V6, to the modern cult hero, R35 GT-R.
The action wasn’t restricted to track side. Out on the circuit things were heating up too. During Saturday’s Qualifying session Mr Van Gisbergen and the Tekno Mclaren 650S made it very clear that they weren’t there for a leisurely weekend drive. SVG secured the Allan Simonsen Pole Position trophy and also set a new offical lap record for Mount Panorama.
2.01.286. That’s all it took the crazy kiwi gun to pilot the #59 Tekno Autosports Mclaren in to the history books of the 6.21km circuit. Is there anything this guy can’t do?|
I think it’s real possibility that’ we’ll see some sub 2 minute laps next year!
Sunday morning. It’s a brisk morning. Which is a bit out of the ordinary for this time of year (not that I know what getting up at 4am feels like). Like many others (excluding those who had the unfair advantage of camping at the track and already being set up), we make the early trek up to the top of the track, to organise the gazebos, have a coffee, cook some breakfast, and get settled.
It is now time. Your ears begin to tingle, as you hear the distant roar GT3 supercars making their way up Mountain Straight. Lights blaring, brakes already glowing. It is a truly surreal experience, as they make their way across the top, and begin the descent towards the green flag waiting for them at the bottom.
As soon as the start/finish line is crossed, you get the impression that some of the drivers have forgotten this is an endurance race that lasts 12 hours. Trying for every crucial inch of track position coming in to the first corner. The run up Mountain Straight gives drivers a brief moment to compose themselves, breathe, focus, and prepare for the onslaught of their first stint.
Watching these cars, most of which are worth over $500,000, drive around the spiritual Mount Panorama is truly epic. However, nothing compares to the aural orgasm that the big, beefy, British, Bentley Continental GT3’s provide. And for a car that wouldn’t look out of place next to an R33 Skyline (see what I did there? Boat jokes. Hilarious!), they are astonishingly fast. Taking the lead multiple times throughout the day.
As the day progresses on, the lead changes a total of 29 times, with the safety car getting involved 13 times (6 less than the previous year). With the most pressure resting on the shoulders of the standalone NISMO Racing team, in the defending 12 Hour Champion R35 GT-R. Purely being able to live through another “Godzilla at Bathurst” era is enough, let alone the thought of it being a back-to-back winner!
Pit lane was buzzing with activity, coming in to the last hour of the race, with teams frantically trying to work the best strategy to ensure the top spot.
As the end grows closer, and everyone pushing their cars to the limits (some of them beyond!), it becomes obvious that the Tekno Autosports team in their blisteringly fast McLaren (co-piloted by Jono Webb, and Alvaro Parente), are heading towards an inaugural victory, which they are very much aware of, as you see the Giz start to back off the pace in the closing laps. And eventually, everyone’s expectations/fears are realised, as Mclaren cross the finish line victorious, over the mighty Godzilla steered by Katsumasa Chiyo/Rick Kelly/Florian Straus, coming in 2nd. Rounding out the podium was Bentley Team M Sport with the #10 Continental GT3 of Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Matt Bell.
In a repeat of last year, the top 5 cars came from separate manufacturers.
In the class battle, the #59 McLaren took out Class A Professional thanks to its outright victory, while Class A Amateur was claimed by the #5 Taylor/Mawer/Antunes GT Motorsport Audi R8-LMS in sixth place outright.
Class B was won by the #4 Grove/McLaughlin/Bamber Grove Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 Cup (12th outright), while the invitational Class I was taken out by the #93 Camilleri/Haber/Seton MARC Cars Australia Focus V8 (13th outright).
It doesn’t matter what race you hold at this place, there is always a special feeling around it. This event had it all. Everywhere you turned, records were being broken, whether it be attendance, lap times, or total laps completed. Combined, it made for a great weekend, which only continues to go from strength to strength.
Bring on next year!
Until then, enjoy our gallery of favorite images from this year’s event!