Maranello Motorsport has claimed victory in a wild Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, as the contending STM Mercedes-AMG GT3 self-destructed in the hands of Shane Van Gisbergen in the closing minutes.
Australian Supercars star Jamie Whincup took the No. 88 Ferrari 488 GT3 to a one-lap victory over the No. 12 Competition Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Matt Campbell in second, following a dramatic late-race sequence of incidents ending in retirement for the AMG GT3.
Van Gisbergen, who inherited the lead following a fuel-only stop, lost the position to his Triple Eight teammate Whincup with 40 minutes to go, only to make contact with an GT3 Am class Porsche ten minutes later.
The Kiwi, who was then handed a penalty for the incident, crashed out at the top of the mountain following the restart, ending he, Maro Engel and Craig Baird’s race with 15 minutes remaining.
It gave Whincup clear sailing to the finish, claiming victory alongside fellow Supercars ace Craig Lowndes and Ferrari factory driver Toni Vilander, who arguably had the drive of the race.
While locked in the late-race battle with Van Gisbergen, the Ferrari, particularly in the hands of the Finn, held the upper hand throughout most of the caution-filled race, which saw a record 16 safety car periods.
Lowndes and Maranello scored their second Bathurst 12 Hour victory in the last four years, after their triumph in 2014.
Campbell, in his debut race as a Porsche Junior, brought the U.S.-based Competition squad home in second overall, benefiting from Van Gisbergen’s race-ending accident.
It came after three penalties for the Porsche, including one for the 21-year-old Australian, who made contact with a Lamborghini with 1 hour and 8 minutes to go after a fuel-only stop.
Reigning FIA World Endurance Champion Marc Lieb, Porsche factory driver Patrick Long and David Calvert-Jones completed the lineup in the Competition Porsche, which also picked up GT3 Pro-Am class honors.
The No. 17 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Steven Kane, Guy Smith and team debutant Oliver Jarvis completed the overall podium in third, ahead of the No. 912 Walkinshaw Porsche, which took GT3 Am honors with a surprise 4th place overall result.
It came after a final-lap incident that knocked the No. 1 Tekno Autosports McLaren 650S GT3 to fifth, after a late-race charge from defending Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup champion Come Ledogar.
The No. 32 Lago Racing Lamborghini R-EX was sixth overall, followed by the best of the Audi R8 LMS cars, the No. 3 Team ASR entry in 7th.
It was a race to forget for both BMW and Audi, with the works-supported entries dropping out of contention early.
Frank Stippler crashed his No. 74 Jamec Pem Audi R8 LMS on Lap 6 to bring out the race’s first yellow, while Christopher Mies was hit by the No. 12 Competition Porsche of Calvert-Jones, sending the No. 75 car to the garage.
While the No. 90 MARC Cars Australia BMW M6 GT3 led in the second hour in the hands of Chaz Mostert, an accident by co-driver Max Twigg ended their day.
The No. 7 Team Castrol Vodafone BMW also retired following an accident, by Russel Ingall, while the No. 60 BMW Team SRM entry lost four lap with a hydraulic leak in the 2nd hour.
Porsche’s all-factory contender, run by Walkinshaw, was also an early retirement after Earl Bamber collided with a GT4 car, damaging his car’s steering rack.
Nissan also had a challenging race, with gearbox issues plaguing both GT-R NISMO GT3s, with the No. 24 entry coming home in 8th overall.
Class B honors went to the No. 21 Steve Richards Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car of Dean Grant, Dylan Okeeffe, and Xavier West, following a race-ending accident for pre-race favorite Grove Racing in the opening hour.
The No. 91 MARC Cars Australia Ford Focus V8 of Keith Kassulke, William Brown and Rod Salmon claimed the Class I win, while the No. 19 Prosport Performance Porsche Cayman GT4 picked up the trophies in Class C.
RESULTS: Bathurst 12H