***One car from each leading manufacturer and drivers represented in this weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour gathered for a group photo on the front stretch this afternoon. A total of 11 manufacturers set to do battle this weekend, including drivers or teams from 15 different countries.
***The final entry list confirms 37 cars between the three classes (Class A-GT3, B-Cup, I-Invitational). While it’s notably down from the 53 cars that took part in last year’s race, it features two fewer classes, in an effort to eliminate the slower touring car machinery. Year-to-Year numbers in GT3 is slightly down from 28 to 22 cars.
***Once again, Class A-GT3 has been split between Pro-Am and Am subclasses, with 12 cars in Pro and 10 in Am. The event utilizes the FIA’s medallion driver rating system for the first time this year, with increased involvement from the SRO with the appointment of Claude Surmount as technical director.
***Alex Kapadia has been a late addition to the Mishumotors Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, joining Renger van der Zande, Mirco Schultis and Patrick Simon. Kapadia, who was on vacation in Sydney, met with Schultis at Bondi Beach earlier this week, where a deal was reached.
***Former European Le Mans Series PC champions Schultis and Simon have been reunited for the first time in a professional race since Sebring 2013. Simon, a TV commentator for ADAC GT Masters, VLN and other German series, makes his GT3 debut in Schultis’ 12 Hours of Zandvoort-winning Mercedes.
***Audi will expand production of the new R8 LMS car to 55 cars by the end of April. Romolo Liebchen, Head of Audi Sport customer racing, told Sportscar365 there’s a possibility to produce up to 60 cars for the year, based on increased demand for the second-generation GT3 car.
***Liebchen told Sportscar365 that he was not forced out as Audi’s customer racing boss, as some media outlets reported, rather having made the decision himself to step down in order to spend more time with his family. “I think I can be very proud and Audi can be very proud of our success,” he told Sportscar365.
***Head of Audi LMP1 Chris Reinke will take over Liebchen’s position on March 1. Liebchen said he will remain at quattro GmbH but has been assigned to a new, yet-to-be-announced project.
***As was the case in Daytona, the Audi R8 LMS cars are featuring gearbox updates, following a discovery made in the 24 Hours of Dubai, where the Land Motorsport car retired with gearbox failure. A new bearing has been installed in all four of the cars here this weekend.
***Bentley completed a shakedown of its two Continental GT3s on Wednesday at Wakefield Park Raceway near Goulburn with drivers Maxime Soulet, Matt Bell and David Russel. The cars came straight from December’s Sepang 12 Hours and are the same chassis used in last year’s race.
***Seven drivers are here after taking part in last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Included are Renger van der Zande, Shane van Gisbergen, Maro Engel, Christopher Haase, Toni Vilander and Earl Bamber, as well as Rene Rast, who claimed GTD class honors in Daytona and will be looking to make it back-to-back wins for the new Audi R8 LMS.
***There’s also been a number of media that’s made the trip directly from Daytona, including the Radio Le Mans team led by John Hindhaugh, Shea Adam and Eve Hewitt, Daily Sportscar’s Graham Goodwin and Andrew Hall, Sportscar365 contributor Rene de Boer, as well as this author.
***Official on-track activity kicks off Friday at 8:30 a.m. local time for a total of four practice sessions. A final practice session is on tap for Saturday prior to qualifying in the early afternoon. Click Here for the full weekend schedule.
***Click Here for the Bathurst 12 Hour coverage guide, you’re all-in-one resource for following this weekend’s around-the-clock enduro.