After 12 hours of intense racing around Mount Panorama, Maranello Motorsport came out on top in one of the most thrilling conclusions ever seen in a modern-day GT endurance race.
Craig Lowndes held off a hard-charging Maximilian Buhk to claim an emotional victory in Sunday’s Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, marking the closest-ever finish in the event’s history.
The V8 Supercars legend crossed the line just 0.413 seconds ahead of the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series champion, following a late-race duel that saw the 21-year-old German mount an impressive challenge to Lowndes’ Ferrari 458 Italia 458 Italia GT3.
Buhk managed to get his HTP Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 alongside the Ferrari with five minute to go, but the five-time Bathurst 1000 winner fought back and managed to retain the lead.
While stretching out a narrow gap, Lowndes came under pressure on the final lap while getting caught behind traffic on the Mountain. Buhk, however, was unable to get alongside the Prancing Horse again, sealing the deal for the Maranello squad, which scored Ferrari’s first Bathurst 12 Hour victory.
“I was very thankful the time ran out and we didn’t have to do another lap,” Lowndes said. “I was doing my best, running on the inside lines, making the Merc go around the long way. Thankfully we had enough.”
It marked a monumental win for Lowndes and co-drivers Mika Salo, Peter Edwards and John Bowe and the Mark Coffey-owned squad, which had long been linked to success with the late Allan Simonsen.The team dedicated the win to their fallen co-driver.
After suffering suspension failure early on and undergoing a brake pad change during its final stop, the HTP Mercedes of Buhk and co-drivers Thomas Jaeger and Harold Primat made a remarkable recovery drive, despite coming up four-tenths shy of victory.
Completing the overall and Class A podium was the No. 63 Erebus Racing Mercedes of Will Davison, Jack LeBrocq and Greg Crick after also bouncing back from a number of early race setbacks, which included a collision with a kangaroo.
Davison managed to fend off fellow V8 star Shane van Gisbergen for third, following a late charge by the Kiwi driving the No. 37 VIP McLaren MP4-12C, who had one of the star drives of the race.
Remarkably, the top-5 cars were separated by 37 seconds at the checkered flag, aided by a safety car with 18 minutes remaining for a wrecked Porsche. It set up a 12-minute dash to the finish.
Even without the late caution, the race was still closely fought, with 18 lead changes between seven different cars.
The pole-sitting No. 1 Erebus Mercedes of Bernd Schneider, Maro Engel and Nico Bastian was firmly in control in the first half of the race but lost six laps due to a brake issue late in the eighth hour, relegating them to a seventh place result.
The around-the-clock enduro saw its share of accidents, including a heavy impact between the No. 33 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 and No. 32 Nissan GT-R GT3 at McPhillamy in the third hour.
Another early race favorite, the No. 23 Lago Lamborghini Gallardo, dropped out after Peter Kox hit a kangaroo on the fifth lap. LeBroc’s Mercedes was also collected in the incident, which damaged the SLS AMG GT3′s splitter.
Class B honors went to the No. 4 Grove Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 Cup of Stephen Grove, Earl Bamber and Ben Barker after a late-race battle with the No. 12 IceBreak Competition Motorsports Porsche, which led for the majority of the race.
The Australian-American effort, featuring the driving strength of Patrick Long, Alex Davison and David Calvert-Jones, held a two-lap lead at one point but lost ground with two punctures and a fuel pickup issue in the final two hours, relegating them to a second place finish in class.
The No. 14 Rotek Racing Audi, which started on the class pole and led overall early in the hands of Oliver Gavin, retired early with engine problems.
Other class winners included the No. 54 Donut King Lotus Exige Cup R (Class C), No. 22 Billington Seat Leon Supercopa (Class D) and the No. 96 Fiat Abarth 500 (Class F).
RESULTS: Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour